Embarking on my New Adventure

I have been a teacher for 13 years. It is a huge part of my identity. People ask me, “What do you do?” and I answer that I am a teacher. There is no explanation required. Even though they don’t really understand all that being a teacher entails, they still have an ideal of what I do. It is a known entity. For 13 years, I’ve labeled myself “teacher.” I know who I am because I am a teacher.

Now that I’ve decided to leave the profession, I am not sure who I am anymore.

I don’t have the crutch of pointing to my teacher label when I meet new people.

Hello

 

I have to rediscover who I am. It is exciting and yet completely terrifying.

I don’t know where I am heading. Will I be able to find a convenient label for myself? If so, what will it be? Director of Something Something? Project Management Specialist? Will my new label be one that people understand, one that I don’t have to explain? My husband’s title at work tells me nothing about what he does. In fact, for the first few years of our marriage, people would ask me what he does and I would just answer with a jumble of words that I’d heard him say (sorry, love). I have more of an idea now, but we’ve been together forever.

Do I even need a label anymore?

I am at a point in my life that makes me want to give a one-finger salute to all the people who want me to conform. For most of my life, I’ve done the conventional thing. I went to college, got a degree, got a job in a respectable career, got married, had a child, etc. I’m so glad that I did all of these things. I have been blessed with stability and support from so many people.

Now, I am not sure if I want as much stability. I don’t want a contract tying me to a position for nine months. I am not even sure I want a go-to-work-from-7-to-330 job. Those of you who know me personally understand how much of a stretch this is for me. I’ve thrived on consistency and stability.

I want to take risks. I want to do things that I was afraid of doing, like working freelance or going on occasional day trips by myself. Heck, I want to go on spontaneous weekend trips with my family. I want to have no itinerary and just drive until we get somewhere interesting and stop there. These are things that I could not have done two years ago.

My heart aches for adventure and thrills at the thought of embarking on this new journey. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

~E

Advertisements

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.

Taking the Leap

Whelp… I resigned from my job. I wrote this super-long post explaining the reasons why and, I have to admit, it was a wee bit ranty. No, that isn’t accurate. It was a whole lot ranty and a little bit bitchy. I decided not to post it because it wasn’t me. I am usually only a little bit ranty and pretty much never bitchy. I didn’t want to post something completely out of character. It did feel really good to get it out of  my system, but it definitely was not something that I should share.

So, in case you are interested, I resigned because my philosophy about education no longer meshed with the district’s philosophy. Trying to change my beliefs to mesh with theirs was making me physically ill and preventing me from being the teacher I know I can be.

This is something that’s been coming for at least three years. At the end of each of those years, I’ve thought about resigning. Every year, the part of my brain that hates change convinced me not to. Just give it one more year, it said. Things are going to be so much better next year, just you wait! 

This year was different. When I thought about leaving at the end of this year, that part of my brain was a cheering section chanting “Do it! Do it! Do it!” All of the parts of my brain reached a consensus: it was time to move on.

The scary(?) part is that I have no anxiety about my decision. None. That’s right; little Miss Freak-out is completely calm about it. Friends ask me what I’m planning to do, their faces crinkled with concern. When I tell them I have no idea where I am going to work next year, they look at me in disbelief. I should be having a panic attack– that is what I usually do– and they wonder what in the world is wrong with me. I can see the concern in their eyes. I’ve put in applications for teaching positions. I’ve had one screening interview and another one scheduled for next week. If teaching doesn’t work out, I’ll sub until I find a job. I have backup plans for my backup plans. I know I will go where I need to go.

For the first time I can remember, I am relying– without fear– on the Universe to take care of me.

Light Echoes From Red Supergiant Star V838 Monocerotis – October 2004
Source: Hubblesite.org

Reason 12 That I Teach

I received this email today from one of my former students. I think it speaks for itself.

———————————————————-

Mrs.F,

I miss having your glorious class everyday. I miss seeing your smiling face. I miss the vikings birthday song. I miss doing all the homework. I miss reading books. I miss your laugh, you always made my day. I miss everything that contained to your first hour class last year; but most of all I miss you. I miss you being my teacher and I want you to teach Juniors next year!

I was wondering how you have been, since the last time I saw you.? Do you think that next year you will switch over to Juniors possibly?

Sincerely Your Most Favorite Student and Your Biggest Fan,

X

———————————————————-
’nuff said.

Haters Gon’ Hate… (but it still hurts when they do)

The Nobel Prize winners have been announced (Yay, smart people who are changing our world!)

One recipient, John Gurdon, is receiving extra attention not because of what he did but because of what was done to him. Someone dredged up an old report card of his from high school in which the teacher lambastes him for being a rebel, an outside-the-box thinker. The words that the teacher uses are horribly unkind and, if they were written today, the teacher would lose his job before he could say lawsuit.

One of my favorite FB sites, “I f*cking love science” posted a graphic with the remarks paraphrased– check it out here. I have no issue with the comments being brought to light. I do have a problem with the comments that follow the post.

There were some positive posts:

And then there were some not-so-positive posts:

And my all-time favorite:

Don’t forget the one that caused a WTF, YOU IDIOT! moment:

Huh? This doesn’t even make sense at all. Respect has to be earned. I work hard to ensure that my students respect me by being truthful, straight-forward, and fair. I expect the same from my students and won’t tolerate any less. I’ll be damned if I will “respect” <— WTF does that mean anyway??— > my students just because they might be a Nobel prize winner or president or a tyrannical dictator someday. If they are not at the level they should be, I let them know as kindly as possible.  But they still need to know. How can you improve if you don’t know the truth about your abilities?? I’m so tired of  being expected to coddle little (insert student name here) when they really need the truth and encouragement to get themselves out of the hole they’ve been allowed to dig for themselves.

