Blog Reading

I’ve been remiss in reading the blogs that I follow. Things have been so crazy that I haven’t had a chance to visit my reader and see what my favorite bloggers wrote. Last week, I went through and set it so that  I receive updates whenever something new is posted.

I didn’t get any emails. Did you know that there is a box that, if you click it, blocks all emails, even emails that you’ve requested?

I do now.

I can’t wait to read what you’re writing, my wonderful bloggers. I’m sorry I was lost for a while.

For Jen

My best friend’s birthday is coming up, and I want to give her a gift.  The thing is, purchasing presents causes me some anxiety. Okay, tons of anxiety. I always want everything to be so perfect that I become inert, unable to decide anything. How do you purchase something for someone who means so much to you? How do you communicate to them the joy you have because they are in your life?

I am complete crap at buying presents. We didn’t have much money so gifts were homemade– and not like “Oh! WOW! Did you make that?” kind of homemade. More like the “Uh, thanks?” type. I never had the chance to practice buying gifts, and doing so is awkward for me. The ideas don’t come and then I feel like I am a horrible person because I have no ideas. Silly, right?

Anyway, I am not super crafty, so I can’t make her something. Well, I guess I could make her something, but I want her to remain my friend. I was considering making her one of those pasta necklaces; you know, the kind with the paint on so you can match them to what you are wearing? I could even put glitter on it! No? Okay.

Then I thought about buying her some little doodad that would make her smile. For about ten minutes until she remembered that it would need to be dusted. She is also a minimalist. Her apartment is warm and uncluttered. I love going there and hanging out in a place so opposite from mine. I’m blaming hubby and the daughter, because I *always* put my things back where they belong. Yeah. Sure

Then I realized that I am forgetting about something I can do for her. I will write her a birthday present. So, here goes:

________________

Jen,

I thought I knew what being a best friend was all about. After all, I’ve had many special people in my life that I counted as best friends, but they were momentary. I enjoyed my time with them and love them still today, but they were there for only a season. You have taught me so much about friendship and life.

For someone younger than I am, you have so much wisdom. Your steadiness balances my anxiety. When I am freaking out over something, you plainly state your opinion with no judgement. You give me time to process what you’ve said. You don’t preach. You don’t try to solve it. You just listen.

You accept me for who I am. You don’t get upset if we don’t talk to each other for a while. You understand that I need time alone to renew myself. You understand because you are the same. It is so nice to have the freedom to be who I am, to not stress about whether or not I’ve hurt your feelings. You *get* me. I never thought that would happen. Never.

You encourage me to try new things. Even when I am reluctant. And somehow, I end up doing them. I don’t like new things– they stress me out. Your patient persistence has opened my eyes to so much. I’m still not going back to Goodwill with you, though. Adventures with you aren’t as scary as adventures alone. Thank you for stretching my boundaries.

We share so much. You make me laugh. I make you laugh. We share a similar twisted sense of humor. It is totes adorbz, btw. We are awesome, be-yoo-ti-ful ladies. We both love songs with the f-word in them. We are both introverts who are learning about ourselves. I learn so much from you.

You’ve helped me in my journey to self-acceptance.

I have been made better because of my time with you. I am thankful every day that I was one of your mentor teachers and that you stuck with me, convincing me that I really *was* worthy of a reciprocal friendship. I love you, my bff.  You are frikkin’ amazing. ❤

Elizabeth

P.S. Natalie told me to tell you that you are pretty, too. And you are really nice. And you are really sweet.

Dunkin’ Donuts Drama

Earlier this week I was sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts, drinking some tea, and trying to get caught up on my homework. It is usually a fairly serene place to pretend like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. There are few things to distract me from surfing the internet… ummm… I mean answering discussion posts that aren’t really like discussions but more like people trying to prove that they are smarter than everyone else but that doesn’t make me bitter oh no it doesn’t.

This day was different. There was a young lady sitting in the corner working on her homework just like me. Okay, maybe not *just* like me. She didn’t have a computer and was actually using paper and highlighters. Crazy, right? She paused in her pursuit of learning and made a phone call. Here was her LOUD side of the conversation:

“So (insert name here) told me that you were looking for friends with benefits with her. Is that true?”

[pause]

“Well, I didn’t think so. I told her that there is no way that you would do that. I told her that we were engaged and you would never do that to me.”

[pause]

“Don’t get mad at me for asking! I just wanted to make sure. I figured that she was just confused with the old you. Why would I believe her?”

