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Feeling Over the Rainbow with APO!

What a crazy, incredible weekend. My internal schedule is all messed up and I ate way too much, but it was the annual APO Region IX conference, and for the first time in several years, it was right here in Madison. Over 100 students and around 18 staff members from chapters all around Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota came here because there’s no place like APO (our conference theme!)

Some of the highlights from the conference for me were getting to present a panel and a workshop, going to banquet, the usual post-banquet staff hangout in the hotel, and post-con morning brunch.

My first panel of the day was one on diversity and inclusion, which I co-presented with past national president and one of my personal favorite people, Maggie Katz. We had 90 minutes and even though both of us are big talkers, we managed to only go 40 minutes before taking questions. After that, there was a lot of audience interaction, both with us presenters as each other and a lot of great ideas were exchanged. Current national president, JKO, was in attendance and told me later how much I impressed him, as did one of the students from Coe College petitioning group.

After a giant staff lunch at the Nitty, I presented my brand-new theater workshop. The first time I tried to present one at a regional, many years ago, I had 3 people. In March at Sectionals, I had about 13 people. This time, a whopping 21 people were interested in my course, and packed into the atrium: 13 from Wisconsin chapters, 7 from Iowa, and 1 from Minnesota. The room I was given was not conducive to moving around, so we did it in a small hallway atrium. I had my fingers crossed the whole time that no one would come yell at us, and I guess it worked. Most of the activities went over pretty well and I got great evals, despite running out of worksheets, a too-small space, and the fact that the ceiling acted like an echo chamber so I pretty much spent the whole time talking as loud as I could. I found out the day of that I only had 45 minutes, when I had planned an hour (yikes!) but ended up running about 50-55 minutes, speeding up some parts and probably skipping something here or there. No one seemed to mind. It was a little disappointing that not everyone got to perform, but about 3/4 of the participants did.

Banquet was delicious, and Maggie gave a great keynote speech. I got to catch up with Andrea, an advisor I met in Pittsburgh and came up all the way from Chicago, and then we headed back to the hotel for the usual staff hangout/eval session, which is always a highlight. We packed into this tiny hotel room, pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder, and I couldn’t help but feel so appreciative that I was in the same room as all these amazing, lovely people: Andrea, Maggie, JKO, Ginny, Stockdale, Zach, Brandon, Michelle, Ding, Kate, Kelly, Derek, Kristin, Ken, and Glen (I think that was everyone), with appearances from Eden in Texas and Natalia in Minnesota via FaceTime. The best part was when a woman knocked on the door at midnight, not because we were loud, but because she was a bridesmaid at a wedding on the other side of the hotel and needed to pee so badly that she couldn’t make it back to her room. Of course we let her in, unfortunately we didn’t catch her name so we could make her a Section Chair or award her with a DSK. We did, however, applaud as she exited the bathroom, so that counts.

It’s cliche, I know…bu there’s no place like APO.

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But Wait, There’s More – A New Feature!

Just dropping in one last time to share my newest adventure in blogging. Once a week (hopefully with more frequency than Flip-the-Script Friday), I will post the chronology of my life. Mostly so I can remember it even better in the future. I’ve made a few recordings, and I’m hoping to include a hand-drawn picture to better illustrate my world view. I have yet to draw the first picture (watch this space) which began 30 years ago this very day.

My name is Jacob, AKA That’s So Jacob, and this is my story.

I was born October 21, 1987, in Baltimore, Maryland. I have a dad, a mom, a sister who is two (almost three) years older than me. These are the members of my family.

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I Didn’t Choose The Teacher Life…

Ten minutes to midnight on a Monday, and as I am composing this lovely blog post, I am also simultaneously…

  • Wearing jeans, a sweater, and a scarf
  • Sitting among several piles of paper and books
  • Furiously chewing about five pieces of Extra bubble gum
  • Photocopying several activity sheets for class with the kids tomorrow
  • Cutting up said sheets
  • Pressing down the paper on one sheet that got bent in my backpack
  • Preparing to do laundry
  • Listening to Justin Timberlake on my iPhone
  • While watching The Golden Girls with the sound muted.

