Friday, September 25, 2009

Working & Moving

I have been working entirely too hard. So now I find myself attached to the profession in a way I haven't felt in a long time - like Red Lake long. There wasn't a holistic love, I realize in hindsight, for my teaching job in Baltimore. There were major and minor parts drenched in passion but pockets of resentment, disappointment, and annoyance. I was teaching a bullshit curriculum in a school with colleagues who I didn't connect with on a deeper level (besides one who is a close friend, and a few other acquaintances). The administration was fabulous, but there was always this raging "I teach tough kids" attitude from the majority of the staff that was a little nauseating. Again, not from my small cluster of friends, but from the "star teachers." I just didn't care to associate. We taught kids. Do your job; don't make a mockery of it, give 'em their rights. What I did love that got me through the year with dignity was creating our high school newspaper. Hands down...that made sticking out another year in Baltimore worth it. Truly.

Things are different now. I'm teaching in a totally different situation. And it is amazing. Nobody is for show. I can imagine developing meaningful relationships with all my coworkers. I actually enjoy the curriculum in general and am given the freedom to develop and execute it. Everything I believe in, foundationally as an educator, is accepted and promoted here.

The school is unstable. It's unclear if we will survive the year financially. If we do, I'm not totally sure if I can survive the job at the end of the year financially, if the school can afford me. Teacher pay is shitty enough, but this school pays a lot less than others. Right now this concerns me only a little. There is so much reward and enjoyment in the kids and the staff that it's really refreshing to love my job again, in every way that I imagined and did before.

And maybe this is the difference? I love my time with my co teacher and students so much that the bullshit of strange decisions and job instability are actually in the background for the first time.

I just need to pull back a little. It's Friday night; I'm sick with exhaustion. Literally thought I was coming down with a flu but just needed to sleep the ick off.

I have a few more big things on my plate like finding a place to live that makes sense for my dogs and my urban wants, networking and meeting new people, and getting involved in some social issues. Work is sorting itself out, finding its niche, and soon I'll etch out some balance again.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I have found myself getting distracted, pulled away from my effectiveness as a teacher.  

Somewhere between teaching in Baltimore and getting ready to leave to find a teaching job in MN, I have come to care a great deal about what my coworkers and bosses think of me.  For three years I taught untainted.  I just operated on the principle that my energy was best spent trying to make the complicated landscape of an often troubled classroom fit together.  I just tried to paint the picture of a healthy learning environment, shifting landmarks and roads and cliffs, until the entire view made sense and was amazing.  

When work is over and my mind wanders back to it I realize that I'm no longer envisioning lessons, execution, squeezing joy into objectives.  Nope.  I think about stupid stuff that actually riles me up.  Like how I haven't been asked to help out on Saturday tutoring sessions when there's a clear need for extra people.  Who cares?  Why do I care?  It's stupid.  Why the fuck should I care if I get asked to help to do something when I really need that Saturday to myself.  There are other things my mind wanders to, like what does a certain administrator really think of me?

In fact, the only reason that last question has plagued me is because I'm now middle-management at my school.  Albeit, I'm barely middle-management, but I am the team leader for my department.  I run our department meetings, manage our grade submissions, serve as the first person they go to with general issues, and am responsible for recruiting a new set of students inside and outside our building for five different career pathways.  I get to sit in meetings with department heads, and I hear the way they talk about their teachers.  Since I'm not a seasoned professional yet, I can't help but to wonder what has been said about me.  

Mostly, I want to know because if I'm a shitty teacher, I need to know this.  I need to know what to do to be better, meet my kids' needs.  It's not even about shitty.  It's about excellent, one of the best.  That's what I want.  I don't want to be a rock, solid, dependable teacher.  I want to be the kind of teacher that inspires independence and freedom in her students.  I know that's not me yet, and I just want to know how to get there.  

I leech.  Off.  Every.  Single.  Word.  What are these other amazing teachers doing? I listen to this hoping that I will see myself in their descriptions, but I usually don't.  I just see me, my personality, my own drive, my own perplexity over how to make what I teach, an ambiguous curriculum, relevant and interesting to a group of students filled with just enough who don't want to go into journalism or media or graphic design anything to throw me off my game on some days.

This all brings me back to the main point, that these tendencies to indirectly learn from people, are for naught.   I think I need to get back inside my own head, my own classroom. and manage my department in the strictest of senses.  When my mind wanders on to these words, distractions, dramatic musings, I need to stop myself and contemplate some aspect of my teaching instead.  