And more along those lines. You could tell that the person on the other end was getting more and more defensive. Finally, she finished the conversation. Then, when she was done, she made another phone call and was talking about how someone had a disease — not sure what it was exactly– and that she would be pissed off if she had it too. There are so many inferences I could have made from the conversation.

Thank goodness I had my back to her, because I would have embarrassed myself. I was uncomfortable but entirely too amused for polite company. I couldn’t help myself. I awkwardly chuckled. I couldn’t believe that she felt that Dunkin’ Donuts was the appropriate place for conversations like that.

It got me thinking, though, about the differences in generations. Very few people who share my age bracket would have done as she did. Most of us would take conversations like those and conduct them in privacy– or at least not loudly. My teenage students have no such compunction. They share entirely too much for my comfort. They share everything on their tumbly-thing, bookface, tweeters, and whatever else social media they use.

(Putting on my grumpy old lady pants) YOU SHOULD HAVE SOME SECRETS! Nobody should ever know that much about you. It’s like not buying the cow because you’re getting the milk for free. Or judging a book by its cover. Or some other cliche that fits better than the ones I came up with. It just isn’t right and it makes other people (me, at least) uncomfortable. (Taking off my grumpy old lady pants)

Or maybe I am wrong. Maybe having everything out there is better than keeping secrets. Maybe full disclosure will help solve the worlds ills.

What do you think?

Lost Words

My body aches when I don’t write.  My shoulders tense up. My hands grasp at the words they want to put down. My stomach feels the pressure of the ideas that need to get out but cannot. My heart hurts with words unspoken, a longing for expression, a desire for release. My brain doesn’t stop spinning the ideas, plates balanced on sticks that continuously reduce centimeter by centimeter, concepts on the verge of destruction through lack of attention, through lack of time.

I long for time alone. A place for my stories and I to get to know each other. A place where there is no seven-year old saying, “Mom. Mom. Mom.” A place where the only things that draw on my energy are my words, the words that so desperately want to get out and tell their stories. A place to dress up words, to dance with sentences, to pull back the curtain and begin blocking the show. A place where I can be alone. Alone.

What I need is so elusive. I can’t seem to find it. I don’t even know where to look.

Then I wonder if I am just making excuses, if I’m not really a writer. After all, if I wanted to do it, I would make it happen. Reading about what a “real” writer does makes me feel like a fraud. The solutions seem so simple.  Just set aside some time every day and write, no matter what. Set up a writing sanctuary where you can be alone with your thoughts. If you are a true writer, you won’t be able to not write. Instead of wasting time, you should be writing. You should be writing. You. Should. Be. Writing.

It really isn’t that simple. Things are so busy, I have to choose between writing and family. Writing and teaching. Writing and sleeping. I know where my priorities have to be right now. I am responsible for my sweet daughter. I am responsible for keeping up my end of my marriage. I am responsible for helping 170 teenagers to become critical thinking members of society. I am responsible for my own health and need for slumber. You’d think that would be enough for my brain to handle.

Yet the desire to write, the ravenous need to put words to paper, overrides all reason. I tremble with pent up inspiration, my words whirling, colliding together, trying to break through. I wonder if it will finally break me.

Job Search, Part Two

If you’re just joining me, read Job Search, Part 1 to get caught up. =)

The day I found out about not getting the first job, our car died (there’s a post coming on this one– someday). I was sitting there, lacking confidence, a little depressed, and alone. Hubs was sitting on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck, so I couldn’t talk to him about it. I reached out to my Faceb0ok friends. They were very sympathetic and supportive, as usual, and I felt better. My friend Danielle, who writes ProfMomEsq, commented:

Words of Encouragement

She validated my need to feel the feels that I was feeling. Someday, I hope I’ll be able to validate myself. Until then, I have the best friends EVAH! Instead of faking strength, I let myself be a badass and cried. Even though the job wasn’t right for me, the rejection hurt.

At least I had another interview on the upcoming Monday. It was with a school district that is about a 30 minute drive for me. I just want to point out that, for the last seven years, my commute has been around ten minutes each way. Adding 40 minutes to my drive time each day would mean taking 40 minutes away from all of the other things I have to do. I would have to wriggle my world even more than I do already. Still. It was an interview, and I needed a job.

I was not feeling as confident for this interview as I was for the first one. In fact, I was mopey as hell. My brain was on a slide, whimpering its way to the bottom. Stupid brain.

I didn’t know where the school was, so I went to the trusty Internet and printed out a map. I decided to leave an hour before the interview, just to be safe. I figured I would find the place and then stop and get some lunch. The interview was at noon, and I was too anxious to eat before I left. Thank goodness for that extra time.

