28 November 2012


It's been a rough school year.  I won't go into details why - this isn't really the place for it.  But know that when I say rough, it's really a euphemism for hellish.

And then. . .

Our classes went on a field trip today.  It's my favorite trip of the year, this particular field trip.  It's always such an eye opening experience for students and I love the change that it brings to class.  Only one of my classes that has about 50 students in it had many not turn in their forms for one reason or another.  I couldn't find subs for a half day, and I felt bad asking my already overworked and stressed co-workers to cover for me when my co-teacher and other chaperones were perfectly capable of handling the group.  I wasn't going to be able to go on my favorite field trip.

And when word of this got out, within about ten minutes I had several incredible boys hunting down teachers that would be willing to take a few students into their room.  One girl brought her mother in to see me and she said that she would be willing to substitute for me.  I had several more emails over the next two days from parents telling me how sad their students were that I couldn't go and offering to substitute so I could go.

I don't know that I've ever been so touched in my life as I have been by my students this week.  They are kind, well meaning individuals who have so much to offer.  I am sometimes frustrated by them and by the silly mistakes they make, but I love them.  And this week I found out that they love me too.  When I told them I could go on the trip after all they cheered, while I - who rarely does so - wanted to cry.  What a beautiful, beautiful gift to have right now.  The knowledge that not only do I protect and stand up for my students, but that they protect and stand up for me.

I'm telling you, folks.  Teaching is a crazy profession.  I went into it so prepared and so naive.  I was prepared to work and prepared to manage and prepared to plan.  I was not prepared for the way these students would get under my skin and become small extensions of my family.  I am blessed - so, so blessed - to have the students I do.

26 November 2012

NEWSFLASH: I am not a Mommy.

Sometimes I feel like the world enjoys pointing out the obvious to me.  Today, for example, I had a well-meaning individual observe an interaction I had with a student from a distance of a few hundred feet, and then proceed to suggest how I could improve interactions with students.  "You're not a mom," said the well-meaning advice giver.  "So you don't understand."

This argument drives me nuts.


Because I am not a mommy.  I'm not hired to be a mommy.

Mommies are there for loving and encouraging and seeing the sun shine out of every little part of their child - even the part that poops.  They are wonderful.  I have a particularly great one, actually.  And when I need an emotional boost or a hug or a reminder that I'm not a waste of space, I have a mommy there to give me all of that attention.  And then she takes me out for lunch and buys me chocolate with salt in it (thanks mom!)

But I'm not a mommy.  I'm a coach.

This is what people see when I tell them I'm a coach, not a mom. 
I'm there to point out flaws and set deadlines.  I'm there to assign tasks and make goals for improvement.  I'm there to be the kind of observer that is allowed to be critical because if the child doesn't pass, it doesn't impact my welfare at all.  I'm lucky, actually - because I can put that kind of "fear" into a child in a way parents can't.  Kids generally know that their parents won't let them fall in life.  They know that the car won't actually turn around on the way to Disneyland, even if they're arguing.  If they don't get a job, there's mom.  If they can't afford a house, there's dad.  If they run out of food or need a nice meal - home is always waiting.  But I don't have to support the child financially if they don't move out on time or get into college.  And if I disappoint a student, or if a student is bothered by a rule, they are only with me for a few hours a week and can switch classes if they really want to.  You're stuck with family.  Teachers are temporary.  Families are forever.  My job is to find ways to be fair to 100 students at a time, not just three or four children.  And that sometimes means that people don't like me.  And that sometimes means that I'm not nice.  (Not that I'm always that way, by the way. I don't believe that yelling and fury are the answer to classroom management.  But I also believe in the power of saying "no" now and then.)

This is what it really looks like (most of the time.)

But that's not mean.  Not really.  Mean is more potent than the temporary pain of a late assignment.  When it comes down to it, my students know that I care about them.  I know because they tell me that I do.  And they're not wrong.  There are many of them that I consider, if not friends, and not my children, then colleagues.  There are many that I would love to set up with my sister because I think they're that amazing.  There are some so brilliant that I wish I had their future and potential.  Many of my choices have been made.  Their potential is still so, so fluid.  I wish I could show them how much I see and how excited I am for them.  I wish I could tell their parents how much I see and how excited I am for them.  They could take over the world, my kids.  And I love them.

