Today is, appropriately, the anniversary of my most popular blog post last year. The bar for that is pretty low, but it still made me happy. So here it is again: Newly Discovered Ancient Document Sheds Light on the Origin of Our Species
I hadn't been to Institute for two semesters because although the organization was taking appropriate health precautions, I knew for a fact that most of my potential fellow students were out having large social gatherings with no masks on a regular basis. Now I'm vaccinated so it's fine. I even had prolonged exposure to a Covid-positive neighbor a week before my vaccination reached full efficacy and nothing happened, so after all this time I can finally relax and stop thinking about the potential life-ruining long-term side effects that an infection might have on my brain. I missed the first couple weeks of "Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel" due to my visiting family. I've taken this class twice, as I've taken every class that interests me at all, but I still have great need to increase my relationship with and faith in Jesus Christ. It was a powerful experience the first two times but it wore off after a while.
I'd never even seen Rand Curtis before and didn't know what to expect. When I came in and saw on the screen "Lesson 4: The Creation", I got a bit queasy as I flashed back to past experiences with this topic in Institute classes. Listening to teachers who know nothing about evolution mock evolution while I sit there with the expertise to know it's real as surely as I know the sun shines has never been a pleasant experience. The last time was a few years ago, and the Institute faculty may have caught up with the last century of scientific discovery by now, but I just didn't know what to expect and it was kind of tense.
So he kind of started off with a painting of a primordial-looking Earth with Jesus flying above it looking pretty epic with his hands and feet angled toward it as if to say, "KAZAM!" He made us talk to our classmates and discuss what we think the creation of the Earth may have looked like. I told my partner that I accept the scientific account of the creation of the Earth, so I think it took a really long time and if you floated there and watched you wouldn't notice anything happening. (Granted, if you timed your observation just right you might see the hypothesized planet Theia crash into it and knock off the big chunk of debris that later became our moon, which would be almost but not quite as epic as Jesus saying "KAZAM!") I phrased my opinion as inoffensively as possible, as if accepting science were only one of many possible options. My partner kind of nodded and accepted that.
Brother Curtis then had a slide that showed a diagram of the Earth with its layers, and a timeline of its scientifically established history starting at the north pole and going around its circumference. I wondered, did he put that up there just to dispute it? But he reassured me very quickly. "Was the Earth created in six days?" he asked the class. I kind of went "Eh" as if to say "I don't believe so, but you can believe what you want." But he answered his own question like, "No! But a thousand years are as one day to God, so was the Earth created in six thousand years?" And I kind of went "Eh" again. But he answered his own question like, "No!" And he had a spiel about the ultimate compatibility of scientific and religious truth, and he spoke against checking your brain at the door of a religious classroom and suppressing secular knowledge or the questions it raises. Stuff I've read and written ad nauseam, but a welcome surprise anyway. He basically straight-up said that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. That was more than I could have hoped for. I get so tired of people pretending that if the Church doesn't have a position on something, any view on the subject is equally valid regardless of basic facts and common sense.
Granted, I had another teacher, Kurt Reese, who said that the Earth isn't 6,000 years old and then said "If anyone here believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, I'm sorry... that you're bad at science." I guess that counts. But he wasn't teaching about the Creation per se - it was a church history class and we were talking about Joseph Fielding Smith's ridiculously fundamentalist readings of scripture, and he liked to joke around and tease like that in general. He would tease you for being from Colorado or being a Democrat even though one of the points he tried to hammer home is that you can, in fact, be a Democrat and still be worthy. He went so far as to imply that it's okay if you observe rampant poverty on your mission and come home feeling "pretty disgusted with capitalism". And he's a Republican himself, but not the evil kind. Where was I going with this? Anyway, his discussion of the age of the Earth was cool and all but not quite as impactful in that context. Maybe I was just desensitized to his heretical teachings by that point in the course.