I didn’t choose the teacher life, the teacher life chose me.

Hashtag, teacherlife.

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Staying In and Getting Real Night, Part 6

Another Sunday night, another Golden Girls marathon. It’s the episode where Stan becomes attached to a toy monkey, so mute goes the television. Time for staying in and getting real.

So what’s new with you? I’m stressed, as usual, and there’s noise coming from the hallway which will become a real problem if I feel like going to sleep anytime soon. I had a bad week last week in terms of healthy eating, so I skipped the dance team dinner at Great Dane, yet managed to come home from Whole Foods with not only almond butter, protein, and veggies but also a container of gummy stars to reward myself for…well, nothing.

Which brings me to my next topic, or lack thereof. Dissertation. I have a meeting coming up in 2 days to talk about it, and I still have no idea what “it” is, or will be. I’m pretty much at the same place I was four years ago. I thought I’d have it all figured out by now. I feel like I’m probably going to end up googling “how to pick a dissertation topic” because yeah, I should probably start working on that idea sheet. I mean, I have a few ideas, but nothing really concrete enough to gel into a game plan. Granted, it’s still (closer to) the beginning of the semester, and I guess if all else fails I can change my topic. I do know what I don’t want to do; even though I really enjoyed researching the Romani of Central Europe and their performance practices, I feel like I’ve probably exhausted 95% of the sources available to me. Probably very few new books on the topic have come out in the last few years, if any at all. I was even surprised to find one article of interest, in a Canadian journal. Even though language barriers are tough to overcome, ethnic barriers are nearly impossible, and I honestly think that there’s a certain point that I, as a white American, cannot penetrate, either for ideological reasons or because there’s simply nothing on record.

I really want more gummy stars but at 11 PM I said to myself, no more for the night.

Dinner was a lazy salad – threw together some lettuce, onions, cucumbers, Craisins, and tomatoes in a tupperware, tossed it with oil/vinegar/lemon juice, and called it dinner. Not too satisfying, but I’ve got some sparkling water to hopefully sate myself.

I know these posts are super boring and totally against the original purpose of this blog, but what are you going to do. At least it’s real talk and not just pointless word vomit, a la LiveJournal.

Oh, and in other news, I got some reading done today, outdoors even, and I’m close to finishing two books, and I haven’t even finished a single one since February started, so that’s something.

Okay, time to zen out and meditate in order to dissertate. Ommmm….

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Ten Things I Don’t Understand About Myself/Things I Do But Don’t Know Why

I haven’t made a good list in a while, and it’s like having a good cry, so here goes.

