Friday, July 23, 2010

To catch you up...

I apologize for the lengthy absence. I’m finally feeling like I’m getting a handle on my summer.

While I’ve been off-blogosphere, several things of note have happened:

I sprained my ankle a week ago. The effects of this are several: There will be no triathlons this summer; there may be no cycling to VT (more on that in a sec); many home-improvement projects will get done, albeit at a much slower pace, and with much pausing; I will have more time to spend retooling course and curriculum for the fall; I am learning to be at peace with things as they are, and not as I had planned them to be. That last one is still a work in progress.

I will be returning to soccer. Over a year ago, I walked away from athletics at my school--a program I started--to put an end to the conflict and discord that was becoming constant between myself and our school’s curricular director. The situation is complicated to explain but, in essence, it wasn’t worth putting a full-time teaching job on the line to constantly go head-to-head with this woman over a seasonal stipended position, however much it meant to me, personally. Last year, the curricular director announced that she was leaving the school and, after some lengthy discussions among people about the althetics program, its mission and its direction, I offered to come back to coaching--just coaching, no admin. This seemed to meet with a positive response from the players.

I am planning a 4-day bike trip through VT scheduled for the first week in August. My ankle has put this trip in jeopardy, but I’m making preparations to do it all the same. Today, in fact, I have the first real test of fitness and strength since the sprain--a 20-mile time trial scenario. If it goes well, we move forward. If my ankle reacts badly... The trip runs from Wayfarer House to Enosburg Falls, VT, where the annual Morrison Family reunion will take place (this reunion is for Wifeness’ family, and has been held every year for something like 60 years).

I’ve committed to be part of a trial of a new grading and reporting system for my school. We don’t use letter grades at my school; instead, we have a system that is based on levels of credit. For example, Full Credit (which equates roughly to a B in the letter system most of us recognize) is designed to basically communicate that the student knows or can do something with confidence, and without a lot of errors. We like (and there is an ever-growing body of research to support) the idea of grading in this way, but there are issues we’ve uncovered in terms of its universal application and its conversion to something colleges and universities will deign to interpret.** There are still some bugs to be worked out among the group involved in the trial, but in its basic form it won’t work all that differently from what we use now (we will still require the equivalent of FCR for students to move on), but it will be quite different in terms of how we approach grading and assessment (what goes into the actual “grade”, what the kids and parents see, how we have conversations about student work and progress). I’m blogging about this work and the retooling of my own materials and grading systems, but right now it’s a closed blog just for the teachers at my school. If I get their permission to open it up for everyone to read, I’ll post the link.

My thyroid is failing. I’ve been having problems with fatigue, weight gain, depression and muscle issues for a good while now, and I’d been to my doctor about it. We drew blood. We checked lots of things, and came up with the very likely possibility that all this was due to an erratic thyroid. Solutions? Cut it out, go on drugs, do radiation treatment.

None of those appealed so we left things be, but I committed to regular blood tests to see what was actually happening with my thyroid. Was it just being temperamental or was it actually failing? It turns out the latter, as a result of some form of autoimmune function. Solutions? See above, but really drugs become necessary. I resisted this at first because I don’t tolerate drugs well and I suck at taking pills of any kind religiously (please notice the vitamins on top of the refrigerator). The symptoms were getting really hard to work around, so last week I went back to the doctor and got a prescription for synthetic thyroid hormone which, if it proves effective, I’ll likely be taking in one form or another for the rest of my life--every day at 6am.

That’s it for now. I’m going to finish this cup of coffee and go put on some lycra. My bike has been waiting patiently for me for a while. Too long. She’s ready for a workout.

** I find it no end of ironic that the very universities doing the research that has confirmed the inefficacy of traditional grading also require it for admission to their programs.


JRH said...

Yikes! Thanks for the update. I am frustrated on your behalf for the ankle sprain and thyroid issues, very excited about soccer season, and intrigued about the grade reform (although I really like the idea of full credit... so wouldn't fly at my school though... and with those darn colleges...). Please hang in there and keep us posted.

the passionate hairdresser said...

Thank GOD you finally blogged! I totally forgot to mention it last night!!

All I've got is: Life is what it is. You don't have to like it, but sometimes you've just got to roll with it.


Laurie B said...

While you're at it have the doc check your B12 level. Pernicious Anemia shows up in about 5% of thyroid cases and it also presents the same symptoms.

Voice of experience here. Good luck