Brother Curtis pointed out that on this little Earth history timeline, dinosaurs don't seem so ancient anymore, and human history was too brief to even show up. And then he said three incredible words - "Fifty million years." Not phrased as a question. Oh boy. The Earth itself is one thing, but this strikes at the very heart of some people's spiritual identity. Of course, it's the sort of perceived chronological discrepancy that some Latter-day Saints think they can just handwave away with suggestions like "wE dOn'T kNoW hOw LoNg AdAm AnD eVe WeRe In ThE gArDeN." Yeah, whatever. They're the only two people in the world, they can't have sex, literally nothing has been invented yet, and I'm supposed to seriously consider for one moment the possibility that they just chill in the Garden for, say, the entire time that dinosaurs are roaming around elsewhere? Nuh-uh. I give them three months before they eat the forbidden fruit as an attempt at suicide.
His next slide showed a bunch of skulls of our ancient evolutionary cousins and ancestors - either that, or just skulls of people who think Derek Chauvin should have been acquitted. He asked if we have room for these people in our view of the gospel. I discussed with my partner. Yes, we both did. Cool. But Brother Curtis overheard someone say "It doesn't matter how we got here, just that we're here" and called him out on it because that kind of intellectual apathy "won't make us like our heavenly parents." Brother Curtis was very big on intellect. Most religious teachers are in theory, but it's another thing to actually be so in practice and not the type of person who starts sentences with "I love science, but..." He did say he wasn't going to get into all the details of how he worked out science and religion together, which is fair, but I wish he hadn't just said "I find no physical evidence for a flood covering the entire planet a few thousand years ago. None" and left that for us to grapple with. I think the story of Noah is much easier to reconcile than most people give it credit for. I don't know why so many are locked into this false dichotomy that either the flood covered the entire planet or it never happened.
Speaking of heavenly parents, that was a big thing with him. He always said "heavenly parents" where most Saints would just say "Heavenly Father". I don't think he said "Heavenly Father" one time. In fact, in one of his slides he had written "Heavenly Father" and read it as "heavenly parents", which suggested to me that perhaps he, too, just recently had a feminist awakening. These small and simple vocabulary replacements are a huge step toward promoting true gender equality in the Church, showing women that they, too, have a significant eternal destiny and role model, and really leveraging one of the greatest doctrines that separates us from the mainstream Christian world and by all rights should be shouted from the rooftops, not treated as an open secret.
Since this was a ninety-minute night class, we then had another lesson, which was about commandments and stuff and not nearly as interesting because science, but still good. Yes, commandments can change; no, Jesus did not drink grape juice. Brother Curtis remained an engaging and effective teacher but tried a little too hard to relate. He shared that he still hasn't mastered the don't-looketh-upon-a-woman-to-lust-after-her thing. He said, "I'm old, but I'm not that old." TMI, my dude. But I'll let that slide. His whole perspective on things was such a breath of fresh air as I've grown so disillusioned with the rampant stupidity and willful ignorance that sometimes make me very embarrassed to be a believer. It's above and beyond what I've come to expect from an Institute class. He even expressed his gratitude for the LGBTQ community. The experience had me looking at him like
I hope my classmates don't complain and get him fired.
A couple of videos he shared which I'd seen before but were worth rewatching because space:
If you're stuck at home tonight because of the you-know-what, here's something to keep you entertained for a little while. Note that "The Monster Mash", "Spooky Scary Skeletons", "This is Halloween", and "Thriller", though all excellent songs, have been excluded from this list on account of being way too overplayed.
Erica Silverman - Big Pumpkin
If your kindergarten teacher didn't play/read this for you, you had a deprived childhood and may be entitled to financial compensation. Don't quote me on that.
Erutan - Come Little Children
A full length version of the song sung by Sarah Jessica Parker in the cult classic "Hocus Pocus". It's a silly movie, but what really ruins my suspension of disbelief is a straight teenage boy running away from Sarah Jessica Parker.
Sierra Games Staff - Consumite Furore
Creepy Latin singing from the intro to the gory and highly controversial 1995 computer game "Phantasmagorica", which, as every article about the game is obligated to point out, was banned in Australia.
Chorus Girls - Don't Feed the Plants
This original ending to the dark comedy musical "Little Shop of Horrors", replaced because of test audiences' negative reaction but now widely regarded as superior to the happy version, ranks as one of the most expensive deleted scenes of all time.
Iced Earth - Dracula
Rather sacrilegious, except that Dracula's rebellion against God is driven by the abhorrent false doctrine that his girlfriend has been damned for eternity for killing herself, so really, with the information available to him, he isn't wrong to respond as he does.