Ten Things I Don’t Understand About Myself/Things I Do But Don’t Know Why

  1. I do laundry, but I cannot fold it until I know that there is something online or on TV that I want to watch so I can multitask. I can’t fold laundry without doing something else at the same time, and since laundry-folding requires two hands, TV just requires my two eyes.
  2. I wash dishes…in the morning, while my coffee is being made. Yep, that’s the only time I will hand-wash dishes. Usually I am still in pajamas so if I get splashed it’s not such a huge deal. That’s somewhat logical, but why not just wash them right away? And today I got Starbucks before going to work rather than making my own coffee, so…sorry, sink full of dishes.
  3. I can’t play Words with Friends while walking. Doesn’t work for me. Must be either seated, standing, or lying down.
  4. I never have any clothes, and then when I go on shopping sprees and spend a lot of money on clothes, they all seem to disappear. Currently, I’m down to two pairs of khakis, two pairs of dress pants, and ONE pair of jeans. Jeans don’t seem to last long, especially if you have an active life and are walking around campus all day.
  5. I tell everyone that I keep my car clean, but it’s really not clean. I mean, the front seat is okay, sometimes has some papers or pens on it, and the backseat isn’t bad, but I throw stuff in the trunk and have no idea how much has accumulated back there until I have to squish things to get my groceries in.
  6. I can’t ever have just one piece of gum. Right now, for example, I’m chewing four pieces, like some kind of barbarian.
  7. I have an order of how I read books, but I’m constantly forgetting it/changing it.
  8. I have shows I watch religiously online, but I’ve never seen an episode of said show live/on TV. Yep, the Late Show, Colbert Report, Late Late…and I’m usually awake, too. Watching clips on YouTube.
  9. I never use anything handicapped, except bathroom stalls. I feel like it’s just a bad omen, from parking spots to using ramps instead of steps. I think I walked up the ramp to get into my building once, because I was talking with someone, and I had a split-second anxiety attack. Handicapped bathroom stalls are fair game, because it would be quite rare for me to be using the stall when an actual handicapped person might need it, and if I’m in there, I’m usually out pretty quickly.
  10. I wait all day to post something, just before midnight. Even though I sometimes come up with multiple ideas a day, it takes me until the witching hour to get it down. It doesn’t matter whether I have a free hour for lunch or something, it doesn’t get from brain to blog until this time of day, when I’m already tired and stressed.
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First Day of Elementary School!

Deer  Dear blog,

Today was my first day of school. I learned a lot! The teacher was great, and not bad to look at either. I love school!

Love, Jacob.

Okay, so it wasn’t my first day at a student, but it was my first day as a bona-fide, on-the-payroll elementary school teacher.

Go adult me, real job hell yeah.

So, here’s how it went:

I got to school about an hour before my lesson started at 1 PM. All the kids were there, 10 girls and 5 boys. And before you say anything, for privacy/protection purposes, I am changing all their names. Plus, it’s fun to make up names. Anyway.

I came in and introduced myself, and against my better judgement, I asked a group of children to go around the circle and tell me their names (even though I already knew most of them) and one fun thing they did this summer. It actually went smoothly and no one lost focus until the circle was just about complete. I then led them in the Heartbeat Hello game, after which I started my lesson, which was about storytelling.

I told them about three ways to tell a story: having it read to you, reading it yourself, and performing it. I asked the kids to comment on which type of storytelling they liked. Melanie said that she liked being read to, because she didn’t have to do anything but listen. Crystal said that she enjoyed reading, because when she reads to herself, no one interrupts her, and she can go as fast or as slow as she wants, and she can imagine as she reads. Paul said that he liked acting it out, because he could cast his friends in the roles and put on costumes. Caroline agreed, saying that she could make up her own characters and her own story better by acting it out.

So, I read them this story that I wrote, based on Evgeny Schwartz’s The Dragon:

A long, long time ago, there was a little town in the land of Russia. It was a quiet little town but it had a big problem. A dragon ruled over the town for four hundred years. The dragon had three heads, four paws, and five claws on each paw. He was big and tall with scaly skin, and he breathed fire. Every year, the dragon took someone from the town, and they were never seen again. Everyone was scared of the dragon, even the town mayor.

One night, a man called Lancelot visited the town, to learn more about this dragon. He stopped at a small hut, the house of a man and his daughter. The daughter’s name was Elsa. Lancelot asked Elsa to tell him more about the dragon. Elsa did not want to, for fear that it would bring her the bad luck of being kidnapped by the dragon. But Elsa’s father told Lancelot about the dragon, and how he scared everyone by burning down houses and filling the air with smoke from his breath. He also said how much the dragon ate – many chickens and cows each month, and all the vegetables and fruits they grew in the summer and fall. Lancelot decided that it was time for a change, so for Elsa and her father, he made up his mind to kill the dragon.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Elsa answered it, and an old man walked in. Elsa introduced him to Lancelot. The old man then asked Lancelot why he came to town. When Lancelot told him that he came to kill the dragon, the old man laughed and said that he, himself, was the dragon.

