A Rumination on a School Year Ending

My daughter is coming to the close of her first-grade year, now; she started school last year, the COVID year, and had what was a good classroom experience interrupted by closures proceeding from the outbreak and reactions to it. This year, because we live where we live and my wife and I are considered essential workers–and we are in lines of work that do not admit well of working remotely–our daughter was back in the classroom. Overall, I am proud of her and pleased with her teachers and her school; they’ve done a lot under far less than ideal circumstances, and they are to be commended. (On the whole; there’ve been a few things I’d’ve rather not seen, but that’s true in the best of times.)

Something like this, maybe?
Photo by Caleb Oquendo on Pexels.com

Like many parents, I am concerned about the effects the disruptions will have on my child. I am not so much worried about her “keeping up,” really; grade levels are a social construction that can and should be adjusted, and my wife and I, both having been academics, are in position to be able to supplement what our daughter gets in the classroom (and were going to be doing so anyway, virus or no). For me, the concerns are for her socialization and for lingering trauma occasioned by the sudden disruption.

I do not mean to imply that we have had it hard, here. There were cases of the novel coronavirus in my close family, yes, but they were mild and passed easily. My daughter was not one of those afflicted, either. Nor yet did we experience economic hardship; like I note above, my wife and I both qualify as essential workers, and our workplaces continued to operate throughout the pandemic–so our paychecks kept coming, even if my wife could not get the overtime to which she had grown accustomed in the months prior to the outbreak.

But even for our daughter–who was not sick and who had access to the kind of informational infrastructure that allowed for remote learning–it was a hard thing. She left school for spring break and didn’t go back again, and even now, more than a year later and with most of another school year done, she still voices worry that her friends and teachers are going to go away. I have to wonder how long she will harbor such fears and what effects those fears will have on her ability to form friendships. I did poorly enough at such things when I was her age, and I feel the lack now; I would spare her the same, could I do so.

This school year was better, admittedly. Even if it ends now, we made it a lot further through it than last time; it was a more thoroughgoing experience for her. My daughter has grown and improved quite a bit, although there are certainly areas in which she could do better; staying on task has been an issue, and I have to wonder how much of it results from the necessarily fragmented nature of the distance learning she got earlier on in her scholastic career. (I am trying to avoid the cildas þissum dægum that I hate to see in so many places. I really am.) And I have to wonder how matters will fall out next year; she will go into second grade, so she will not be quite at the point of testing culture yet, but it will be coming for her.

But I am a parent. Of course I worry.

Is there any chance I can get your support?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 194: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 15

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series soon.

The following chapter, “Serpent Ship,” opens with the white serpent–who insists on being called Carrion–accosting Maulkin and the other serpents in his tangle. Carrion tries to get himself killed, repeatedly, and Sessurea is only barely discouraged from obliging him by Maulkin noting the scent of She Who Remembers in the water. They proceed towards the smell, finding sound that echoes it and rushing off to heed the call to recall.

Bulb GIFs | Tenor
Not unlike this, no.
Image taken from Tenor.com, used for commentary.

She Who Remembers frets briefly as she rushes to meet the serpents, Bolt lagging behind. Maulkin greets her, and the two enter a communion that gives Maulkin back his full memory, and the memories spread to the other serpents. From the deck of the Vivacia, Kennit watches in amazement as the serpents churn and commune, and Bolt reiterates her demand to him, to which he agrees readily.

Elsewhere aboard the ship, Etta presses Wintrow as the young man considers his place and purpose. He voices his uncertainty to her, and she prods him to learn more–navigation, for one, and a return to his priesthood. They converse about the matter, and both realize that both have placed their faith in Kennit and not themselves–and that it should be in the latter. He slips into a strange meditation as he considers her words, and she quietly departs.

In the water, She Who Remembers considers Bolt and Wintrow with some confusion and trepidation. Maulkin joins her and notes his own suspicions, and they observe as Wintrow confronts the ship. It assails him, but the violence against him only spills his blood upon her wizardwood planks, where it soaks in and enhances the intertwined connection he has perceived within him and among them.

Once again, I find myself reading with affect as I read the passage wherein Wintrow considers that he cannot return to the priesthood that he had thought once and for years was his calling. I am in a similar place, having been obliged to exit the ivory tower in whose basements I long labored, hoping for a chance for a room of my own within it. I do well enough in my life outside it, of course, and I recognize that it has no real place for me within, but I still labored long to dwell within it, and that work cannot be undertaken without it doing much to the worker’s heart, in turn. I have not plied such waves as Hobb relates Wintrow has, nor are my scars as deep or extensive, but my currents have carried me far away, and my skin is far from smooth anymore, and I know not how to chart a course back to were I was before.