Rob Zombie - Dragula
Not really scary so much as too epic not to include. ("Epic" is professional music critic terminology for songs with loud electric guitars.)
The Key of Awesome - Emo Vampire
Believe it or not, there was a time when the Twilight series was cool, at least if you were a girl between the ages of twelve and fifty. My mother was possessed by it, and when I first met my friend Rachel at Youth Conference, her name tag identified her only as "Edward's Girlfriend". The backlash was inevitable.
The Living Tombstone - Grim Grinning Ghosts
A better cover of this song has never been found. I say that as one who watched on older version at the beginning of Disney's "Boo Busters" and "Witcheroo" VHS tapes (ask your parents what those were) and had a huge crush on live action Maleficent.
Information Society feat. Ayria - Heffalumps and Woozles
I found the original sequence quite unnerving as a child. As an adult, I find this cover both unnerving and lots of fun to dance to in private.
Hex Girls - Hex Girl
From "Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost" (1999). Nowadays, this song is problematic because it promotes a double standard about consent, but we can still appreciate it as long as we recognize its historical context. It turns out this video also includes "Earth, Wind, Fire and Air" so that's a bonus track.
Debs & Errol - If I were an Undead Crawler
Parody of Barenaked Ladies' "If I had $1,000,000". Are zombies overrated? Yes. Is this song underrated? Heck yes.
Baha Men - It's Spooky in Here (Digimon Halloween Song)
You've probably never heard this, because it's from a CD called "Rhythm and Boos" that came in boxes of Count Chocula, Boo Berry and/or Franken Berry cereal in 2001. Some of my students weren't even born then. That's scary.
"Weird Al" Yankovic - Jurassic Park
Not that I've seen a lot of horror movies, or plan to, but I find "Jurassic Park" scarier than any horror movie I've seen. The Tyrannosaurus rex in particular always stops my heart. As a creature both fantastical and real, it's scarier than either a made-up monster or a random human serial killer. This music video is ironically much gorier than the actual movie, but it's all played for laughs, and the song's ending is unironically beautiful.
Judas Priest - Night Crawler
Personally my favorite Judas Priest song. And as dark and creepy as it is, it has a happy ending, or at least as happy of an ending as one could reasonably expect under the circumstances!
Jonathan Coulton - Re: Your Brains
The song that introduced me to the genius of Jonathan Coulton, and still his best work IMHO (though his music and lyrics for the Portal anthem "Still Alive" comes in close). Even my freshman year roommate playing it twenty times in a row failed to make me hate it.
Ozzy Osbourne - Scary Little Green Men
Even with his advanced age and ill health, the wizard of Ozz managed to release a killer album this year, which features this gem that beats out his other Halloween classic "Balk at the Moan" for a spot on this list. Aliens > werewolves.
Rammstein - Spieluhr
The gist of this song is that a small child wants to be left alone, so it [sic] pretends to be dead, and gets buried with a music box in its hand, and then the music box and the child's singing can be heard from beneath the earth.
Meco - Werewolf (Loose in London)
Even though werewolves < aliens, they still deserve some recognition. And so does Meco. Despite scoring a number one hit in 1977 with his disco cover of the Star Wars and cantina band themes, he's fallen into almost total obscurity, which isn't fair.
Hap Palmer - Witches' Brew
Once upon a time, one of my Primary teachers had us sing this in Primary. I liked it better than most of the boring church songs we did.
Because I find rituals comforting, I habitually listen to both of these entire soundtracks on Halloween.
Jonne Valtonen - Alien Incident
This 1996 point-and-click game ("Muukalaisten yö" or "Night of the Aliens" in the original Finnish) actually takes place on Halloween, so it's appropriate that the aliens look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Its rather strange music has really grown on me. I converted and uploaded the music files from the free Abandonia download, though there is additional music in the game that I don't know how to find and wasn't patient enough to record directly.
Alain Goraguer - La Planète Sauvage
This bizarre animated 1973 French-Czech co-production isn't a horror film as such, but the soundtrack is creepy and unearthly enough.
