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Dear Dr. P:

It’s been a dozen years since I’ve been in a for-credit course. I really don’t know what I’m doing in your Explosives in Industry course. Or what I’m doing in the Explosives Technology graduate certificate program in general.

My background is journalism/mass communications and performing arts.

So why am I here?

I genuinely don’t know.

I guess it just seemed cool to learn about explosives.

And I guess I wanted to do something completely different.

Even though this certificate program is billed as being for non-engineers, there’s still a steep learning curve.

I mean. What is going on there? Those acronyms mean nothing to me!

However, I did enjoy your video tour of the experimental mine.

Also, EXPERIMENTAL MINE?! That’s DOPE!

Anyway, I’m Tracy Flick, so I will figure out what I don’t know. I plan to get an A in the class.

I’m on the right track.

Looking forward to learning more.

Sincerely,
Beth

*Always time for a Monty Python reference.

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Dear Friends and Family,

All is well here in the heartland of America. I explored downtown Rolla on foot in about an hour last weekend. I made it to much of the rest of the town throughout the week.

Plenty to amuse me here.

I’ve found that people are super chatty. It goes way beyond the Southern hospitality that I know.

I had LONG conversations with a woman next to me at the nail salon (she is from Salem, has four kids, back issues, etc.), a guy in the beer aisle at Walmart (his mom cooks with beer) and a couple at the farmer’s market (she is surprised I know how to cook turnip greens and he runs their produce mailing list).

My haul from yesterday. Am I a Southern girl or what?

Really lovely people. True embodiment of the phrase “salt of the earth.”

I’ve been all over campus this week and now know my way around very well. Same thing: such nice people!

I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but my new employer is putting me up in university housing for two months so I can acclimate to the university and get to know people before I start spending all my time in St. Louis.

University housing = residence hall

(No, I didn’t bring my futon, neon beer sign and bookcase made with plywood and milk crates. 😉)

I’m on what appears to be the men’s floor. Though I have a private outside entrance, the interior door opens onto the hallway.

I share my bedroom wall with the guys next door: Paul, Conor and Owen. They had a particularly rowdy night Tuesday night. I have no idea what they were doing, but now to me they are collectively the Noisy Nerds.*

I live for the day I’m invited to a hall party. (You know I’m not kidding.)

Anyway, I’m still fine. A little bored at night after work, but fine. I’ll make friends. Find things to do. As I do. Don’t worry.

Love,
Beth

*Not a pejorative term. I too am a nerd about a variety of things. As you all know.

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I Tetrised the heck out of my stuff to get it all to fit in my tiny trunk.

Dear Readers:

I’ve been keeping this blog for 12 years. I started it because I was about to make a class of students start one. I figured I needed to practice what I preached.

Anyway, though I’ve traveled all over the place and written about my adventures, my home base (i.e., where I get my mail) has always been Georgia.

That changes today. I’m Missouri bound.

Q: Um … why?
A: I got a great new job, and I’ll be based in St. Louis.

Q: Isn’t that where your birth family is?
A: Yes. The universe clearly has something to say. It’s also where I have loads of adopted family.

Q: Is your family excited?
A: Excited for me, yes. But Eddie and the boys aren’t coming with me right now.

Q: What?
A: Yeah. Eddie did not thrive when we moved to Atlanta. He missed Savannah, his job, his friends. So he went back to work at his old job. He’s much happier. The boys are staying in Atlanta with friends until winter break, then they will join him. I’ll be back with them as often as I can, and we’ll work it out.

Q: You think this is the right decision?
A: I effing hope so. We had many family discussions. We decided on this plan together.

Q: You’re ok?
A: Eh. In general. I watched two episodes of “Intervention” last night because I couldn’t sleep. Of course, I convinced myself I was scarring the children. I told Gideon that this morning. He rolled his eyes at me. So maybe I’m not scarring the children.

Q: But what if you are?
A: What if I am? This is the path we chose together. At least the boys will see their parents doing jobs they really like.

Q: When do you start?
A: Monday. I’ll be staying in university housing for two months. My plan is to find a permanent place this week, so I can make arrangements to get all my stuff moved up there.

Q: And you’re sure you’re ok?
A: Well, there’s been plenty of ugly crying. I made a road-trip playlist. I got to “Wide Open Spaces” around Chattanooga, and lost my shit.