My handy-dandy google map was not so handy-dandy. It took me ten miles out of my way and landed me in the middle of nowhere on a dead end street with nothing but fields on either side. I had no idea where I was and 30 minutes to get to my interview.

PANIC MODE!

The panic was made even worse by the fact that I no longer had a smart phone (there’s a post if you want to know why). I couldn’t just type the address into my navigator and have the merry voice direct me to my destination. I had to call my husband for help. For those of you who don’t know me personally, this is a hard thing for me to do. I’m independent and get frustrated when I can’t solve problems like this on my own. Thankfully, my husband never brings this up when I ask for his help; he just helps me.

I love that man.

So there I was, hungry, down, anxious, and needy. I told my husband that I was just going to call them and cancel, that I wouldn’t get the job, that I probably wouldn’t take it if they offered it to me, blah blah blah. Because he has been through this before, he calmed me down and talked me out of the corner that I was moping in.

Did I mention that I love that man??

Armed with the correct directions and a pep-talk, I sallied forth. Well, more like I limped forth. I arrived at my destination with ten minutes to spare.

I was interviewed by three people– the principal and the English department co-chairs. They each had a packet with questions and were each recording my answers. It was scripted, and they were very formal in their approach. They would look at me when they asked me questions and when I answered them. Their faces betrayed no emotions. It was strange. I know why they did it– protocols need to be followed in order to be effective– but I am used to getting SOME sort of reaction.

I seemed to be the only one reacting. I felt my hands getting flappier and flappier. At one point, I couldn’t tell if I was trying to take flight or if I was performing the biggest jazz hands ever. Thing is, I couldn’t tell if they liked my answers or not. I had no feedback. I was used to feedback. 30 freshmen in a classroom give you constant feedback whether you want it or not.

Caution: Jazz Hands

Their formality was a good thing in retrospect. Even though it made me uncomfortable, it made me focus on what I was saying instead of how they were reacting to what I said. They asked me questions that I’d never been asked before. The one that sticks out most in my head was about my late work policy.

We interrupt this post for ramblings about education. We’ll return to the regularly scheduled post after this message.

I believe that all work should be turned in on time. There are deadlines for a reason. However, there has to be flexibility, especially when working with children. Even though I teach teenagers, they are still learning and make mistakes. They don’t manage time wisely because they haven’t had practice. Hell, I know grown people who still can’t manage their time wisely. I give them leeway when they need it.

That’s not to say that I let them turn assignments in any time they want. Instead, I teach them to advocate for themselves. If they know they aren’t going to turn something in on time, it’s their responsibility to meet with me and work out a plan. I try to give them skills that will help them when they enter the work world.

It also depends on other factors. If a student abuses this system, late work won’t be accepted. If it is a long term assignment and they ask for a last minute extension, I generally say no. My main goal is to help them understand the process of learning, not to see how well they plan their time. They will get enough of that when they get into the big, scary world and have to buy their own toilet paper.

Now back to the regularly scheduled post.

The whole time I was giving my answer, I was cringing inwardly. What if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear? Then, I decided I didn’t care. I was going to do it anyway, and they might as know in advance. That way there weren’t any surprises if I did get the job.

At the end of the interview, they thanked me for my time and sent me on my way. I walked out to my car, turned it on, and, like the aforementioned badass that I am, I cried a bit. I was emotionally drained and had no idea how the interview went. None. I was pretty sure that I hadn’t tanked it, but, beyond that, I knew nothing. I went home and tried not to analyze it.

The next day, they called. I almost didn’t answer it. My anxiety spiked, a mixture of excitement and fear. At the interview, they said the position was probably ninth grade English and yearbook. I really didn’t want to teach freshmen again– that alone made me want to ignore my jaunty ringtone. I answered.

“We were hoping that you would take the job we’re offering. Someone with your experience and expertise would be a tremendous benefit to our school. We think you’d fit in perfectly here,” the principal said. When I accepted the job, he stated that they were excited to start working with me.

Wow. Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I’ve heard those words? Some people who are still working in my old district have taken this opportunity in the story to tell me that I can’t believe everything that I hear and that he was probably saying it so that I would take the job and that I’d learn how he REALLY was when I started working for him. At first I was upset. Then I was sad. How sad is it that people feel like they can’t trust anyone in power?

I am choosing to believe that his words were genuine, and that he is truly excited to work with me. I am not going to let past experiences taint my current opportunities.