You know that gag book that's called Everything Men Know About Women and all the pages are blank? I'm going to write one like that, except I'm going to call it Ventana Student Housing's Guide to Effective Damage Control. As previously reported, Ventana Student Housing in Orem, Utah gave a tenant less than a week to move out after she violated her contract by vocalizing suicidal tendencies. I'm not kidding. That's literally what the eviction notice says. Now, I think the social-media-driven outrage machine is usually a plague on society, but this time it was put to good use and I was happy to participate. How did Ventana Student Housing respond?
They didn't. They continued ignoring all media requests for comment and refusing to answer the phone - so if you thought for one moment that they had a legitimate side of the story that could exonerate them, you were wrong. They disabled the option to message their Facebook page and deleted comments on said page. In fact, they deleted their one post from this year, apparently thinking nobody would be smart enough to just comment on the next one. They were mistaken about that. And somehow they got Facebook to take down my review for "violating Community Standards", which, after a solid track record of Facebook refusing to do anything any time that I report blatant hate speech or pornography, confirms my suspicion that the Community Standards are enforced by lobotomized gerbils. So I immediately left another review and that one has stayed up for a week now. Their rating is at 1.1 stars, which sadly is the lowest it can go because they have some ratings above 1 star from back before they showed their true colors. I'm not sure why 1 star is the minimum anyway. They deserve negative stars. What's the 1 star for, having the audacity to exist when they shouldn't?
I still hope, of course, that Ventana Student Housing will get sued out of existence, but even if that doesn't happen, at a bare minimum they've been taught a lesson they'll never forget.
While these ingrown hairs on Satan's butt are persecuting a student whose vocalizing of suicidal tendencies, according to them, was a "breach by the Tenant of the quiet enjoyment of the premises or surrounding premises of other tenant's [sic]", my neighbors are actually breaching my quiet enjoyment of the premises several times a week, but I don't want them to get evicted because they're nice and I'm not a complete sociopath. A few days ago one of them started screaming over and over and over so I rushed outside and banged on the door. Michaela's face greeted me in the window beside the door, as with a cheery smile she said, "This doesn't concern you, Chris!"
Kaylee was, as usual, the source of the screaming. Michaela and Hailey had her on the floor, cornered. Hailey also greeted me at the window and explained, "She's afraid to text a boy."
"Oh," I said, "you should just take her phone away and do it for her."
"That's what we're trying to do!" Hailey said.
"Help me, Chris!" Kaylee said.
"Don't let her out!" Michaela said, but I couldn't anyway because the door was locked. So I left them to it.
Of course I couldn't help but think back several months, to their predecessors, who were much quieter but did far more to breach my enjoyment of the premises. Talease gave me Calise's number one evening when I dropped by to invite her to go hiking and she wasn't home. Talease said I should just text her to invite her to stuff, but I didn't dare use her number without permission. Talease assured me it was fine, that she was Calise's best friend and it was fine. And then Calise came home and interrupted us, and on my way out I said that her roommate gave me her number and wanted me to text her. She said, "You're welcome to text me," and then Talease's little dog Paisley ran out the door and we spent the next ten minutes chasing her down and I didn't forgive her for weeks.
So I'd texted Calise a little bit, probably less than I could have, always hesitant and worried that my unnatural luck would run out after she actually responded the first few times, when I became frustrated by my lack of progress and solicited Talease's help and she said Calise loves going for walks and I should invite her to go for a walk. She basically promised that Calise would say yes, but I didn't believe her. I said I was too nervous. She said, "Then we'll do it together. Give me your phone." I did, and she wrote the text and sent it with no input from me, and when I saw it I nearly had a heart attack.
It's funny how perception and memory can be so wrong - for me, at least. Maybe I'm exceptionally stupid. Because this is what the text actually said: "Hey Calise, I was wondering if I could take you on a walk on Wednesday. Are you free?"
But this is how I read it: "Hey Calise, I would like to take you for a walk. Do you have some time on Wednesday?"
First of all, I wouldn't have said "take you for a walk" because she wasn't a dog, but I guess "take you on a walk" is a little more ambiguous. In any case, though, I read the text as expressing a desire without an actual request attached to it, and then operating on the assumption that she had already agreed to the nonexistent request and we merely needed to work out the details. And I nearly had a heart attack because it was so bold and presumptuous. "No, it isn't," Talease assured me. She said that Calise was at work and would probably respond in about an hour. She responded in nine minutes.
