Kansas City Snapshots

I wish I could blog in detail about my adventures scoring standardized tests in Kansas City, but I can’t. Instead, I thought I’d share a few snapshots and tidbits from the week.

All in all, it was a really good experience. With thousands of other teachers taking part, I got to meet a lot of colleagues, both those who teach at universities like I do, and those who teach in high schools. I learned a lot about how the high school English programs work and got some interesting perspective from those teachers. Mostly, I really got a broad picture of where high school students are coming from in terms of their writing as they get ready to start college.

Kansas City, here I come. #latergram

On the way to KC, I was an online check-in pro. I logged in to Southwest’s site precisely 24 hours before my flight and got myself into boarding group A, allowing me to snag a sweet, sweet window seat in a row where no one wound up taking the middle seat: my ideal scenario. On the way home, I completely forgot to check in. I guess you can’t win ’em all, right?

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe

We spent each workday (8-5 from Thursday-Wednesday) at the KC Convention Center, which has this lovely little greenspace area right outside the room where our meals were served. After each meal, I went outside to enjoy a little natural light and fresh air before going back in to resume essay scoring. As you can see here, I was not the only one who felt the need to get outdoors whenever I could.

The convention center is right across the street from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which I enjoyed photographing, perhaps excessively. The design reminded me a bit of a Frank Gehry (when I lived briefly in Minneapolis I was right next door to the Weisman Art Museum on campus), but I found out it was in fact designed by Moshe Safdie, so now I have another architect to learn about. Bonus!

Dramatic sky on my lunch break. I love sitting outside in the middle of an otherwise dull day of work.

On a few different occasions, I observed a crew rappelling down the building and cleaning it, which, well, frankly looks like the exact kind of job I could never do. Nice work, rappelling crew! I’ll just be taking deep, calming breaths over here from a safe distance.

Lunch break, watching this crew rappel down the building while cleaning it.

Here are a couple more snaps from right outside the convention center. Sitting out on the lawn and taking in the view was definitely the highlight of my usual work day while I was there.

Another lunch break outside.

See? I really took too many photos of the Kauffman center. But isn’t it so pretty?

My view during dinner. Not too shabby.

One of the perks of this test scoring job is that they provide all three meals a day for all the teachers — there’s a huge room in the conference center that gets turned into a cafeteria serving all ~3,000 of us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s fairly impressive. Of course, cafeteria-type food can get old pretty quickly. The salad bar starts to look a little tired; the vat of reconstituted “scrambled” eggs becomes a repulsive necessity for anyone who needs protein at breakfast. Just cast your memory back to your college dorm’s cafeteria and you’ll know what I mean.

Luckily, I have a very sweet friend in town who picked me up one evening and took me out to a great Kansas City BBQ place for the local specialty, burnt ends. I have been online friends with Elsha for a while now, but this was our first time meeting in person — it was so much fun, and just the break I needed from the monotony of work and the cafeteria. If you ever get the chance to meet an online friend when you’re in the same town, I definitely recommend it! But don’t be like us — remember to take a photo of more than just your dinner!

Kansas City Burnt Ends (delicious) with @vandeblogger, who is, to no surprise, lovely and fun in person just as she is online!

These are burnt ends, if anyone is curious. I had never heard of them before visiting Kansas City. They were pretty great. (Elsha and I? Not pictured. Whoops.)

This is inside my hotel. The windows at the top look into the gym.

The hotel I stayed in was the Westin, which was, over all, very nice. I was most appreciative of the soft sheets, multiple down duvets, and approximately 87 pillows. After each day of essay reading/scoring, I found myself tired enough to climb into bed right away, create a cozy nest, catch up on some social media and reading, and fall asleep by 9:30. So the bed was basically the only aspect of the hotel that mattered. It did have this “fancy” indoor waterfall, however, which I think must have been about 2 stories high. If you see the windows near the top of that photo, they look in on the gym, which — ha! — I never once visited.

I feel I have to add, though, that no matter how fancy and pretty this indoor waterfall looks, that it not natural. It is gross, recirculated, stinky water. It smells. Indoor waterfalls: not recommended. So by my 8th morning waking up in the Westin and walking out past that huge waterfall, when I had to hold my breath until I got past the smell, I knew it was a good thing I was heading home. Besides, I missed my husband, my dog, and my cat.

Now that I’m back and recovered from the trip, it’s time to start my second summer job — my five-week summer literature class starts tomorrow. Current status: bracing myself.

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