But I'm a coach.  A teacher.  A barren one, currently - and there are strengths in that.  I have no doubt that I will learn more than I can imagine if I ever have the chance to sit on the other side of the Parent/Teacher Conference table - but to this well-meaning individual who seemed to be suggesting to me that by telling a student no (which, incidentally, I wasn't doing) that I wasn't being "helpful" and that I don't care about students - my response is simple:

We need both.  We need the mom who threatens to turn the car around and then doesn't.  That kind of mercy is a powerful thing.  But we also need a coach who gives you drills if you come to practice late.  It makes you stronger.  And I don't need to be a mom to see the benefit of both.  So stop making fun of my sad uterus.

This is disgusting.  

15 November 2012

Be Reverent!

A few days ago I helped chaperone a group of students to a modern dance concert performed by a local company.  The majority of the audience was made up of elementary students.  Small children in any kind of dance concert can be kind of interesting, especially if the concert is too long or there are boys dancing, but this concert was actually decently well structured for a younger crowd and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.  There were a few dances that were particularly silly and got the giggles going.  It was adorable.

Only then I heard it.  "Shhhh!!"

Students were complaining about it on the way home as well.  "I wish those kids hadn't been laughing. That was so disrespectful!"

"Why?" I asked.

"Because it's rude to laugh."

". . . it was funny."

"It was?"

The same thing happened to me several years ago at a BYU production of (I think) Two Gentlemen of Verona.    Something happened (probably a crude joke) and I laughed.

It was like I'd laughed in the middle of a wedding.  "SHH!"  Heads flipped in my direction and I was suddenly some kind of outcast.

"It was funny." I wanted to say.  "Just because you didn't get the gag, doesn't mean I can't laugh about it!"

I feel like people in my neck of the woods need a lesson on how to behave in the theater.  Growing up it was around hicks coming to the city in their ripped jeans and Budweiser t-shirts.  Here it's that theater is this "religious" experience, and in our religious vocabulary, that means we have to sit down and shut up and be sacred.

I don't like that.  I don't think reverence is exclusively linked with silence.  I think it's reverent and honorable to laugh when things are funny.  To sing with vigor.  (So help me I wish we had something more like a Southern Baptist gospel choir . . . )

There's a time and a place for respectful silence.  But I wish these kids hadn't been shut down and yelled at for thinking things were funny when they were, and the world would be a better place if people didn't treat the Bard like the Bible, and I think it would be awesome of people didn't treat the Bible with kid gloves.  We can treat sacred things sacredly without anesthetizing emotional response.

(Or forcing it, I suppose.  I don't understand the "I'm going to go to this movie and I'M GOING TO CRY SO HARD!!!" enthusiasm either.)

12 November 2012

The Power of Gratitude

Below is the text of a talk I gave in church last year about the power of gratitude.  My mom thought I should send it to the Ensign.  I never did - it's so long and not personal experience centered enough for a non general authority to send in.  But I thought I'd post it again here, as a reminder to myself, if nothing else.  Happy holiday season, dear blog reader. 

Between the 7th of September 1940 and the 10th of May in 1941, the city of London was bombed every night by the German Air Force.  Before the air raids ended, over 40,000 people were killed and more than a million homes were damaged or destroyed in the city.  Other important cities all over the UK were effected by the air raids as well.  It was a terrible, frightening time that left the city of London in a state of crisis.  

In an attempt to keep families safe, children were sent away from home and into the country or overseas where they would be protected from the attacks.  Those left in the city built shelters under ground and covered their windows with thick, black fabric so that no light would come in or out of the houses.  If the German Pilots couldn’t see where to hit, the chances of the city being damaged went down significantly.  There were few options - it was darkness, or certain death. 

In our lives today we are not being threatened with physical bombs but spiritual ones.  It is easy to look around and see the evil in the world as overpowering.  But this lifestyle - hiding away - is an extreme.  We are not meant to hide the light inside of our houses, the Savior commands us to be a city on a hill and He has commanded us to be grateful.  If we watch only the news, it would be easy to respond: “grateful for what?  This world is dark, people do terrible things to one another and die early deaths - I am going to stay inside my home without any technology at all for the rest of my life and hope that it all goes away.”  This attitude, however, is contradictory to the spirit of gratitude.  We need to engage with the world around us if we are to be truly grateful.