"Sure, I have some time after 6- I usually go to the temple on Wednesday as well if you'd like to join me"
So I thought about that when I told Kaylee's roommates they should take her phone and text the boy for her. In hindsight, I'm not sure if I was trying to help her or if I am just a bit of a sociopath after all. But tonight I heard she got a date out of it, so she's welcome.
Me: My ex-neighbors who sent the police after me were really dumb and immature.
This girl's roommates: Hold our root beer.
Also Me: Police officers are the least qualified people on the planet to deal with mental health crises.
This landlord: Hold my root beer too.
I say root beer because this happened in one of the highest-percentage Latter-day Saint cities in the world. I don't know for a fact that the roommates and/or landlord are Latter-day Saints (nor, in any case, do I consider their actions an indictment of the majority of Latter-day Saints, who are as outraged as any normal person), but I'd bet a few bucks on it. Also, in making these comparisons I'm still not letting the police off the hook for their impressive track record of murdering mentally ill or disabled people. But this is a new, special kind of evil that just blows my mind.
Ventana Student Housing seems like kind of a sketchy establishment to begin with. Its Facebook page has 65 likes and has posted once this year, twice last year, and zero times in 2018 or 2017. The pretentious legalese bullcrap in this eviction notice, though standard procedure, is somewhat undermined by the landlord's illiteracy ("other tenant's", "recklessly endangerment", "undo stress"). There are some complaints in Google reviews about the management's greed, apathy and insensitivity, and of course every apartment complex has a few negative reviews from disgruntled ex-tenants but these particular ones seem very credible right about now. And management have not issued a statement on their side of the story. Their response to inquiries from the media and everyone else has been nothing, zero, zip, zilch, nada. They won't even answer the phone. It's almost as if they realize how rightfully screwed they are and just want to implode in peace.
I wasn't planning on taking time out of my day to contribute to making their lives hell, but I consider it time well spent. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I don't want to be someone who insults people and/or swears all the time, but this is one instance where I have no regrets and would do it again.
Mine is at the bottom. Yes, I liked my own question because someone had to do it. In fairness, someone named Lilly responding to one such question claimed that the girl's roommates had actually offered her help multiple times, that she had talked to a police officer (you know, one of those incredible mental health experts), and that she had threatened one of her roommates. I told Lilly that I'm not buying it because none of that is mentioned or even hinted at in the eviction notice, which explicitly gives "vocaliz[ing] suicidal tendencies" as the sole reason for breach of contract, nor has Ventana Student Housing bothered to mention this alleged side of the story to anyone despite having more than ample opportunity to do so. Lilly also claimed that this girl "just wants attention", a common accusation against suicidal people, which seems quite incongruous with her choice to remain anonymous. Both Lilly's response and my response to her response have been removed.
I also sent Ventana Student Housing this message through ventanaapt.com:
"Hi, I checked a website and it said you don't have any vacancies, but I know you just evicted a student for having the audacity to open up about her struggle with suicidal thoughts, so you do have a spot open, right? Could I come look at it soon? Full disclosure: I have had suicidal thoughts before, like 9.3 million other adults in the United States every year, but if they come up again I promise to keep them to myself. Worst case scenario, I'll just kill myself instead of asking for help, so you don't have to take your precious time writing an eviction notice. Thanks!
"Sarcasm aside, I hope you sick [redacted]s know that you more than deserve every bit of the public relations nightmare you're currently experiencing. The pleasure of watching your sick twisted excuse for a company crash and burn won't erase the hell you put your tenant through or the long-term trauma you inflicted on her with your colossal middle finger to everyone who's ever been depressed, but it's all I can do for now. I wish I could sue you on her behalf since it's unclear whether she's going to. You know as well as I do that you would lose in a heartbeat. I suppose I just have to be patient and content myself with knowing that someday you'll stand accountable before God, who's undoubtedly even more pissed at you than I am.
"With overwhelming contempt and disgust,
I was frustrated that the victim is undecided on pursuing legal action, but I later read that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is going to regardless, so that's nice. I hope Ventana Student Housing gets sued out of existence. The automated form said someone would get back to me soon, but I don't think they will.