Okay. Rant over. Wait… maybe not.

I know that I shouldn’t let it bother me, but it does. Every day people get bombarded by how horrible teachers are. Every day. You rarely turn on the news and see something positive about them. Every day I see the media/parents/students/my favorite authors talk about how horrible educators are.

Nobody asks us. Nobody tells our story.

Do you know how many principals I’ve had in the last 6 years (just in one district, mind you)? Four. Four changes in command. Four people with very different management styles and different focuses for the school vision. Four adults who my students feel have abandoned them. I don’t think everyone realizes how much kids yearn for stability. Sometimes school is the only stability that they have.

Did you know that, every year, teachers are told that their methods (that were successful the year before, btw) are now COMPLETELY wrong and have to be changed immediately? Not just a few aspects of their methods– oh no– everything that they do. Never mind the fact that they are master teachers and can show it because their students are LEARNING beyond the test. The new strategy du jour is more effective than anything else (even if it is largely untested).

Did you know that most teachers provide the basics for their students in the classroom? If I want to do anything with my students beyond pen and paper learning, I have to purchase all of the supplies. According to the district, there is not a budget for those things. Asking my students to bring their own doesn’t usually work– very few do. One teacher I know actually got reprimanded for asking students to bring supplies (not with my current administration– they’re lovely).

Did you know that, because of legislative budget cuts, most teachers in my district are getting paid much less for doing more work? Yet we still do it. Teachers are on campus at 6:00 in the morning working hard to give their students a head start. They stay until late grading papers and making parent phone calls. (I don’t even want to get started on parent phone calls. It is apparently the teachers responsibility to let the parents know if their students aren’t passing classes. If they aren’t passing classes, it is because teachers haven’t made the lessons entertaining or engaging enough. Because, you know, jobs are ALWAYS going to be entertaining and engaging… bah.)

____________________

I guess I’ll close with this. Teachers are PEOPLE. Yes, they are imperfect, but who isn’t?  So many forget this, I think, and are vitriolic in their criticism. If someone did tell the teachers’ story, would anyone listen? Or is it so much easier to have a scapegoat for society’s ills?

Sorry I’ve been gone but my days are just too long

Dearest blog readers,

I know I’ve not been posting lately, but I have a really good reason this time. School has started. Usually August is a time when I am completely engrossed in getting my classroom ready, lesson planning, and jumping through all of the other hoops that teachers need to do at the beginning of the school year.

I am tired.

I miss writing on my blog, but most of my creative energy is being consumed by the need to get the school year going. Hopefully I’ll get it under control soon.

Anyhoo… Please don’t forget about me while I get everything situated. I’ll be back as soon as I can with entertaining posts about life and running a classroom full of ninth graders!

Oh, I’ll leave you with some words to ponder:

Wise words from Ser George Carlin

Year 13 Begins

The next few weeks are going to be very hectic for me. I return to work on August 1 and students arrive on August 8. I will be working on getting my classroom set up and planning my first quarter. One of the challenges that I am (very) excited to face is the implementation of 1:1 technology. For those of you who aren’t knowledgeable in educationese, it means that all of my students will have netbooks and the use of textbooks will be limited. The transition will be fairly easy for me because I don’t generally use the textbook anyway and I had a classroom set of netbooks in my classroom next year. I still have to plan and plan and plan (it makes my brain happy). I’ve decided to take my teaching a step further and make my class inquiry based. It is a big step for me because I give up some of the control that I am used to. Thing is, the kids are fully engaged when you give them a choice.

Another challenge that I face is the fact that I will have to work with new people this school year. Because of teacher movement, half of freshman level teachers are brand new to the school. Some are even brand new to teaching. I love that we have fresh ideas, but I am also sad because our group last year worked well together. They knew me and my quirks. They didn’t get upset when I would hide in my room because I needed alone time. Plus, I get terribly shy and anxious when working with new people. I’m either silent or have diarrhea of the mouth and say the stupidest things! Time to retrain everyone (myself included).

One of the aspects of teaching that I love is mentoring new teachers. I like offering them support and helping them make it through the first few years. Teaching is hard and if you don’t have support, you’ll never make it. True words, those. I’ve already met one of our brand new baby teachers (term of endearment, btw). My first impression of him was that he was T.A.L.L. I have no idea how tall he is, but I had to twist my neck to talk to him. He’s an Algebra teacher, but I won’t hold it against him. (J/K. I love my mathmagician friends. They astound me.) It was exciting to hear his ideas for next year. He is so fresh and so hopeful. I want to help him keep some of that as the year progresses.

I went into work yesterday to get the keys to my classroom. Usually I don’t go into work this far in advance. However, I have a new classroom.

I know! First a new principal then new teachers and now a new classroom. Doesn’t anyone understand my brain?!?!

I have 12 years of teacher stuff. At the end of May, I had to sort through scads and scads of resources to determine whether or not I needed them anymore. I ended up getting rid of/recycling 8 big black garbage bags of things I hadn’t used in a long time. I didn’t realize how cathartic it would be to get rid of so much. Even though I pared down my resources, I still had to pack them up to be moved to my new room.

Here it is, in its natural state:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before I can even think about planning or the other hundreds of things teachers do at the beginning of the new year, I have to unpack. Things just don’t work unless I’ve got my little nest set up. The room is so much bigger than my previous one AND it has more storage. You know what the best feeling is, though?

I don’t have enough stuff to fill up the storage space! I don’t feel completely overwhelmed with things. Maybe this will help me in the next school year. I’ll have space to breathe.

This year is looking up already!

Oh, don’t worry, I’ll post my classroom when it is finished. I know ya’ll were skeered that I’d forget to show you the beauty of it. =)