Lancelot was confused – how could this old man be a dragon?

The old man said that he liked to come and visit the people, but to fit into their homes, he had to change himself into a person. Lancelot then challenged him to a fight. If Lancelot won, the dragon would give the people their town back and let the mayor run the town again, and if the Dragon won, he would kidnap Elsa to be his servant. He accepted before going home for the night.

The next day, Lancelot and the dragon met in a field. The town mayor wished Lancelot the best of luck before going to join the rest of the townspeople far away from the fight. The townspeople watched as one by one, Lancelot chopped off each of the dragon’s three heads. The struggle was over. Elsa was safe, and the mayor could run the town again. Lancelot said goodbye to his new friends and went home. Everyone was happy.

However…

One year later, Lancelot returned to the town to visit Elsa and her father. To his surprise, nothing had changed. The people were still poor, and Elsa and her father still lived in the tiny hut. When Lancelot saw Elsa, he asked what happened. She pointed toward the castle where the dragon lived, only now it was the castle where the town mayor lived. She explained that even though the town mayor did not kidnap people, he took the peoples’ animals, vegetables, and fruits, and sold them to make money for the town. Instead of helping the town, he kept the money and made the dragon’s castle even bigger, and moved in himself. Finally, Elsa told him the worst news of all; the mayor decided that he wanted to marry Elsa, and the wedding was tomorrow! Elsa was not happy, and Lancelot needed a plan.

The next day, before the wedding, Lancelot arrived in the town square. Once the townspeople saw Lancelot, they cheered, remembering how he killed the dragon. They urged him to kill the town mayor, who had made their lives harder and was now marrying their friend Elsa. Soon, the mayor arrived, followed by Elsa, to start the wedding. Lancelot went up to the mayor, and asked him what he had done for the town since the dragon’s death. The mayor looked guilty, and said that he had done some bad things. Lancelot was angry. The mayor then asked Lancelot how he could start to help the town. Lancelot then turned to Elsa, and asked her if she wanted to marry the mayor. Elsa looked at both of them, and said that no, she did not want to marry the mayor. The mayor agreed not to marry her, and the wedding was over. Elsa was happy that she had her freedom again, and the mayor was happy that Elsa was happy.

However, the townspeople were still angry at the mayor for all he had put them through. They wanted him dead, just like the dragon. Lancelot turned to them and said that killing the mayor would not help anything; someone else could then become the new mayor and be even worse for the town. Instead, Lancelot told the town that everyone has a little bit of the dragon inside them, and to have happy lives, they needed to stop that dragon and do what was right, just like the mayor did by not marrying Elsa. The town said thank you to Lancelot, and worked on making their lives better, little by little.

The End.

After the story was read, I passed out copies of the same story, and we went around the circle, each reading two lines. I was surprised at the fact that almost everyone could read all the words, although a few times, the next kid in the circle stopped paying attention, so we had to stop the flow of the story to catch him or her up. I checked the time, and we were barely halfway through the story and it was already 1:50 PM, so I finished up until “however…” and then acted it out, with me as the narrator.

I narrated as Caroline stood up to play Lancelot, and Max and Susie sat in their tiny hut (made by the arms of Melanie and Grace), and Paul and Jordan created a giant castle behind them for Susie to point at. Then, we switched out for the next scene, the morning. Natalie got up to play Lancelot, and the rest of the kids were excellent townspeople, cheering for her. Ariana, who’s very particular about what parts she plays, was happy when I called her up to be the mayor, and I had her bring up Kate to be her Elsa. Natalie repeated Lancelot’s angry words, and Ariana played a sheepish town mayor. The best part? When Natalie asked Kate, as Elsa, if she wanted to get married, and before she could even get the question out, Kate let out a firm and immediate “NO,” causing us all to laugh. Natalie then repeated Lancelot’s wise words to the angry townspeople, and they thanked her.

