The first days of the last days

August 13, 2020

8:45 am

15 minutes until it all starts.  I eat a peanut butter and butter half sandwich.   I walk earlier at Crab Cove, because my heart, my lungs, my voice, my love of the water and walking all need an extra boost this morning . I need the water to calm it all away… I am about to attend another zoom meeting here my computer desk. The first meeting of the 2020/2021 academic year. It’s called Convocation, of course.

I sit now with resistance, with trepidation, with a sigh and eye roll…”oh this, this AGAIN.”

But how can I really have that thought, since now everything is so different?


A word about the NOW.  Covid 19 and Black Lives Matter.

I start this academic year,  my last full-time-educator-year, in an upside down and sideways reality.  We are full swing into The Pandemic.  And we are full swing into the social upheaval and forward motion of Black Lives Matter.  We take them both into the very crevices of our curricula, our daily practices, and into the practical reality of teaching 90% of our offerings online. 

School will never be the same. Period. Oh, I believe we’ll be back in classrooms, etc…but the explosion has occurred and from pre-K to dissertation defenses, screens will be in constant use. (that’s another book or 3). My punchline is that the more money you have, the more time you will be able to buy with your instructors. Ouch.

I write from the point of view of “old, before, “ while acknowledging that everything is now “new, after or during,” shall we say.  The big transition…The big transition.

The Pivot.

But I will chronicle it from two perspectives – this pivot for all, and this pivot for me, which would have been happening even IF there were no Covid-19.


27 years ago, in 1993, I come to convocation with heated enthusiasm, still fiery from 3 days of new-faculty orientation.   I wear a flowered, flowing dress and coif my hair just so, don my lipstick….it’s important to look great today. I’m about to meet hundreds of colleagues—I bubble over with ticklish joy, finally landing this kind of gig…not a gig at all, but a place to belong…for years and years, if I can be healthy and strong in my work.  I watch and listen to the Chancellor, the Board members, the college Presidents as well.  I hang on their words…I hang on every word from every presenter…I think,  “this is important information, it pertains to my career!”  I want to soak it all in, I want to participate too…duh…perhaps raise my hand, ask a poignant question, reveal, yes reveal that I am not only present but I am PRESENT. Do you see me? Can you hear me?   I am a force to be reckoned with, in a the best of ways. I am here!  Even the slides about the budget and other stats compel me…I want to ask for clarification about some of the data on the budget reports.  (yep, I did, I tried so hard to understand budget presentations all those years. I made special appointments with the men, they were always men, who seem to have a bead on all these charts, yet still, after countless hours, bootless cries…I never could really take in the whole of our budget world, the great bean counters of FTEF/WSCH/AHB/H73, BLSHT, More and more.  Intentionally byzantinatic .)

Not only did Budget Reports confuse me, but even some slides from the top brass about their strategic plans and accreditation news baffle my eager young self–so many words and phrases I don’t yet know (I never really learned them after 27 years at this place):  The Allocation Model, Hold harmless, state apportionment, categoricals, etc  (even my software is not recognizing these words, whew, so good to know that I’m not alone)

Okay, some presentations escape me, but the rest of it is fine fine fine with me.  I’m introduced; I stand up proud, in my flowing dress, I look around the room,  no need for a mic, I always say, and would say again and again—I’m a theater artist. Ha ha ha…I get some laughs and nods, and that’s all I need.  I am so thrilled to be here, I am thrilled to be among such intellectually stimulating folks, such a community of scholars and socially committed folks.  I believe I have now found “my people,” where I can combine art with social action.  I was home.

Oh, I didn’t say any of that on that first day, but it was, and stayed for a long long long time, still echoing as I write this…it was and it (is, lightly) the truth.  

I was 33 years old. 

I was (I still am) one of the lucky ones. 

August 14, 2020

Another day in front of me…still none of the students; another day of talking heads. Oh how I wish it were the band of that name, and not the real truth of listening to opening speeches about money and planning.  I didn’t really finish that tale above.  I penned a few shortcuts, so obvious, yes? I started out so committed and eager—leaning in—no, jumping into the fire, or slipping into the bedsheets with all this college-wide stuff, district-wide stuff, because I was just IN….I like being IN, so that’s where I went.

Okay,nearly 30 years later I am bored, irritated, frustrated and distrustful of the whole damn thing.

Well, that’s not exactly good storytelling, to summarize the first and last part, but believe me, there’s a whole world between then and now.

Sometimes the administration/administrative team is part of the story.  I had years of engagement with the institution as a whole, and I will work those elements into my reverie.  It’s not a black and white story forme:   administration  versus teachers. Yawn.

In fact, I was part of the Convocation Team for years. I put on plays that provided substance for further exploration. I rallied my A team and we’d perform parody or other such forms…The players at court, killing the king, we hoped. Me and Will, appointed by the queen herself, to write a short play for the courtiers…I did it as a way of being paid to be a writer, and reveal my revolutionary ideas through humor and satire. Me, Will, and Moliere too, all working in court.

Yesterday was grueling and I suspect today will be much of the same. At least now that we’re on our machines, I was able to get dinner completely cooked while the dean of business services spelled out all the beans to count. I had beans to cook and that was enough for me.

First day as a teacher comes Monday.   

Published by rachellepell

Not like Picasso. I am no genius. Not Matisse or Kadinksi. In fact, would rather stay invisible, but I have to reveal what I'm That means work. I can also play. but fuck one likes to play much anymore. not here on the Internet. That's okay with me. I'm just trying to live and learn. and Like it.

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