As I have thought about and read about the topic of gratitude in the last several weeks, I have seen from every source the constant theme of gratitude being more than an attitude but a lifestyle.  Sincere gratitude is more than saying “thank you” - though that is certainly a good thing to do.  A person living a life of gratitude sees through the literal and spiritual “air raid” climate and is able to find an abundance of peace and joy in the blessings of the gospel.  It is very tempting to hide from the darkness in the world, but the result of hiding means turning away light as well.  Hiding from the world is a symptom of ingratitude.

In a talk given in the April 2007 General Conference, former Relief Society President Bonnie D. Parkin describes gratitude as a “spirit-filled principle.  It opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God.  Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love.  This grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction.  When we communicate gratitude, we can be filled with the Spirit and connected to those around us and the Lord.”  Gratitude, then, is more than just a brief expression of thanks.  It is an enabling force.  When we live a life of gratitude, it becomes easier for us to see how many things we have to be grateful for.  Gratitude becomes a shield against the vices of pride and selfishness, and the key that unlocks the doors to faith, charity, and other virtues.  In other words, gratitude allows you to engage the world and shields you from its vices at the same time.

This is, I believe, why the Lord asks us to be grateful.  In fact, living with thanksgiving is a commandment.  Why might that be?  Personally, I find it hard to believe that the Lord commands us to be grateful because he selfishly wants our acknowledgement that He has given us everything.  Although I am sure that the Lord appreciates hearing our gratitude, I think He appreciates even more the effect that our gratitude has on us, and on others.  

The Doctrine and Covenants talks about this principle most clearly.  In section 46, the saints are told that doing all things with “prayer and thanksgiving” prevents you from being seduced by evil spirits.  In section 59 we learn that if we fast and pray with thanksgiving, the fulness of the earth is ours.  Living a life of gratitude empowers us to experience the world in safety.  When we give thanks, our blessings multiply literally, but our eyes are also opened to the wealth of blessings we have already had access to. For instance, when Christ fed the people on the hill with the loaves and fishes, he gave thanks before he started distributing the food.  It was after he had given thanks that the loaves and fishes were multiplied.  Living a life of gratitude multiplies our physical blessings, and opens our eyes to the blessings we already have in our lives.  When we are grateful, we see the hand of the Lord in the world around us, and the perceived power of wickedness diminishes by comparison.

In addition, expressing gratitude is the quickest and most efficient way I can think of to spread the love of Christ to others.  When a person expresses sincere gratitude for another, both leave the experience happier and more likely to repeat the action to someone else, and so on down the line until our homes, schools, and communities feel the lasting effects of a more optimistic and positive outlook.    

I have often been frustrated when a person has come to me and told me that I need to be grateful for my trials.  Although they are not wrong, this phrase is often used in a context that means we should look past a trial and move on or we are not being grateful, but I don’t believe that this is true.  Sincere gratitude is not synonymous with ignorance and naivety.  We do not have to be afraid of acknowledging when things are hard or sad.  In fact, our trials must be hard, or they are not a true blessing.  We should not gloss over our trials, or use gratitude as a way to belittle our trials.  In the Book of John, the Savior’s good friend Martha expressed concern for the health of her brother Lazarus.  Christ was on his way out of town and told Martha that Lazarus would be fine, even though he knew that Lazarus was already dead.  Upon his return to the city, Mary approached the Savior in tears over the death of her brother - although Christ knew that Lazarus would be brought back to life soon, he did not tell Mary to stop crying or ignore the pain she was feeling.  Instead he cried with her.  If he had ignored her feelings of pain, I do not doubt that she would still have been grateful for the return of her brother, but I do think that acknowledging both emotions gave greater credibility and strength to Mary and Martha.  

Joseph Smith and his companions experienced something similar in Liberty Jail.  By this point in Joseph’s life, he was very well versed in the language of persecution.  He was 33 years old - 19 years had passed since he had the first vision.  He had been tarred and feathered, driven out of several cities, jailed before - he was no stranger to trials.  But the conditions at Liberty and the persecution of the Saints outside was so bad at this point that even Joseph begged the Lord to release him.  The Lord’s response to Joseph was that his trials would give him experience and be good for him.  The Lord knew, and Joseph learned again, that if trials are not hard for us, we do not grow, and the power of our gratitude is less potent.  

