Friday, May 29, 2009


On a side street near Belmont and the Sunnyside school, there is a very carefully bubble-lettered and elaborately colored sign on the left door on the porch of a duplex. It says SYLVIA AND DAD'S WORLD.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Office Work, Other Jobs

I just finished reading Matthew B. Crawford's essay "The Case for Working With Your Hands" in this week's NYT Magazine, adapted from his book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work which comes out from Penguin this week.

As far as I can tell, the book--or at least the essay--is about Crawford accumulating too many degrees and feeling that he had to put them to use, then realizing that he preferred working on motorcycles, and starting his own repair shop. It's so much about the value and relevance of our jobs, and the impact that value and relevance or lack thereof can have on our lives.

"As I sat in my K Street office, Fred’s life as an independent tradesman gave me an image that I kept coming back to: someone who really knows what he is doing, losing himself in work that is genuinely useful and has a certain integrity to it. He also seemed to be having a lot of fun."

"There probably aren’t many jobs that can be reduced to rule-following and still be done well. But in many jobs there is an attempt to do just this, and the perversity of it may go unnoticed by those who design the work process."

"In deciding how to proceed, there often comes a point where you have to step back and get a larger gestalt. Have a cigarette and walk around the lift. The gap between theory and practice stretches out in front of you, and this is where it gets interesting. What you need now is the kind of judgment that arises only from experience; hunches rather than rules."

He talks about metacognition, and examining your own thinking processes. I do this all the time as a teacher, and probably should do it much more often. It's one of the things I love about teaching: my students force me to think about my thinking, sometimes about a text we're reading, and often about the way I relate to them. Mine is an essentially, intrinsically social job.

"With stakes that are often high and immediate, the manual trades elicit heedful absorption in work. They are punctuated by moments of pleasure that take place against a darker backdrop: a keen awareness of catastrophe as an always-present possibility. The core experience is one of individual responsibility, supported by face-to-face interactions between tradesman and customer."

"A good job requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world. Academic credentials do not guarantee this."

I want to say more about each of these statements. But for now, here they are, with a link to the essay. I look forward to reading his book.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Oh, the Students

Today Jamie said, "Ms. Nelson, did you get a haircut?"

I said, "Yeah."

She said, "I could tell."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another Editorial: Pro-Choice, sort of?

“Sure people might say the baby is God’s child but an expensive one.” (why abortion should be legal, obviously—ELL student)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I love my tattoo

Yesterday, I got to watch a mom get really excited about my tattoo, telling her kids (1 1/2, 4, and 9?) how it's from her favorite book ever--and her children were so confused, staring at the boa constrictor who swallowed an elephant on my arm. Mom and I smiled big at each other.

This morning, Andy and I were waiting for brunch at the Screen Door, playing Scrabble out front on the sidewalk, and a guy was watching us, beaming. I said, "Scrabble fan?" He said, "Not that." He unbuttoned his collared shirt and pulled up the arm of his undershirt, showing me his tattoo: the Little Prince on his right arm, in the same place as my hat.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

More brilliance and a bumper sticker

Students have filled the halls with their election posters for next year’s student officers. Emilio’s slogan—one of them—is: EMILIO IS THE DEALIO

Emilio is fabulous for lots of reasons, including that his nickname is Emo. Everyone calls him that. It's pretty cute.

* * *

I was behind a car with a terrible bumper sticker today. I care much more about the grammatical error than anything else: "I Pray—Get use to it"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Student Brilliance

A powerful line from a student editorial: “Abortion is one of the worst things you can do to a child during pregnancy.”

Friday, May 8, 2009

Life Events

There will be more to say about this. But something to say now: Maybe don't ask, "So how long do I have?"

Or maybe you should. Maybe I should have, too, though I wonder now if I should have. Except what good does it do to know? But I asked. It wasn't a premeditated question, either. Just what came out.

Dr. Gore said they estimate three to five years--but he said it doesn't apply to me, because I've already been living with this brain tumor since 2003. (I'm curious if Dr. Gore agrees or disagrees with Dr. Murali's assessment that the tumor probably developed when I was in utero, and has simply been growing very slowly ever since. There are always the questions you forget to ask, think of later, start a list of for next time...)

Laurel said, "So finish your novel."

I said, "I will--I'm going to anyway, soon--but I wanted to be Alice Munro."

We all laughed at that, sort of.

Laurel suggested I get the longest mortgage term possible. Me and Megan laughed really hard at that.


I say, knowing it's true, "Any of us could go at any time." But now I'm knowing it in another way. Ugh.

I miss Eve. She would have been very helpful right about now. She understood this mortality stuff.