Can you spare a dime?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 193: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 14

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Divvytown,” begins with Brashen considering the approach to the titular settlement from the deck of the Paragon, musing over changes to the place since he was there previously. He confers with Althea on the matter, and they determine to proceed with the sunrise. The ship puts in, surprising them all with knowledge of the local waters, and, when Brashen asks, the ship agrees to guide them into Divvytown on the spot. As the ship does so, the Paragon considers the approach and is startled by Amber waxing poetic on their progress through the night. The ship reflects with some trepidation on Amber’s words and considers those exchanged between Brashen and Lavoy to the aft.

How much of this can go around?
Image from Texas A&M University, which makes it a government document and therefore, if I understand correctly, public domain.

The Paragon puts in stealthily at Divvytown, and Brashen summons Althea to him after sending the rest of the crew, save a small watch, below deck. They confer, more about their romance than about the work at hand, as they survey the town and plot their landing party. Amber and Clef are excluded, as are Lavoy and Artu; Jek and a handful of others are to be brought along, and Lop left with orders to get Clef ashore if there’s trouble. The landing proceeds, with Brashen issuing and affirming orders to his selected crew, adopting a braggadocio act when confronted by local authorities appointed during the town’s reconstruction; he successfully plies the locals as Althea turns over what they learn in her head and reluctantly reassesses the possible situation with the Vivacia–as well as Kennit. The news from Bingtown takes her aback, as well.

After the local authorities approve of them, Brashen has his landing party disperse to gather information and gives orders to take on provisions. He also confers with Althea as the two of them surveil the town’s streets together. She is taken by the image of what could be that she sees reflected in windowglass as they do. And as she learns of her brother-in-law’s fate, she sorrows for the crew lost and for her sister–but not for the man, himself.

At the dock, Paragon muses over the oddities of time and his blood-borne connection to Kennit until disturbed by a gig from the town, one person aboard which identifies the ship as having been Igrot’s. The assertion upsets the ship, and the noise of the upset reaches Brashen and Althea in the town. They hasten towards the ship and are greeted by Clef, Jek, and all but two of the other landing party members; they return to the ship, where Lavoy confronts Brashen and assails him before leaping overboard–and a number of crew join him as the Paragon flees Divvytown under full sail.

This is not the first chapter of a Liveship Traders book to be titled “Divvytown.” The one that is, here, and the changes from the earliest appearance to the present chapter are marked. Kennit has clearly made an impact upon the place, and, as Althea is reluctantly obliged to consider, not all of it is for ill. Indeed, much of it is for good, in itself. That does not elide the ill Kennit has done and is yet doing–the chapter presents itself as contemporaneous with the trip to take Wintrow to Others Island, giving a sense of how the component parts of the novel fit together–and it is good to remember that it is too much to expect that the extraordinary will only be so in one direction. Then again, working to erect what amounts to a nation demands a certain degree of hubris; there are presumption and arrogance inherent in the notion that one person’s ideas are good enough to rule others by. Too, it is long known that a certain ruthless pragmatism is required in a great many endeavors.

I am reminded, however, that manure is often used to fertilize, and plants that bear good fruit grow well from having shit at their roots.

Your help to keep this site going would still be welcome.

A Rumination on a Missed Opportunity in the Classroom

I spent quite a while teaching, as I have noted in this webspace and elsewhere, and no small amount of that teaching was in a class I was never actually trained to teach: Technical Writing. I had no coursework in it as an undergrad or as a graduate student, but got thrust into it while I was completing my doctoral work. Coming up to speed teaching it took a little bit of doing, and, in retrospect, I have pity for those poor students who first suffered through my learning how to teach a course for which I had no preparation; I apologize to you for my inadequacies, whether or not you are reading this.

Yeah, this kind of thing.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As is often the case when something new emerges, I fell back on what I knew to start teaching the course–in this case, roleplaying game materials. I’d done it at other times, as I’ve attested, and, at some points (for example), I used RPG materials in classroom exercises in my technical writing classes–usually as examples of layout and ease-of-use, maybe for interrogation of audience–as in my more “normal” English (i.e., composition, literature) classes. Things may not have always gone over well–some sets of students took better to “nerd” pursuits than others–but they always got across the points I meant to make, and they provided concrete examples to help my students understand what to do and what not to do, both of which are important in fostering learning. So that much was successful in my teaching, and I should be pleased to have had that much success, at least.

But as I have been thinking on the matter, for reasons I’ll not get into here, I have realized I missed out on what would have been one hell of an opportunity to work with the technical writing classes (even if it is something I would’ve gotten…spoken to…about–but I got…spoken to…several times as it was; I might have had a bit more fun with it). I could have had my students design games or gaming modules and playtest them for each other, which would have offered them no small amount of practice in parsing directions, writing directions, testing those directions out, and working through the other kinds of work they were asked to do by curricular dicta.

