My physics teacher used to say that before every lab -- with good reason. My lab partner and I actually set one apparatus on fire when we failed to release the brake on a (so-called) frictionless wheel to measure the acceleration of gravity. Who knew a dot timer could be so incendiary? Then D, who was also in my physics class (but not my lab partner), took a projectile launcher's hammer to the hand when his partner released it too soon. To top it all off -- and this one actually elicited a laugh from our usually poker-faced instructor -- my sister clocked herself in the back of the head with a cork while trying to measure its angular momentum. I wasn't there for that last incident (we're six years apart in age), but let's just say that this history of mishaps in a controlled environment has reinforced, for me, a certain wariness of the forces of nature in the real world.
All this is to say that I hope my students have their heads screwed on properly this weekend during all the Halloween hoopla.
My particular class has had what seems to be an abnormally high number of emergencies this semester -- and not from any poor decisions on their part. So far there have been three medical emergencies from chronic conditions requiring hospital attention and two family deaths. Last night, one of my students e-mailed to say that a family member had been in a car accident and that she needed to go home right away (the most recent update is that the family member had not woken up yet by lunchtime today). Then this afternoon, another student e-mailed to say that she would have to withdraw from school for the rest of the semester for health/personal reasons. Would the universe kindly lay off my people already???
I've been so busy getting my students ready for this last push before Thanksgiving break that I've had to leave my writing at a standstill in the middle of some serious work on an essay due next week. But tomorrow -- TOMORROW shall be the day I get back to it. Really.
I've been having trouble deciding what kind of structure will best serve the story I'm trying to tell, so the essay is really kind of a mess. With impeccable timing, this week's memoir reading for one of my classes offered an amusing example of how to apologize for it:
The apparently haphazard chronology of this memoir may need excuse. The excuse, I fear, is Art. It contains a number of surprises, perhaps I may call them shocks, which, as history, came to me rather bunched up towards the end of the story. Artistically shocks should never be bunched, they need spacing for maximum individual effect. To afford them this I could not tell my story straightforwardly and have therefore disregarded chronology and adopted the method of ploughing to and fro over my ... life, turning up a little more sub-soil each time as the plough turned. Looking at it with as much detachment as I can command, I think I have not seriously confused the narrative.
~ J.R. Ackerley, My Father and Myself
Well, here's hoping I have enough to turn in such that it appears to have some kind of chronology, haphazard or otherwise.