To ignore feelings of sorrow, pain, or frustration, then, creates a shallow expression of gratitude - gratitude becomes an anesthetic; a numbing force that hides you from the opportunity to feel both sorrow and joy.  Our gratitude becomes more meaningful when it is not an escape, but a choice.  The Buddhists would call this “Right Mindfulness”.  To be in a state of right mindfulness means that you have obtained the ability to gain greater control of your thoughts so that your perceptions are less impulsive or naive.  Without right mindfulness, a person is quick to judge and assume that their immediate judgment is correct.  This might encourage us to see darkness where there is really light to be found, or not to experience the darkness in favor of a dimmed light.

In the 13th Article of Faith we read that “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”  Gratitude works as a tool to help us find those things in a dark world without being overcome by evil in our search.  As members of the church, then, we should be working to bring anything virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy into our lives.  We cannot be afraid of the world.  We must trust that our Heavenly Father sent us to this world knowing that it would be good for us, and good enough for us.  Hiding from the world He has given us can be a form of ingratitude.  It is true that we are surrounded by literal and symbolic wars against living a righteous life, but when we live a life of gratitude we gain confidence in the power and protection of the Lord, and begin seeing how everything that comes in our life is an opportunity to be sincerely grateful.

09 November 2012

First Snowfall

My second year of college I had a job working on the south end of campus.  I lived north of campus, which meant about a two mile walk home every night.  I had a love-hate relationship with that walk.  Some days I just wanted to be home.  It took about a half an hour, and it seemed like such wasted time. If the weather was particularly hot or cold it was annoying.  But some nights, some nights it was a joy.

One such night happened shortly after Christmas when I had returned back to school to get in a few days of work before classes started to earn some extra cash.  I was going on a study abroad and needed money.  It meant a week alone in my apartment, which was both strangely lonely and also strangely awesome because I got to watch what I wanted and listen to music when I wanted and everything was always clean.  I didn't have to worry about classes, though, so I would work the closing shift at work and then walk home that night.

One such night it was snowing.  And it was a glorious, beautiful Utah snow.  Snow in the midwest doesn't get big and fluffy like this snow.  It's grainy and sandy and scratches your face.  This snow was exactly what snow was supposed to look like.  It was Narnia.  It was snow in chunks the size of a quarter.  It was falling fast.  Everything was still and quiet in the way it can only be when it snows that way.  Glorious.

This is what I thought it looked like.
So, being the "appropriate" person that I am, the only thing to do was to turn on my iPod and listen to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe soundtrack, and whipped out my umbrella.  (I remember having to shake the snow off of it a few times because it was so thick and heavy.  THAT's how awesome the snow was.)  I completely forgot how cold and wet my feet were (this was before I had discovered the amazingness of boots and skinny jeans), and didn't mind at all how long the walk was.  If I couldn't get to Narnia through wardrobes, then I may as well imagine myself there to bide some time on the walk home, right?!

As I approached my apartment I saw some people outside the building throwing snowballs at each other.  I smiled at them, feeling rather patronizing in my head.  Oh, you juvenile people.  Throwing snowballs.  I've just been enjoying the best walk home of my life.

I got inside, took off my shoes, and went to go change out of my sopping jeans when I looked in the mirror and saw not the appropriately picturesque romantic heroine I had been imagining myself to be, but this:

Which, apparently, is some kind of desirable make-up  trick.

Oh well.  

Happy first snow, everyone!  May we enjoy beautiful snows and romantic walks. . .until January.  When it should all go away and be nice again.

08 November 2012

What's in a Name?

I've got a quick, fun one for you today. 

When I was in high school, I wanted to become a Creative Writing teacher.  This was, in part, because I hero-worshiped my own teacher, who was genius.  I thought it would, without doubt, be the best class ever because people chose to be there, so they'd want to be there.  I pictured a room full of eager people drinking up every word I said as though I were the god of writing.  It would be wonderful. 