If you are inclined, send positive thoughts my way as I (we) embark on this new journey.

I am looking forward to writing about a new environment. I’m sure the Show Me State is named that for a reason.

Meet me in St. Louis,
Beth

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Dear Coworkers,

It’s been an interesting year, right? We’ve made work work. And most of us did it from home, with all corresponding challenges/distractions.

I don’t know about you, but my space is not ideal.

My friend Tammy came to visit this past weekend. She HOWLED when she saw my setup.

I can’t believe you haven’t written about THAT yet!

I haven’t. It’s a little … embarrassing. I’ve had to carve out a corner of the living room.

Here’s a peek behind the curtain — the room behind the Zoom:

The other night, I walked over there to put something down on my way to the couch. Eddie said:

Oh, you just had to stop by work for a minute?

Yeah.

Sigh.

For the first six months of the pandemic, I still got dressed in my professional lady clothes (including heels) and went to work during regular business hours. But when my university welcomed back a designated number of students in the fall, the number of faculty/staff allowed on campus had to be limited.

So I set up operations at home and made the best of it.

I still dress up for work (at least on top) but I wear slippers now.

I’d love to get a look at your Zoom room. Please share!

Looking forward to seeing you in human form.

Best wishes for the return to normal,
Beth

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Dear Coach S.,

I am sure you are a lovely person. I appreciate your commitment to football. I am impressed by your communication skills.

However.

I am not as committed to football as you are. I never wanted to be a sports mom. But now that I am one, I want to remind you that my son is in school to get an education.

Practices five afternoons a week and three mornings is a bit much, don’t you think?

You don’t?

Ok.

Have you seen No. 27’s grades? Granted, they were on the downhill slide before football entered the picture.

But now he’s really got an excuse to be behind.

And for what? So he can stand around for a few hours on a Friday night?

Yes, yes, I know. He needs to learn. To pay his dues. To wait his turn.

I guess it will help him learn teamwork and time-management skills.

And there are worse places than a stadium to be on a pleasant Friday night.

And our team is winning.

“Our.”

Sigh.

See you next game.

Sincerely,
Dominic’s mom

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Dear Former Students,

You have no idea the joy I feel when one of you contacts me to tell me something I said or did had an impact on you. This is why I started teaching in the first place: to make a difference.

I flourished under professors like Dr. Brightman and Dr. Taylor. I wanted to be the same kind of advocate for learning and growth.

Or even just make you question the existence of certain words.

Susan, you made my day by sending me this:

I still hate those words (and others). If anyone catches me using them, that person should take me to the hospital as I’ve clearly had a stroke.

Ken recently told me that he never closes with “Best” in an email because of me. What’s my problem with “Best?” It can be used as an adjective or an adverb, but it has to modify something. So I always think to myself, “Best what? Best regards? Best wishes? Best in show?”

So thank you for taking my classes and letting me mold you into critical duplicates.

And keep sending me little anecdotes of my permeating influence (or put them in the comments below). It fills me with glee.

Best in show,
Dr. Beth

*”We don’t need no education,” interestingly enough, is a double negative. So what Pink Floyd actually said was that we need education. So Pink Floyd was right.

 

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Dear Dominic,

You’re killing me.

I get it: You aren’t a fan of online learning. As I told one of your teachers this week: You are not thriving in the remote environment (to put it mildly).

But you do actually have to do the work until there is an alternative.

Part of your problem is your lack of time-management skills and your habit of prioritizing things like watching “The Mandalorian” over getting your work done.

Do you really want to repeat 10th grade? You’d end up going to school with your brother.

I KNOW you don’t want that. So pull yourself together.

Love,
Your long-suffering mother

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Dear Administrators at My Boys’ School,

I hate to criticize you in the middle of a pandemic. I know you are doing the best you can. So let me just provide some well-meaning advice based on what I experienced leading up to and during Curriculum Night.

  1. Send a schedule and teacher links more than just a few moments before the event begins. You could have saved so much parent worry. It also might have boosted attendance. I managed to attend six sessions (out of 10 that I tried). The most present in any session? Five, including the teacher and me. In one session, it was just Dominic’s Geometry teacher and me. She is a lovely woman.
  2. Make sure the links work.

    This is what happened when I followed the provided link. There was no meeting code.