A fairly common set of assignments in technical writing classes–both from my experience and from the reading I did years ago to try to support my suddenly emerging experience–includes a set of instructions, a project proposal, and a project report. Sandwiched between the latter two would (ideally–but how often we fall short of ideals!) be the execution of the project proposed. To my mind, the instructions could be that project, with the proposal outlining what is to be given instructions and how and the report being made from attempts to execute those instructions. And if those instructions happened to be a RPG or a module for an existing one…

Data rolls natural 20 : combinedgifs
As the saying goes, “trust Data, not Lore.”
Gif from Reddit.com, here, and used for commentary.

The way I’m envisioning it (from the vantage of it having been a while since I’ve had to write a syllabus from scratch–though I’ve done such things several times), students would be asked to complete major assignments as noted above: project proposal, instruction set, and project report. For the proposal, they would have to note whether they would develop a new RPG or a module for an existing RPG (the latter being more likely, the more so for a more compressed class). The instructions would be the actual gameplay; while I follow Mackay in calling RPGs an art, I acknowledge the necessity of rules in them–and what are rules but instruction sets? The report would, as gestured towards, detail play; it would note what led to the proposed project, give a description of the project and the playtest, and discuss results–what went well, what went poorly, and why. Formatting and usage concerns would be assessed as might be expected, with differences chiefly between the instruction set and the other documents; concerns of audience would necessitate dramatically different presentation there. Students would have experience with producing writing to order in genres not necessarily familiar to them, something common to people who try to make their living writing–and I am often told that making classroom activities mimetic of real-life practice is a good thing. Students of such a mind would have a portfolio object. And I might have both samples for future use (always helpful when teaching) and grist for the mill of my own gaming.

Such is not likely to be, of course. I am doubtful that I will be at the front of a technical writing classroom again, after all, or really any. But that does not mean I do not dream–and that working more on developing such a course is not without merit. It might help me get more of the kind of work I still like to do…

Care to put some money towards curriculum development?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 192: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 13

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

A content warning is likely in order.

The chapter that follows, “Surviving,” begins with Keffria and Selden talking on the deck of the Kendry as the liveship approaches Bingtown. The harbor is desolated, the ruined hulks of ships visible in the water and the lingering damage to the town visible, as well. Keffira frets for her family, the fates of most of whom are uncertain to her.

The Constitution of the United States | National Archives
This seems to be evoked…
Image from the US National Archives, which I’m pretty sure makes it public domain.

Reyn and Jani are also aboard the Kendry, and they confer about their own mission to beseech aid as they approach the injured town. Trehaug is in dire economic straits, the earthquake having rendered the retrieval of Elderling artifacts impossible, and the extinction of the Rain Wild Traders looms. Keffria invites the Khupruses to lodge with her, which offer they accept, and Grag Tenira arrives to spirit the group away under cover–and to the waiting Ronica.

Aboard the Chalcedean ship, the Satrap whines; at Kekki’s insistence, Malta offers some gentle advice and comfort, musing on their unpleasant situation and tending to the Companion as best she can. The value of Kekki’s advice is made clear as Malta rehearses an assault upon her. The Satrap continues to treat her as a servant, and Malta is accosted again; she falls, opening a wound she has been considering for some time. As she makes to bind it, she realizes that Kekki has died as the Chalcedeans hail another ship.

In Bingtown, Serilla takes lunch and considers her worsening situation. Roed Caern grows increasingly cruel and paranoid as many sets of machinations unfold; she wonders how to place herself among them in the wake of a message from Mingsley. She also considers Ronica, musing on the older woman’s wisdom.

Grag and Reyn confer as the latter makes ready to join a gathering. They exchange tidings, including Reyn’s certainty that Malta is dead. Similarly, Ronica affirms herself to Keffria and reminds her that she, not Ronica, is the Vestrit Trader. And at the gathering, Keffria takes her rightful place, despite her pain and loss. News is exchanged and counsel taken for how to proceed; the potential for a break from Jamaillia and a new system of rule for Bingtown is discussed, and Reyn, at Selden’s prompting, begins to explicate some of the longer history of Bingtown and the Rain Wilds.

I am again taken by the similarity between events unfolding in Bingtown and what I remember being taught and reading later about concerns surrounding the Revolutionary War. (I am aware that what I was taught was markedly jingoistic in addition to being simplified for consumption by children. The latter is excusable, even perhaps necessary; the former is not. And, recall, I grew up in small-town Texas–for good and ill.) I’ve noted that in other work–and I’ll get to that work, worry not–Hobb makes much use of early US history to inform her fictional milieu; I haven’t done the reading to the extent that I should (yet) to confirm it, but it does not stretch credulity to think that Hobb is doing much the same thing in the Liveship Traders novels that she does in the Soldier Son series. And she seems to be offering some corrections, being explicit in the incorporation of women in the proposed renewed Bingtown as equals–formally and legally, not just conventionally–and noting usefully that “A manner of speaking becomes a manner of thinking.”

Indeed, that comment is more true than many people want to believe. I don’t necessarily fully subscribe to Sapir-Whorf, but it is an idea that merits more thought than most afford it.

I can always use your support.