When I was at BYU and in education classes, they would have us write often about the classes we'd like to teach.  I always wrote down Creative Writing.  Every time.  And every time, just about everyone else did too.  Suddenly I realized: the Creative Writing teaching position would be given to maybe one teacher in any given school.  I'd probably have to work my way up the ladder.  

And now, by some awesome stroke of luck (or was it?) I ended up at a school my second year of teaching that decided to offer a Creative Writing class that I would teach.  Score! 

Now I'm in my third year of teaching Creative Writing classes.  I love it.  Mostly.  There's a bit of a battle to get kids to realize that they have to (gasp!) write in a writing class, but it's still a pretty great gig.  And there are some days when I really do get to bask in the awesomeness of having students take everything I say as gospel.  

Next Tuesday, they are going to learn the gospel of names. 

See, we've entered our fiction unit.  They've created characters.  They live in Utah.  Which means their character names are something like this: 

Not. Everyone. Does. This.  

I consider it part of my civic duty to assist in naming characters normally.  Or at the very least, readably.  Also, since I can't stop crazy parents in nursery wards of hospitals, I may as well save the billions of potential fictional people from an unpronounceable death.  And if you haven't watched that video yet, then do, because it's fantastic.

07 November 2012

Gloom, Doom and Destruction

My Facebook feed exploded this morning.

I'm sure yours did as well.  If you're like me, it was rather entertaining to watch.  Declarations of the end of the world, the end of justice, the beginning of an era led by the anti-Christ. . . it's all pretty bleak looking.

And, in all honesty, as a moderate who voted conservative, I had a healthy bit of my own disappointment this morning as well.  My guy lost.  The guy I didn't agree with so much won.  I have some concerns (debt, foreign policy, health care, education, taxes) that I'm more than a little wary about.  There are some moral differences between the President and myself that concern me as well.  But I think there is a difference between productive disagreement and non-productive bitching.

For example:

A number of people started posting scriptural references and quotes from prophets as a means of proving what seemed to me a rather foreboding, taunting, occasionally arrogant point.  It reminds me of Dave Barry's article "How to Win Arguments".  He talks about how the one argument that no one can argue with is if you say "that sounds like something Hitler would say!"  People are using scripture in the same way - as a means to both open and close the argument without possible opposing points of view - because you can't argue with God.

Let me be clear: I fully respect and support and encourage everyone in any time of discouragement or concern no matter how big or small to turn to their religious leaders for guidance and courage.  It is a very valid and good thing to do.  I do not, however, support turning scriptures into a weapon used to preach gloom, doom and destruction.  Particularly when, at least as far as the leaders of my church have been involved, the response to this election has been one that encourages good will and moving forward with faith.  And as far as I know, the only people in the world who have the right to preach destruction of the world are the living prophets and apostles.  If Noah wants to tell everyone they're going to drown in a flood if they don't get on the ship, more power to him.  I'll pack my bags.  But I am not qualified or authorized to do the same as Noah.

No.  It is our job as Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, whatever - to encourage and lift others.  Especially now.  It does us no good to turn our religious beliefs into a threat or a source of contention.

(And - just saying - but the number of people I've seen/heard of "defriending" each other because of political discussion is laughable.  This country was founded on political debate.  If you can't handle it, then don't dish it out.  And know that I laugh at you a little when you go off in a huff because someone disagrees with you.  If we don't disagree once in a while, how will we learn?  And if you're like me and actually enjoy the chance to hash out the issues, let's not let this be the end, shall we?)

06 November 2012

A Sense of Urgency

Education through osmosis. 
Today I want to write about urgency.  Not about the pending election results (though heaven knows I'll be glued to the screen all night).  I want to write what I wish, almost more than anything, that my students would understand.

I teach at a charter school.  Those unfamiliar with the education world imagine that charter school is synonymous with a private school and assume I'm either making a huge amount of money (which I'm not) or that we aren't subject to state and federal education mandates (which we are).  I actually had to explain the way charter schools work about eight times to the guy selling my my contract with Verizon so I could get my state employee discount (17%!) a few months ago.

