Friday, September 9, 2011


When the Matron was a Wee Miss, she begged her mother for stories -- stories about her own mother, and the mysterious ancient childhood she had.

Wee Miss: "Mama? Tell me. What did you wear on your first day of school?"

"Did you ever have a picnic?"

"Would you eat soup with a big spoon or a little one?"

"Did you have a dog? A cat? A bird?"

"Who was your best friend?"

But Wee Miss's mama could never remember. As We Miss grew, she stopped asking. She knew there would be no stories, not the kind she wanted. Because she didn't care about family reunions or what the neighbors did but WHO this woman was as a girl. Who was her mama?

That question, for the Matron, remains unanswered.

Perhaps this is why she is fast and loose with her offer of stories.

Matron: "Merrick, would you like to hear about the time I got lost walking home from first grade?"

Merrick: "Not weally."

Matron: "Scarlett, let me tell you about the WORST slumber party I ever went to when I was a kid!"

Scarlett: "Uh . . . that's okay, Mom. I'm reading."


Matron: "Boy, I remember how scared I was when I learned how to drive!"

HWCBN: "Seriously? You're telling me this?"

Triple sigh, literally.

Now, the Matron is married to a wise man. An observant man. One day after attempting to download key childhood memories onto Merrick, she pouted about the futility of the effort to her husband.

Matron: "Why aren't they interested in my stories?"

John: "They don't need stories. They already know you."

If that's a spin on the situation, she'll take it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Take Away Teaching Moments 101

A mosaic, of sorts, of instructive moments this far into the semester.

First, background. The Matron is teaching not one, but four, of her five classes online. Someday she'll post about the merits of online life (she loves it) but today, some of the little thorns on that computer screen. Students and instructors alike tremble before the Matronly syllabus: 17 pages long, replete with assignments, links, guidelines, schedules, etc. It is a semester in a snapshot. She's organized (ahem, nice word for obsessive) that way.

So she can forgive the occasional oversight, the missed bit of information. And does forgive.

But still . . . three weeks in? Time to at least understand some fundamentals, condensed here:

1. Don't email with a general question about the class. Ask these on the classroom discussion board.

2. Don't send an unsigned email message. It's impossible to know who you are from the email address (this one is important for obvious reasons)

3. Don't ask your instructor to manually regrade the automated quiz to give you points for misspelled words or other small mistakes you make: if the answer is wrong, it's wrong. Spelling and following instructions are part of the assessment.

With that . . . a few humorous gems, recounted with love (after all, the Matron has made her own errors, including once DELETING an entire online constellation of graded student papers).

So putting herself on equally flawed footing, let's start with her personal favorite, unsigned and simple: "Send me syllabus."

Sure! What class are you in (which syllabus?) and who are you? Helpful details can be so annoying. Let's not even aim for niceties like salutations or thank you. Plus, there's the fact that the syllabus is not 'sent' but lives in the online classroom already.

Here's another, unsigned: "I spilled Columbia like Culumbia on the quiz and need that point back." Sure! And you are? What quiz? Which class? She actually gets several of these a week.

From a student removed from the class for non-participation: "I have had the flu for two and a half weeks but am fine now. Sorry. You can put me back in the class now." Okay, thanks. She'll get right on it.

Three dead relatives the day before the first assignment was due.

"I need a paper topic. Thanks!"

Then, in her on-the-ground class -- that lovely group who didn't know anything about the 1960s --, the Matron mentioned that she was just a few days (okay, 462 days) short of her fiftieth birthday. Not that she's counting.

She let that little bomb drop carefully, aiming for an onslaught of "wow you look amazing and you CANNOT be nearly fifty or "but you wear skinny jeans and heels" shrieks. Yes, shrieks. That's what she imagined.

Instead, silence.

Sigh . . .

Monday, September 5, 2011

As the Semester Turns

Who does the Matron thank for this?

Her usual deity: God-Oprah-Buddha-Allah-Universe? The astrological stars? Perhaps some karma in a former life?

For the past couple of years, disaster besets the Matron at the beginning and end of every semester. Most memorably, she clearly remembers perching at HWCBN's bedside post-appendectomy, frantically entering grades online while waiting for her firstborn to emerge from anesthesia.

HWCBN: "Mom? You're here? I never knew you would do something like this. Thank you!"

The Matron resisted the urge to bop him over the head and say: "I'd die for you, dummy! This just requires sitting!" Instead she handed him ice chips.

But more predictable, the precursor to more than one new semester or the capstone to the end, when grades and papers are due? Ah, memories. This scene broke two days before the semester dawned, just a couple of years ago.

Scarlett: "Mom? My head itches."

No worries. After all, this is a child with a history. Her throat hurts, her head aches, her legs become cement. The stomach? This entity carries the weight of the world. Head itching seemed? Dandruff, no doubt.

Merrick: "Mom? Something is cwaling in my eaw."

This gets Instant Attention from the mama.

And so, began the Lice Chronicles-- replete with laundry, head scrubbing, combing, drama, pain, hours of internet research and the best comb and product -- and said Chronicles popped like book-ends around a busy Matronly academic schedule.

Reader? Girlfriend (and neighbor)?

You know where this is going.

Two days before school starts, right after being tucked into the parental "Big Bed" as a treat, Merrick bolts up and scratches his head.

Merrick: "I have lice!"

He was right. Yes, the critters have descended once again up the cursed household. After all, who wouldn't want to spend four hours combing hair and eight hours doing laundry for three holiday weekend days? While immersed in the frenetic psychological school preparation.

And even though Merrick is the only person hosting a colony, yours truly has treated her head not once, but twice (thanks Cetaphil) and plans to wear a plastic shower cap around the house for a month.

School starts tomorrow!