Sunday, November 23, 2008


 I have been working in my current school district for about six years.  And in that time, each and every November, they have hosted a two day series of workshops known as The Fall Forum.  Most schools are doing less in the way of workshops now to increase the amount of instructional time.  My district is no exception so they pack a great deal into these two days.  Mandatory trainings are covered (somewhat...), collaborative discussion groups are organized, fancy-pants keynote speakers are lured to the high school then trapped in the auditorium until they agree to speak eloquently and staff are bribed with snacks in order that they might demonstrate good attendance.

Mostly we are all torn between ecstasy over spending time with actual grown-ups and an overwhelming urge to flee to our cars so we can start our Thanksgiving vacations.  

This year, I've signed up for mostly technology-based workshops to fill my "choice" slots in the schedule.  My reasoning is pretty simple:  I want to bring my laptop with me.  I have successfully managed to "forget" my school laptop (which I like to refer to as my "crap-top") and bought myself a rather snazzy new sleeve to transport my own Macbook Pro.  It was on sale.  I took this as a sign that the universe wanted me to bring my computer to the Fall Forum.

Over the years, I've developed a pretty good plan for organizing supplies for these two days.  The fact of the matter is that, in spite of the planning committee's best intentions, this can be a rather boring event.  Distractions are needed.  I've already mentioned the laptop transport planning.  Here are a few of the other things I've learned to do in order that I might survive The Fall Forum with my sanity intact:

Nutritional Plan:  We are strongly "encouraged" to remain on site for the duration of the event.  Lunches are available but, unlike the snack foods, must be purchased.  I do not wish to do this.  Hence, I have laid in a supply of cheese, cookies and apples which I hope will last longer than the first hour.  I tend to eat when bored.  This has proven to be a problem in past years, but I'm limited by what I can carry.  This is sort of like hiking in that you have to lug around all your stuff.  Unless, of course, you are able to sneak out to the car for a nosh...

Subtle Entertainment Items:  It is very, very important that one be paying attention during the Fall Forum.  It is not only good for absorbing the material, but really the polite thing to do.  However, a girl can only take so much scintillating discussion in a day and a diversion can only help her to be more focused during those times when she is working in a small group and more conspicuous if not listening.  I've downloaded a nice, new book onto my embarrassingly outdated ipod and should be able to hide the headphones if I wear my hair just right.  I use a clip-on style of listening hardware as the traditional earbuds hurt my ears.  They are bigger, but I still think I can keep them out of sight if I plan ahead.

Busy Hands Are Happy Hands And Can Keep Workshop Participants From Falling Asleep:  The first of the Fall Forum Mittens are well on their way to completion.  I like to have a project on the needles and some sort of motor memory already ingrained in my fingers before heading out to The Fall Forum.  Casting on in a darkened auditorium during a Power Point Presentation on Reading In The New Millennium (or some such thing) is never all that successful.  A couple of years ago, I knit an entire three-mile-long scarf (give or take) during the two days of workshops.  It is a highly productive time if you use those hours wisely.

TFFM in the early stages and resting comfortably on my new laptop sleeve.  

And, no.  That is not a magic loop mitten you see there.  My minute and a half of magic loop experience taught me two things:  First, that magic loop is really a rather interesting way of knitting and that there are endless applications.  Secondly, that magic loop is not the best way of knitting mittens if you have never done it before and will be sitting in a darkened auditorium trying to hide the fact that you are actually listening to an audio book rather than watching the Power Point Presentation.  I dug around for a set of double points close to the size I needed and adjusted the stitch count a bit.  It is really for the best.  

It's kind of hard to rip out knitting in those tiny auditorium chairs.  I always seem to elbow the person next to me in the face or something along those lines...

Otherwise, it's all just basic, run of the mill, organizational stuff.  I've washed the "comfortable" jeans.  I've charged up and synced the embarrassingly outdated ipod.  The school bag has been emptied of regular school items and is ready to receive the Fall Forum Supplies.  I just need to set the coffee maker timer for an hour later than is usual and remember to do the same with the alarm clock since I don't need to be there until 8:00 or so.  I've done all I can do.  There is nothing left for it but to hope that I've got everything I need to fake alertness for the next two days.  

If it gets dicey, I suppose I can always ponder this:


So many questions.  How does he fit in there?  How do all those parts and pieces equal a complete Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty?  Can he breathe?  Where the heck is his tail???

Those thoughts should kill at least an hour.  Or I can just eat all the cookies...



trek said...

Good luck staying awake.

Wanna cast on some stuff for me?

Donna Lee said...

I have a few trainings coming up but not until Spring. I always take some knitting but can't get away with the headphones. My hair is too short (being able to wear stealth headphones is the best reason I can think of for growing my hair out)and I don't like ear buds. We are usually provided with bagels and "coffee" or water. Just what I need to stay awake- carbs.

Enjoy the two kid free days!

Karen said...

I hope they don't turn the heat up. Nothing will keep you awake then. I hope the training passes quickly.

sophanne said...

The compassion I feel for you is immeasurable. Our district has taken to giving us these staff development days as in lieu of time for evening conferences and the like. I feel your pain but am so grateful it's not me.

Lazuli said...

Have fun with the conference knitting!! May you get many stitches knit!

Anonymous said...

Listening to an audio book -- brilliant! I spent two days last week at a tax conference, which was excellent knitting time. But I was forced to listen to the speakers because it never occurred to me to fire up the iPod in my bag.

Next year...

Anonymous said...

Audio books, knitting, laptop, and snacks - sounds like you're ready!

I'm still keeping fingers and toes crossed that you'll find the energy to drive to CWS tomorrow night :-)

mehitabel said...

Well, I guess you're as prepared as you can be for most eventualities. Hopefully, there will be actual "content" in the workshops and you will actually "learn something new" other than how to knit a mitten in the dark while listening to an audiobook and pretending to pay attention.
I think the cats have the right idea. I want to come back as one of my cats!