  3. Either extend the time per class or just have the teachers record overview videos. Seven minutes is not enough time (not even for that childhood game 😉).
  4. Strongly suggest that teachers use the same platform. Zoom worked fine. Google classroom was hit and miss. Microsoft Teams didn’t work (no audio).

I’m not trying to be a jerk to you in these difficult times. But I do want to be an active parent. Please make it easier for us. I don’t think these are unreasonable, outlandish suggestions.

Thank you.

Sincerely
Dominic and Gideon’s Mom

*Thanks to the Beach Boys.

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Dear Teachers,

God love you. I can’t even imagine how difficult your life is right now. Thank you so much for all that you do for woefully low pay.

This post is addressed specifically to my sons’ teachers.

I do not envy you.
I appreciate you.
I know you are doing the best job you can.

That said, I don’t think I will be attending Curriculum Night tonight because it is just too confusing for me.

And this is what worries me.

I have a number of college degrees.
I am technologically adept.
I teach online and have created online courses.

Yet I CANNOT FIGURE OUT how and when to log in tonight. Each of my children has seven teachers plus homeroom. They are at the same school. I’ve received SO MANY emails.

Interestingly enough, only half of the teachers have sent the emails. I haven’t heard anything from the other half. Ninth-grade teachers are much more communicative (five of eight) than 10th grade (two of eight).

Here’s the biggest problem: Most emails don’t include times. I filled out the form. This teacher did not send the link. Also, she sent that email at 10 p.m. the night before, giving parents just over 24 hours to respond.

Another teacher wants us to join during the day. DURING THE DAY! You know, when most people are working their full-time jobs.

There are only two of you who have provided an easy guide like this:

But guess what: Those two? Scheduled at the SAME TIME. Of course. You know how I know? I had to do this old school:

Nothing written means I got nothing from the teacher.

Then later — at 4 p.m. today — I got a text from the principal with this schedule:

The principal sent this ONE HOUR before the event is supposed to begin. You’ll note that the times don’t line up with what the teachers sent. And how am I supposed to attend two sessions (because I have two kids) at the same time in the space of fewer than seven minutes?

If it is this confusing for me — an educated technophile who works in education — I cannot imagine how difficult it is for parents who aren’t. Or parents who speak English as a second language. Or parents who do not have access to technology.

And you know it is difficult for the students to keep up with all this.

I can see why some students are already completely checked out (e.g., Dominic).

All I’m asking for is some consistency, at the VERY least.

Maybe I’ll see one of you tonight. We’ll see.

Thanks again in general for all that you do. These are weird, challenging times.

Sincerely,
Dominic and Gideon’s mom

*Thanks, Kim Wilde.

 

 

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Dear Dekalb County School System:

Thank you for starting the school year online rather than face to face. Thank you for not caving to pressure from the COVIDiots Thank you for keeping all of us safe.

We are still in a FREAKIN’ PANDEMIC!

If people had buckled down and done what they should have in March/April, we might be closer to being back to normal.

But no.

Sigh.

Anyway.

My boys went back to school today. Usually I’d post a photo from their first day of the new school year on social media. This year, it seems silly.

Their bedrooms are their school.

Here it is, for what it’s worth:

Dominic is in 10th grade. Gideon is in ninth.

They are feeling overwhelmed. Seven classes each. All virtual. Mostly asynchronous.

(I’m even overwhelmed by the number of parent emails and texts I’m getting.)

There are thousands of kids doing the same thing, so the network was overloaded. Dominic was in a synchronous classroom by 9 a.m.

It took Gideon until 11 to get online.

But this is the way it is right now. I’m not complaining.

One of the cool things is that they decided they wanted to go to the store to get their own supplies. No ridiculously long and detailed supply lists this year. Thank GOD. (They rarely even used most of the things we just HAD to get.)

One of the not-so-cool things is that we ended up going to Walmart. (Shudder. Big stores now give me anxiety.)

On the way home, Dominic and I had this conversation:

Him: I really would prefer actually going to school. I’ll take my chances with the virus.
Me: Great! So you want to put your brother at risk, me at risk, and also your father who has asthma and likely would get the worst of it and die.*
Him: Well, when you put it like that, I guess virtual is fine.
Me: Mmmhmm.

So, DCSS, keep up the good work. Difficult times call for creative solutions. We will persevere.

You know that adage: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Sincerely,
Beth, DCSS parent

* Yeah, I exaggerated, but not by much. Eddie has had so many colds that graduated to pneumonia.

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