In our reflection, I got mostly silly answers, but it had been almost an hour. In the brief “what did you learn?” question, Crystal said that she learned that you can’t place blame on just one person for all your problems, and Susie – one of the youngest – said that she thought the point was that you can’t just say that something’s fixed and walk away, you have to make sure that it stays fixed.

After a brief bathroom break, it was time for the lecture portion, so I told them about Evgeny Schwartz, his life, and walked them through 1000 years of Russian history in just about 15 minutes. Surprisingly, most of them stayed with me, with the exceptions of three goofballs, but I just ignored them and maintained eye contact with the kids who were paying attention and asking questions. When I told them Evgeny Schwartz’s birth/death dates, both Grace and Max asked me how Schwartz died, and Melanie – who quickly determined that he died at age 62 – said that it was probably old age. Thank goodness 62 seems like an old age to a 10-year-old.

At 2:30, I introduced the concept of a satellite diagram, and drew one about Russia, after which they went back to their seats for written/drawn journal time, and my first lesson was done. When Marla (real name of their teacher), asked them for feedback on the lesson, what they said basically melted my heart. Susie had fun learning a new story, and she loves dragons, so that was a bonus. Melanie and Crystal were amazed that we learned social studies, history, and theatre all at the same time, and Paul called me the best teacher ever, which basically put him on my good list, forever. Marla said that it went exactly the way she imagined it would go, so…mission accomplished. I was so worried that I’d be too boring, or slip into college-teaching mode, but it seemed to come together, somehow.

I think I’ll go back on Thursday.

14

How I’ve Changed Since Starting This Blog

It’s been a busy few days of selling jewelry, dancing, and writing my prelims, but I’m at 63 pages (including the maximum 25 pages for the one I’ve been spending most of my time working on) so it’s time to watch a little bit of the Olympics and do some blogging.

Once in a while, it’s a good idea to look back, mostly to see if someone’s chasing behind you, but sometimes just to see how far you’ve come. No special occasion, it’s not any sort of anniversary, but it was just something I was thinking about in the car today. So here are a few ways I’ve changed for the better since starting writing here.

1. Self-awareness. I definitely think that I have become more self-aware. I feel like since I have a place on the Internet where I can speak uninterrupted and unfettered, I don’t feel the need to overshare in real life. I personally don’t think I’m an oversharing type of person, but now, I don’t know, there are some times in my life where I feel weird sharing it out loud and prefer to say it in my head or to myself. Of course, there are things that I don’t share here, but those things are usually the kinds of things I don’t share anyway. And again, I’m the only one that matters when it comes to how I…come across, but I think that by and large, I’ve had more positive than negative social interactions in recent times.

2. Better behaved, in general. What I mean by this: at times I want to blog about my daily life, obviously I’m not going to blog about a time when I’ve embarrassed myself, but it’s kind of like reality television: if those moments don’t happen, then there’s no footage of it. I don’t talk about my blog on very many occasions in real life, and if I do, I just kind of say “I wrote about it in my blog…” and that’s the end of it, and obviously, there’s curation that goes on in any online presence, but painting myself as a person I’m not – ooh what just happened to Aly Raisman just now on the balance beam, I was looking down and I missed it – is a whole lot harder when there are fewer dramatic corrections to be made.

3. What’s worthwhile. The things that I want to look back on, and posts on mine that I reread, are the funny, well-thought-out ones, and not just the rambles of daily life, or oblique references to some situation the specifics of which I’ve long forgotten. Reading a depressing poem is not something I’d want future me to read,  or anyone else for that matter, or commentary on some event (whether global or just in my own life) that ends up being insignificant.

I had some other thoughts today, but of course I didn’t write them down anywhere, but if I remember them, I’ll add them. Oh, and yay to my 37,000th Revolver Maps visitor, from Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. And now, back to watching Team USA Olympic Gymnastic domination.