This past week, my beat writing began in earnest as the local school district began its year with all nearly 9,000 students returning for in-person classes. Along with the start came a million things to check out and verify for the paper, and it’s a breathless pace that I assume will continue for the foreseeable future.
Talking to teachers and students and parents and principals transported me back to 2013 when I began one of the most formative experiences in my life – teaching middle school language arts. I was talking to a new teacher recently, and I was startled to find that, try as I might, I couldn’t remember what I was thinking the night before school started. I imagine it looked much the same as it did when I was a student, wide-awake with nervous energy and excitement and anticipation. But I remember the early days of teaching, the flop sweat of uncertainty, the ruthless laughter of the children when one of them burned me with a snarky let-me-test-the-limits-here statement, the complete certainty that I would be found out as a fraud. And these were good times, mind you. There was no pandemic with which to deal, and yet it was still one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.
I say all of this to remind you of a basic decency that might be easily forgotten the farther you get away from the years you spent in a classroom yourself: Teaching is incredibly hard even in the best of circumstances, and there are so many stressors on those teaching schools right now that you should go out of your way to be kind to a teacher if you get the chance. See one at the coffee shop? Buy her coffee. See one grocery shopping in town? Take a minute to tell him how much you appreciate his work, even if you don’t have a kid, or your kid was a student more than two decades ago, or you yourself were last a student two decades ago. It’s not a small thing these teachers do, but a small act of recognition will go a long way, I can promise you.
Ten Worth Your Time
This charming look at the park ranger who made it a personal mission to salvage the Depression-era W.P.A. posters of national parks. (The ranger himself sounds like he could vie for the title of “Most Interesting Man in the World.”)
Heartbreak and grief were on full display on social media when Saturday brought the news that Chadwick Boseman had died at only 43 years of age after a four-year battle with cancer. The star portrayed James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and perhaps most famously, King T’Challa, the Black Panther. His acting career was stunningly short, and the realization that much of it, indeed the portion for which he will likely be most remembered, saw him silently deal with his sickness was almost too much to bear in 2020.
This surprisingly engrossing tale of the humble pangolin, the scaly ant-eater-like creature that might have played a prominent role in bringing COVID-19 to our doorstep. Or maybe it didn’t.
In case you missed the debacle that was the Republican National Convention, here’s a quick reminder: Your vote matters. Here’s a guide to making sure it gets counted.
It’s U.S. Open time, and it’s a weird feeling to see Flushing Meadows without any fans. Normally, I’d celebrate a major tennis tournament as an excuse to go back to read some of David Foster Wallace’s tennis writing (it’s hard to ignore how much the empty stands remind me of the early qualifier matches that DFW chronicles in his masterful profile of Michael Joyce), but I’ve been on a Brian Phillips kick lately and his tennis writing is top-notch. Check out this piece about Roger Federer’s sustained greatness to get your Federer fix since he’s not at this year’s tournament.
It’s been hazy here in Wyoming for weeks now. Each of the past two weekends, I’ve headed west on I-90 and the usual view – the majesty of the Big Horn Mountains – has been dramatically diminished. The mountains are indistinguishable from the haze that envelopes them. The massive wild fires in California and Colorado are undoubtedly to blame, so I found this map about how smoke from wildfires spreads particularly interesting.
The last time I had a steak dinner was the day my dad and I arrived in Wyoming. We’d driven 24 hours straight through, no sleep, and we’d unloaded an entire U-Haul into a second-floor apartment. We were tired and hungry by 4 p.m., and we sought out a good meal. I thought about that meal as I flipped through the first issue of my newest magazine subscription, Texas Monthly, and its cover story about the war against beef.
I spend a lot of time now writing, head down in a completely different world, and I like to write to music, but not just any music. My mood changes, and every now and then a story dictates the song choice, but left to my own devices, I like something with a deep, soulful groove to it, preferably a live recording because I like to think that the artists are creating in the moment, and that thought makes writing feel possible. Here are two I’ve been listening to on repeat lately—David Ryan Harris jamming out back in February and an old video of the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s endlessly re-listenable “Midnight in Harlem.” Both bands are so seamlessly in sync with each other; it’s enough to boggle the mind.
A bit of inspiration in my beloved world of magazines, as America’s oldest – Scientific American – is still going strong 175 years later.
This weekend, if all things hold steady, will see me back in a movie theater for the first time in five months. Excited for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, though I have almost no idea what it’s about; I’ve refrained from reviews and spoilers of any kind, trying to maintain the specialness of the moment of returning to a movie theater. In preparation, here’s a new video from Lessons from the Screenplay looking at Nolan’s love for cross-cutting storylines.
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