Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I can teach and I can gut, but I can't deal with City Hall.

I think I have said before that I have been too busy to maintain my blog. If I have, I feel like saying to my old self, "You? Busy? P-Shaw!"

That's because I am forreal busier than I think I have EVER been. I even had to say NO to something that I probably should have said YES to because it was one of those things-that-look-good-on-your-CV-when-you're-up-for-retention. But you know, I'd like to actually be able to do what I'm doing really well, and if someone asked me to do one more thing, I think this house of cards might come a-tumbling.

The real kicker is my online writing class. I teach writing every summer online, but Johns Hopkins does a really excellent job of creating and providing excellent curriculum and teaching materials, and in my class this semester, I'm on my own. That means I am having to spend hours upon hours typing lectures, posting, organizing, deleting, moving, revising, responding, writing, revising, etc., etc.

Now, having said that, I should say that I am really happy to be taking on this challenge. UNO offers just this one online section of composition, and I think that's going to have to change. I remember the first time I taught an all-online comp class...

It was the fall after Katrina. The class was a mess. I think I may have ruined lives. Who knows? I can't remember a damn thing from that semester. That's not true. I can. But it was hard, hard, hard, and there were breakdowns to be had, and nails to drive over, and it was really hard to teach.

Wait a second... all of those things are still true.

Anyway, I think there are benefits to teaching online, and I am trying to kick some butt with it and then share my experience with my colleagues. I've already learned a lot, and I've got some fascinating students: a man from Iran now living in Houston, a basketball star, and a hearing-impaired woman whose writing challenges are formidable. Lucky for all of them, I like a challenge.

In most cases, anyway.

The kind of challenge I don't like? Attitude-y outbursts from freshman not yet ready to behave like college students. I am struggling with a couple of eye-rolling, neck-cocking, teeth-tsking students in my onsite comp class, and I have had to work HARD to keep my cool. I think part of the problem is that I look like I could be their friend, and I also don't "sound like a teacher." That means I don't "whom" and "consequently" in class. I speak in language my students can understand. (In fact, in student evaluations, they regularly compliment my ability to communicate ideas clearly.) But some students mistake that casual approach to teaching as weakness, and they try to assert their own control by acting out.

I have a second theory: that the students who act out and who practice teacher-targeting and blame-games do so because it's easier to blame me than to take responsibility for their own failures. Anyway, I am really finding my comp-class challenging. Hopefully things will get better.

In house news...

We gutted the house, which led to our discovering several things. A) We have 12-foot wooden-plank ceilings. Beautiful. B) It takes more than one dumpster to contain 1800 square footage of gutting whatnot. C) I love to tear sh*t up! I mean, I had no idea how much I was going to love tearing down the lowered ceilings, cutting wires, and pulling nails. I loved it. I got so sore I could hardly move, and my hands hurt for days, but no matter! Sine I've discovered I like this sort of thing so much, I've ordered some Soy-based paint remover, and next I will take on scraping the windows and the trim.

Also in house news...

We are stalled. FEMA put the home's damage assessment at 51.74%. If you had more than 50% damage, you are required to prove a bunch of un-provable stuff, or raise your house (which we can't afford.)

I had the pleasure of visiting City Hall this week in order to contest the damage assessment (which erroneously reported that our floors, windows, doors, and cabinets were all "100% damaged,") where I had the pleasure of speaking with a very condescending, patronizing, no-sense making jerk of a man who I just about eye-rolled and neck-cocked and teeth-tsked. It appears that the kinds of things they were "letting slide" are now being scrutinized. It also appears that this kind of thing will prevent a whole lot of people from rebuilding. And what I don't understand? Our house is in a National Historic District, and therefore supposedly exempt from being forced to raise, but somehow dude was not having it. So we don't know what to do...

And I don't have time to handle it. In fact, I have to put this thing away and do some grading if I am to stay on top of things. AND... Mardi Gras is approaching, and it feels too soon and all kinds of wrong. I bought a silly wig and stuff to wear, but I am NOT feeling it! Which is sad because Mardi Gras day is my favorite day of the whole year.

Anyways, I'm staying afloat. Love to all.


John said...

Nice pic--bummer news. I think you mean "raze" instead of "raise." I thought you were back to putting your house up on legs!

Formatting--this sentence:
I even had to say NO to something that I probably should have said YES to because it was one of those things-that-look-good-on-your-CV-when-you're-up-for-retent

got funky in Firefox, though it read okay in BlogLines. Maybe put a space after one of the hyphens to create a line break.

But don't let that stop you from posting--inquiring minds want to know! When you're done there, we need to demo our main floor bathroom.

Sarah said...

Nope. I mean "raise." The house, itself, is a barge-board fortress that lived through the floods of 1927 before getting it from Katrina. It doesn't need to be razed--no way. The deal is that FEMA is forcing homes that received more than 50% damage to be raised up above the BFE (base flood elevation.)

FEMA personnel did the damage assessmments, and it was tricky business. If you had flood insurance (which was not required in Holy Cross because we are above BFE,) you would want that 50+% of damage because you could get a grant to raise your home. That'd be great! I mean, we'd be able to see the rive, not just the tops of ships if our house went up higher.

BUT--if you didn't have flood insurance, which was the case for most folks who lived in a no-flood zone (like the one where our house is), you DON'T want to have more than 50% damage, because then you have to pay out of pocket for what is typically at least a $30k job.

We are in the latter group. Oh, and the real kicker is that the house really WASN'T more than 50% damaged. They wrote off our 100-year-old heart pine floors AND our cypress windows and doors, which came through the flood, um, "swimmingly."

Damn FEMA.