Reaching

I am not to be
the poet that sits
and drinks scotch
reaching for the glass
bottom of life.

I cannot find truth
in ice cubes, love
in a wilted paper
napkin, beauty in
the ring left on the table.

My toast is not
for others to hear.

I perch on the stool,
vapors hovering,
the mists of poems
unwritten. I want to
catch them, savor them
as they slide, burning
cold, down my throat,
settling in my soul.

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Northern Exposure

There is something strange about being out in the forest and using a chromebook to type out a blog about being out in the forest. I’ve realized that writing things down in a notebook makes for a lovely journal, but not for many blog posts. It seems like they never make it from paper to cyberspace. I figured if I lugged the thing around, it would ensure that I at least get some writing done.

Today we took a spontaneous road trip up north to where there are some leaves turning green and where it is cooler and beautiful. The strange thing is that I actually suggested the trip. Me. The person who generally doesn’t wake up in the morning and say, “Hey! Let’s ruin my whole routine and take a trip somewhere.” Well, this morning, I felt the need, desperately.

You see, I’ve been stressed. Majorly. My heart is restless. I can’t focus on what I should be doing. Frankly, I resent the fact that I should be doing it when there are so many other things that I want to do. I have two classes this semester, and four left until I am done with my Masters. I wish I could take a year off, but I know that, if I do, I won’t finish. I have to finish.

I woke up this morning with an overwhelming urge to feel pine needles under my feet and shade on my face. I had to hear the rustle of the wind in the pines and watch the oak trees drop their leaves. I had to move and cleanse the malaise that I was feeling.

I also had a crap-ton of homework. I’m talking a five-page paper on a novel that I haven’t finished yet that is due on Thursday. An at least 20-page paper on 12 secondary resources that I’m using for my graduate research paper. I have three more weeks to do it, but I haven’t even started. Not to mention the things that I should be starting that are due Thursday after next. Yeah. Crap-ton.

Responsibility almost won out. I woke up, booted up my computer and tried to wade through some of the work that I’m supposed to complete. I just stared at the screen, pain in my chest. I could feel the lethargy of depression sliding over me, suffocating, stifling my spirit. I realized that I would not get anything done because, quite simply, I didn’t want to do anything.

I had to get away. If I didn’t, I’d end up going back to bed, staring at the ceiling, feeling guilty and sinking even farther into a depressive funk. I’d rather feel guilty while I was playing outside. Plus, a getaway might help alleviate some of my sad.

When I asked hubs if he wanted to road trip, he wondered who had kidnapped his wife and replaced her with this strange creature who wants to go somewhere…. spontaneously. Once he realized that I was serious, he agreed quickly, taking advantage of this strange mood I was in. Mom, dad, daughter, and dog piled into the truck and off we went.

My plan was to do homework on the way there. Two hours in a car would give me ample time to read, take notes, and do all the hoop jumping that I have to do in order to get my degree. I am a little tired of working so hard and feeling so dissatisfied. I am not as content to perform the circus act the older I get. I didn’t really want to get my Master’s. I was content with my Bachelor’s until I realized that I would be stuck in the same position for the rest of my life. I knew I couldn’t be a classroom teacher forever, but that is a story for a different post. Maybe I’ll write it later.

As we left the city, my shoulders dropped their tension.My breath slowed. My brain shut itself down. I wasn’t thinking about what I *should* be doing. I was doing what I wanted to do, and all was right inside of me. It had been so long that I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sensation of freedom (WC). The farther north we drove, the cooler the air became. The curvier the roads were, the more I slipped into a half-slumber– you know, the kind where you are aware of what is going around you, but you don’t really feel like it is anything you should worry or think about?

We had some music playing, and Natalie was reading a nonfiction book about volcanoes to us. Every once in a while Jason or I would correct a word– she never did learn to say obsidian correctly. There was just the lightness of the travel.

Once again, this is so not me. I get anxious– when will I be able to stop and go to the bathroom? What If I get hungry? What if we run out of gas? What if we get lost? None of these thoughts occurred to me. I melted into the road. I became a leaf on the wind, a bubble in the current, and all those other cliches.

It was amazing.

Once we got to Payson, my shoulders were down in their natural position and not around my ears where they’ve been residing recently. Opening the windows and breathing in the piney-and-cold air helped my insides mellow as well. We pulled onto a forest road– one where we had to open the barbed wire gate to get into. The farther away from the road I got, the more relaxed I became.

The road ended at the edge of the rim of the mountain. We got out of the truck and hiked down as far as we felt was safe for Natalie. I looked out and could see for miles. There were no people, no computers, no homework, no grading, no lesson plans, no formative assessments, none of the things that have been slowly sucking pieces of my soul away.

Remember how it feels when your muscles are stiff, and you are stretching them? It hurts like hell, but you know it’ll make everything better in the long run. That was my ache. And it ached. All of the empty spaces inside of me filled like a torrential rain.

None of my homework got done on the trip. We are driving home, and I am writing this instead. I know that I will feel the pressure as it gets closer to the due dates for my assignments. As we get closer to the city, I feel the tension gathering again. I can’t help but think of all of the things that I have to do. I don’t regret taking care of my spiritual needs. I needed it so badly. I wish I could do it every weekend.  Maybe then it would stick. I need it to stick or else I won’t make it.

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.

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

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?

Tentative Tiptoe into the Blogosphere

I’m BAAAAAAACK.

After a long absence from the blogosphere, I am returning. I hope. My classes for this semester are done and summer is approaching. I have missed writing very much.

There are many half completed posts that I plan on working on and posting. My blog will seem tangential, but at least I will be writing.

Wish me luck!

Dissolution of Resolutions

2011 has been a very action packed year. There has been good and there has been not so good. I started my Masters degree, then changed it to a different one that I feel will give me tons of opportunities that I never had before. My husband and I grew closer after nine years of marriage. I lost my father-in-law who I never realized how much I loved. My daughter started kindergarten and I didn’t cry (much). I’ve gotten closer to my family. My father actually learned how to text! I’m working on a post about that. There is so much more, but I didn’t intend this post to be a recollection of the occurrences of the year. Moving on.

This New Year’s Eve, I will be sitting safely at home and snuggling with the love of my life. There will be no wild party, no alcohol, no excess. Well, maybe we will eat a bag of Cheetos– best way to ring in the new year as far as I’m concerned. This year, we might even make it to midnight. No, probably not. We are an “old” married couple that figure it’s the new year somewhere and sleep is sacred, especially when you know your five-year old daughter will be up at the crack of dawn the next morning. This is how I love to spend my New Year’s Eve.

NatterAs everyone knows, this is the time for people to make resolutions. It is a fresh new year to undo all of the things you did the year before. I have always made resolutions. I can honestly say that I did not stick with any of my resolutions from the beginning of the year. When I was younger, I made crazy ones that were unattainable. As I grew older, I tempered them. Still, I often fell short of the goal that I set. I blamed it on myself. I would beat myself up over my perceived failures and then feel guilty about not being good enough/strong enough/smart enough to follow through. I don’t want to do that to myself this year.

This year I have one resolution: I will do things that give me happiness.

I believe that is the only resolution I need and I am pretty sure that I will be able to keep up with it.

Happy New Year, my friends. May your resolutions be attainable and may you find all that you seek in the new year.