This energy needs to be harnessed, focused, because this world of drama is exhausting and it leads nowhere.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

What happens next

For years, I have gone through bouts of panic, fierce and sickening panic about death.  Last night was no different.  Friday and Saturday nights were silly, full of friends, and joyful banter.  In fact, the entire week was extremely enjoyable.  I even fit in some jogging that I've been missing as of lately.  So there was no melancholy state of mind as I went to bed - no possible warning sign, but then as I laid there a string of thoughts exploded creating a very physical and panicky reaction.

And this happens.

I sat there remembering and agonizing over the fact that I will die one day, maybe soon, maybe not.  Probably sooner than I want if I don't shape my physical well-being into something better than it has become in the past three years, mostly the last.  For a moment I felt a sense of relief, like I could add days to my life if I did X, Y, and Z.  The next cogitation that when I do die, it's just all over.  In the ground, the world keeps going, a diminutive part of it mourning for an even tinier amount of time.  I just don't exist.  

Thoughts about what I want my life to be are stronger every day, the fear of what I don't want it to be sometimes more robust, but I'm haunted by the vision that one moment I will be going along in my life and the next moment will suddenly be blank, nonexistent.  

For me, there really just isn't any notion of after life.  There is nothing.  I don't understand how this doesn't haunt more people?  Instead of it motivating me to live life to its fullest, like it used to, it paralyzes me and reinforces nonaction.

It doesn't help that I'm sitting here in Baltimore, counting down the days until I move back to Minnesota.  I don't necessarily know that Minnesota will be this great and right thing, because there is no job there (yet), my own place (yet), but there is a community of people that I assume will make existence richer.  What I don't get is how did I get so far from the words I once wrote a professor in undergrad that proudly stated: the best thing man can do is learn how to be alone and not lonely?  There is no guarantee that the community I think is in Minnesota will come into fruition with my life.  
If it does, than will I only be biding my time, letting my deeper, darker fears go unnoticed because I'm allowing myself to fill my mind with different thoughts instead of working this all out?  Is that just what life is, distraction?  Being more alone here this year has opened the door to lots of thoughts that I didn't have time to think about.  In one sense, I'm happy for that discomfort.  The parts of life that I do find joyful feel like a cover-up, because I'm acutely aware of the end.

I want to find some kind of genuine relief for this fear, to be content with the obvious.  But I don't want to find God.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The first hard part

I have tremendous respect for my principal.  He's amazing.  I wish that my school existed in MN, because I'd retire there.  My principal actually pushes my newspaper students to attack him in the newspaper.  He wants them to use their democratic right of press and is okay with being put on the spot for his decisions.  What administrator has more faith in the learning process than this?  He knows that if they go too far, that's a learning opportunity and not time for prior-review or censorship.  He knows that by developing a real voice, they'll have a real chance.  

More than I want to admit, I feel challenged and uncomfortable at my school.  The obstacles are huge, but the professionalism and passion of the task-at-hand are bigger.  I like that I'm always growing in my profession, in incredible bounds, and that the risks I take are valued by my administration and not scorned.  It's what made telling my principal today that I'm not returning next year so hard.  He was shocked, I from his reaction: completely physical - red face, flurried breathing.  Yet supportive and understanding.  I've been dreading this day.  I know how hard it is to find good teachers so I wanted him to have time.

Some days I walk out of the building with this guilty feeling of relief, like I won't have to deal with this next year - forgetting that in the end, I'm always thankful for having to deal with this.  Today I walked out feeling a small sense of grief as I start to prepare myself to say goodbye to the school that served my entire purpose these past three years.

By the time I got to my car, I mostly realized that I took the first step in gathering the myrrh.  Soon it will be lit. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Beginnings, Commonly Done

It's time to leave Baltimore.  I've been teaching here for three years now, and while I almost always love it, the love affair of traveling across the country, alone, making it work, and digging my heals into a new territory has faded.  I'm left restless in my life outside of work.  A painful contradiction, because my life has been all about teaching, happily.  Well, my personal life has flourished in the last three years and emptied in the past year.  I think this is a good thing, even though it often feels like a bad thing; teaching is no longer enough.  

It's time to head back to Minnesota where more awaits.  

I've enjoyed blogging in the past, dearly, but have found myself saying nothing spectacular and thought it best to stop.  Well, now I just want to reflect on where I've been and where I want to go.  So much is about to change for me that it might be nice to put it all out there for myself to analyze later, for friends and any potential readers to comment on, and just to get back to public expression.  I want to feel a little bit like the writer I once was.  

Starting a new blog, something I've done once or twice.  It's how it works, you know, these blogs.