Guess what I’m teaching?? If you guessed freshmen, you’d be wrong. I get to teach eleventh grade English and Academic Decathlon. Juniors are one of the nicest groups to teach. First, most of them have passes the state testing that allows them to graduate. They are still trying to keep their GPAs up and (generally) haven’t checked out. AcDec is a group of students who WANT to participate in academic contests. To top it off, the school where I am going to teach has a 90% graduation rate AND a 95% attendance rate. My last school didn’t have those numbers. Things are looking up. I might fall back in love with my calling. I might want to be a teacher again.

Thank you, Universe, for catching and guiding me.

Job Search, Part One

It has been seven years since I’ve looked for a job. Seven years for my interviewing skills to get rusty. Seven years of not having to “try out” to get a part. I hate trying to find a new job. I guess that’s why I stayed in a job for a year longer than I should have.

When I decided I was leaving my current district in March, I applied EVERYWHERE. I spent weeks figuratively biting my nails, waiting for a call for an interview. For those of you not familiar with education, we work on a contract system. We usually get contracts at the beginning of May and have four weeks or so to sign or resign. It wasn’t even rational for me to expect a call so early in the game.

Me, except without the newspaper, suit, or coffee mug

Me, except without the newspaper, suit, or coffee mug

When the first call came, I was ready for it. The call, not the interview. It was set up on a Monday at noon. Don’t they realize that I would have at least six hours of waiting. SIX HOURS! I experienced the same feelings that I’m sure everyone feels while waiting for an interview—anxiety, nausea, an overwhelming sense of doom, and impending failure. Wait? Do you mean not everyone feels the last two? Huh. Interesting.

The day of the interview came. I gussied myself up—even putting on a little bit of mascara and lip gloss—and went on my way. I arrived, a little shaky, but feeling surprisingly good myself. The campus was pleasant, and I felt very comfortable there. The “feeling” of a place matters more to me than it probably should, but it was okay. This school felt wonderful. I enjoyed sitting in the main office watching the students stroll past me.

My interviewer told me at the beginning that, because they had received so many applicants, the interview was for screening purposes. The interview went very well. Our educational philosophies meshed well. We talked about the direction the school was going with the new Common Core standards. We talked about curriculum. We talked or about an hour—much longer than a typical screening interview. I left feeling confident and with a promise for a call back early the next week.

I figured that I had it in the bag. I was wrong. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday rolled by, still no call. Finally on Thursday, I got an email letting me know that I did not get the job. I was a little distraught. If I had such a good interview, how come I didn’t get the job? Did I not do as well as I thought? Was I deluded? I was trying to be brave and strong, but all I wanted to do was cry. So I did. It helped me to feel better.

I replayed the interview in my head, trying to focus on what I did incorrectly. Then it dawned on me: I wasn’t the reason why I didn’t get the job. Well, I was, but it wasn’t me. She kept on asking me what sports I would be willing to coach a sport. My interest in sports is even lower than my interest in the growth of yuck in an untidy college student’s toilet.

They were willing to turn down a master English teacher with 12 years of experience because I wasn’t a coach. When I asked why I didn’t get the job, they confirmed my suspicions.

I am glad I didn’t get the job. It is apparent that they value athletics over academics. I don’t want to be part of a school with skewed priorities.

Thank you, Universe.

———————–

**Coming soon: Job Search, Part 2.**

Thanks, slightly everything, for sharing your photography on creative commons.

Interview

I am a fraud. I am a FRAUD. Iamafraudimafraud. The words race through my head as I sit, waiting, for my second job interview, my confidence disintegrated by the rejection from my first interview.

I am a fraud, that part of my brain chants over and over again—so many times that I believe it. I try to think of something else; I try to get that part of my brain to change its chant.

What if they figure out that I am a broken teacher? That I am not sure if I can fix myself? That there is a good chance that I’ve always been broken and I am only figuring it out now? The chant is gone, but the doubt still tumbles around in my head.

Fingers clench, clammy, twisting and turning. My breathing comes fast and shallow. It needs to slow. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7—stop! If I start counting, I won’t be able to stop. My fingers twitch, wanting to tap out the rhythm of the numbers. Stop!

I focus on the feeling of inhaling, lungs expanding. Exhaling, lungs compressing. Breathe in, 1, 2, 3, 4. Breathe out, 1, 2, 3, 4. I focus on the air instead of the numbers. My pulse slows down, calming some of my anxiety. Breathe 1, 2, 3, 4. My hands start to settle, moths instead of mosquitos.

“Come on in and let’s get started.”

With a final deep breath, I wipe my hands on my pants, put on my best “I’m awesome” smile—the one that hides my fear—and follow him into the conference room.