The stigma that mentally ill, even suicidal people face in this country remains alive and well despite nobody in 2020 having any excuse not to know better. The stigma needs to die. So many of us pay lip service to the idea of accepting people for who they are and encouraging them to seek help when necessary, when what we actually want is for them to keep it to themselves and suffer in silence because popular culture bombards us with the lie that mentally ill people by definition are dangerous and scary. Now this girl is traumatized and will be terrified to ever ask for help again, as will others who don't want to go through what she did. But would the world have taken notice, would the world have become as outraged, if her roommates and/or landlord had found some more typical and less blatantly illegal ways to mistreat her after they learned of her problem?
Ventana means window. Eyes are windows to the soul. Yet Ventana Student Housing has no soul, and my prayer is that soon it won't have a business either.
RIP Richard Tenace
On a completely unrelated topic, I feel compelled to note the passing of Richard Tenace from my childhood congregation in Potsdam, New York, on October 13. I wasn't super close with him but his death came as quite a shock to me, as it did to everyone else, because he was only in his early fifties and exercised more than most people. He was a magician, mentalist, clown, wrestler, author, and landlord, but not the evil kind. I first met him at a delightful magic/mentalism show he performed at SUNY Potsdam. I thought it was very clever how he deliberately flubbed a simple card trick at the beginning of the show to increase the tension at the end when screwing up his final trick would have ostensibly been fatal. Shortly afterward he became a member of the Potsdam branch presidency, and if I understand correctly, he was the main driving force behind the congregation's participation in the Ministerial Association of Potsdam. He was a big advocate of interfaith gatherings and service projects while some branch members who will remain anonymous were kind of furious about having a Muslim read the Koran from our pulpit.
There was a lot of festering political tension in that branch. Brother Tenace was solidly in the liberal "faction" and my family was solidly not. One evening I got into a bit of an argument on Facebook with him about something Glenn Beck had said about some firefighters who had let a house burn to the ground with dogs inside because the family hadn't paid the tax to support the fire department. He said something like, "Here we see the conservative mindset in action: if someone can't afford something, they deserve to suffer." I said something like, "Actually, the conservative mindset is that if someone can't afford something, it's not the government's place to force other people to buy it for them." And things continued for a bit but he deleted his initial comment, acknowledged that it had been somewhat contentious, and tried to smooth things over and explain his viewpoint less abrasively. And then that evening I was at the church for activities and he was there and he made a remark to someone about how awesome I was, like we hadn't just been arguing, and I thought that was real classy.
In more recent years, of course, I drifted further to the left and found myself agreeing with most of his political posts. But he also balanced those out with memes and things that were just funny and lighthearted. And photos from his workouts. He took staying in shape very seriously, which, again, makes his sudden death all the more shocking. It goes without saying that he will be missed.
Monday, my first day of teaching, I showed up in my reserved classroom and set up Zoom forty-five minutes early just to be safe. As my students trickled in I was gratified to know that the link worked. However, I didn't think to test the audio. I thought I could just talk at the computer like I talked at my laptop all week during Orientation, because nobody told me I had to talk into this little radio thing. So the first seven minutes of class were wasted on me trying to figure that out as my students in the chat helpfully explained that there's a little microphone icon in the corner, then giving up and calling IT. The class went well other than that and I learned that disasters are okay. I wasn't very nervous going into it anyway, since all we had to do was get to know each other and discuss the syllabus, but that's actually a bad thing because Beth said that even after all her time as a teacher, if she didn't feel like throwing up before her first class of the semester, she would know something was wrong. So something was wrong.
Throughout the week, I corresponded via email or Canvas with some students who had various questions or concerns. The respect they showed me was so heartwarming. A couple called me "Professor Nicholson", which isn't technically accurate but feels really good so I hope they don't stop. I'm so used to feeling marginalized and invisible - for example, my email to the Logan City Police Department a few weeks ago went completely ignored because the recipients didn't and don't see me as an actual person who deserves to be acknowledged in any way - and I'm not the type to demand respect, and unlike a police officer, I'm not authorized to shoot people for refusing to kiss my butt, so the voluntarily outpouring of good will from these students who place a scary amount of faith in my qualifications to teach them composition is such a breath of proverbial fresh air. I will do my best to be worthy of it.