For those of you unaware, a charter school is a publicly funded school beholden to all the same laws and standards given to a normal public school, but without the umbrella of the teacher's unions.  The biggest difference is typically based on the size and style of education.  You'll also see charter schools that focus on particular studies (arts and sciences, usually).  In a large city, getting into a charter school is typically a huge deal - an active decision by parents and students who want to give their child a better chance at escaping the violent, gang ridden over crowding in the schools they are zoned for.  It's a nice alternative to costly private schools.  As seen in documentaries like Waiting for Superman - these families have to submit themselves to the lottery that will determine acceptance.  Charter schools can't pick and choose who comes through application like private schools can.

In Utah, though, charters generally serve a slightly different purpose.  In my experience, families that gravitate towards charter schools here generally do so for one of the following reasons:

1. They believe the public schools are a hive of scum and villainy and would like their child to be in a more conservative environment.

2. Their child is particularly awkward socially and parents hope that a smaller school will create closer bonds of friendships a little more easily.

3. The child is particularly far behind academically, but the parent believes that the public school assessment is incorrect and that the student needs a different kind of learning environment.  (Sometimes these parents also believe that their child is a closet Einstein.)

4. Smaller class sizes.

5. They believe their child has particular gifts in an area that the school specializes (or claims to specialize) in.

Not on this list, as far as I can tell in my interaction with parents or students is the belief that charter schools here lead to a better chance of getting an education that will lead to an excellent college.  This isn't to say that these students don't anticipate being college bound, but the primary motivations that I can see generally lean towards being more social than academic, at least in Utah.  (This isn't to say that I don't work with families who are looking for a good education as a motivator - it's just that in Utah it's typically not because they don't believe the public schools will keep them from college.  From what I see, it's usually more the style of teaching or philosophy on education in the school than a desire for escaping inadequate education elsewhere.)

Those who are in the "academic-know" generally respond quite favorably when I tell them I teach at a charter.  They've seen Waiting for Superman or watched other documentaries and imagine that my students are eager educational beavers gobbling up everything I give them.

And you know what?  Some of them are.  Some of them have an incredible sense of urgency about their education.  They work hard for it.  If they're not getting it from me, they'll get it from somewhere.  They'll strive and seek and find and not yield.  And I am proud of them.  And I am honored to be a part of their lives.

But the culture around here is not terribly "panicked" about the future.

I realized this most profoundly at the commencement ceremonies for my school last May.  I watched the graduating class walk across the stage to receive their diplomas as their destinations after high school were read.  Of those graduating, I counted only three students attending schools that require any kind of application where grades and letters of recommendation will matter.  The remaining students are going to small state schools, community colleges, online schools, beauty schools. . . or no where.  Most were going no where.

I recognize that in this time of the world, a college education is not necessary for either success or for education.  There are thousands of educational paths to take that are nontraditional and glorious now.  The world is so much more accessible than it used to be.  I sincerely hope that these students are moving in that direction.

But I fear for them.  I fear for them because they live in an environment where so often, everything is placed in their laps.  Today we had an assembly about our sister school in Africa where students walk ten miles on empty stomachs to go to a school.  Some will spend the night on their desks instead of braving the walk home.  Twenty three of them managed to get accepted to colleges last year.  These students take their college entrance exams in English - their third language.  It's incredible.  How much more should we as leaders of the free world feel a sense of duty to educate and to seek after knowledge in a world where we have the luxury of not walking so far?  Of doing so on a full stomach?  (Or at least partially full.  Thanks a ton, Michelle.)

If I had my druthers, I'd shout from every housetop I could, and in the ear of every politician I could find and tell them that for the love of all that is holy: the solution to invigorating our students is not with more bubble sheets, more standardized tests, and more worksheets.  When was the last time you filled out a worksheet in school that changed your life and excited you?  If students are going to feel a sense of urgency, they need an environment in which they are free to make mistakes and get messy.  Where it's not about finding the one right answer, it's about finding infinite possibilities.  They need a government that isn't so darn concerned about competing with Chinese math students.  So what if China is doing better in math and science?  This is the country that invented the iPod.  And television.  And Google.  And Pixar.  We don't need a small room of people figuring out solutions to education problems: we need an entire nation of people liberated enough to think for themselves.

But you know what?  The world isn't perfect.  And that may never happen.  But that's no excuse.  The world is at our fingertips.  Literally.  Anyone with a smart phone can get a college level education if they are diligent enough.  It's time to stop waiting for politicians to make our education better.  It's time to just be educated.  No excuses.