Friday, my second day of teaching, things once again got off to a rocky start when I failed to elicit the desired discussion from my students. Both my teaching style and USU English courses in general are very dependent on discussion. I don't have the capacity to just get up there and lecture for fifty minutes even if I wanted to. Asking a question and just having twenty muted microphones stare back at me was a very unnerving experience, and it repeated a few times. So I whizzed through the main class "discussion" and got right to the breakout groups. I had scientifically calculated the groups to ensure that none of them were majority male, but some of my students ruined that by being absent, so I had to make them from scratch and I think next time I'll just randomize them. I put the discussion questions for the groups in the chat. This worked fine every time Beth did it during Orientation, but as I rotated between the groups I discovered that none of them had received the message, so that was annoying.
Nonetheless, the groups had their desired effect of getting people to relax and open up more. Maybe too much. In one, I arrived just in time to hear a student opine, "I feel like he was just like 'Get into groups' because he doesn't have an actual lesson plan." I don't know at what point she noticed me, since her camera was off, but another student noticed immediately and laughed in that shocked "Oh my gosh" kind of way and had to turn her camera off. Basically it was something out of a movie. I pretended nothing had happened and I hadn't just been stabbed in the heart. I realized after a while that I shouldn't take it personally because the use of breakout groups was actually something recommended and modeled over and over in Orientation and the practicum, and it worked, so this student just didn't know what she was talking about. After we returned to the main group, the discussion went a bit more smoothly than before. I may have grilled one student a little too much about her career ambitions because I was just so enthusiastic about her actually speaking.
I wouldn't count that class among even the top fifty worst experiences of my life, but when I ate lunch afterward I got the PTSD shivers that have only happened to me once before. And though it was far too late to quit, I considered quitting anyway. I'd have to fake my own death or something but I considered it. I told Beth and she was very sympathetic and said she had a similar experience her first semester with a student who assumed she didn't know what she was doing when she put them into groups, so that comforted me. And it was still better than teaching elementary or middle school students.
On a more lighthearted note, here's an excerpt from the Zoom chat in our practicum when Beth had some technical difficulties.
Me: Is Beth frozen for everyone or just me?
Hannah: She’s frozen for me
Kelsie: She froze.
Steven: She's froze.
Greyson: me too
Madeline: Me too
Elle: Yup Beth is frozen for me too.
Hannah: NOOO Beth come back!
[Literally ten minutes later]
Hannah: Uh Oh.
Alex: bye beth
Greyson: She’s frozen for everybody right
Steven: Frozen II
Kylie: lol she is for me
Me: I guess we should just let it go
Hannah: NOOOO Christopher beat me to the joke
Elle: You guys are the best lol
Alex: can she see the chat when she comes back?
Me: And apparently I'm the host now for some reason?
Mia: I am so impressed by the amount of dad jokes in this chat.
Hannah: Now you’re in charge
Hannah: Teach us something
Elle: Christopher go! Teach!
Me: The area of a circle is pi r squared
Me: Oops, wrong class
Alex: get outta here
Hannah: Now I have useless math equation songs running through my head from high school
Kelsie: I love that we’re all interacting in the chat and no one has unmuted themselves.
Kylie: classic introvert English people.
Alex: speaking out loud is for chumps.
Me: If we speak out loud too much we might freeze
Madeline: Does that mean I'm next?
Alex: I hope not.
Alex: we should have told Beth to join on her phone if she can't connect to her computer
Me: For tonight's homework, read all of Shakespeare's plays
Alex: oh she's back
Hannah: Yuck, don’t make Christopher the host again… ;)
After spending twenty-nine hours in one week with these people during orientation, amounting to more social interaction than I had all year up to that point, I feel like we're all best friends forever. Except Steven doesn't seem to like me anymore. He broadcasts from his little office down the hall from mine, and sometimes during breaks or after class we emerge at the same time, and one time during Orientation he said "How has your day been?" and we chatted as we walked around the Quad for ten minutes, but since then he just stares at me when I nod or say hi. I guess I said something wrong. I'm good at that.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.