Friday, April 6, 2012
Questions and Answers
I am a mess. I have been dealing with a lot lately which has left me with a lot of questions. But, do I have the answers? We'll see.
I hate it right now. Well, not the teaching itself; I like interacting with the students, sometimes. I have come to hate what has become expected of us as teachers. Many parents don't know how to parent. The child is in control and by the time he/she is in sixth grade, they have come to believe they are in control of every adult they meet. It's sad when teachers who have no children of their own are teaching parents how to be a parent. So, when can I retire?
Also, some parents have come to have false expectations of their child's teachers based on what prior teachers have done. A colleague was sharing with me that one of her parents asked her why she didn't tutor students after school. After all, the teacher last year stayed at school until 5:30-6:00 PM(!) to tutor children, and often took them places on weekends. Aren't you the parent, here?
I feel very different about this year's students than I did about last year's class and yes, I know, every group is different. And here I must say there are quite a few variables in play. First, last year I was self-contained, meaning I taught all subjects all day to the same group of kids for six hours; so I had a chance to really bond with them. This year, I teach one hour of science to a group, and then one hour of Language Arts to each of three different groups of kids. It's like, wham, bam, thank you, next, repeat! I'm bored. I miss math and history and diving deep into literature. I must also say last year was quite unusual in that I had moved from fourth through fifth to sixth with eight of my students and then from fifth to sixth with another nine, so I had seventeen of my twenty-nine students for more than one year and they were an exceptional group of kids; they gave a lot back. This year I have eighty-five students for the first time, some for just one hour per day; and many of them don't seem to take pride in their work. This year I haven't had the opportunity to really know the students. Is it me, them, the schedule that's responsible?
Next year's sixth graders are supposed to be just plain mean. My fifth grade colleagues and those who had these students in fourth are advising me to get out of town. Or at least out of sixth grade. I have the right per my Union/District contract to request a grade change and my principal must come up with a compelling reason not to honor my request. Grade requests are assigned by district seniority, and I am number one at my school. This means I get to teach the grade level I want to teach or the principal faces a possible grievance. Now, do I want to pack my classroom and move to another grade and room, buy materials I may need (with money I don't necessarily have) to supplement the district-provided curriculum, get reacquainted with and plan for a different curriculum again, and possibly cause a domino effect displacing other teachers from their grades? Or do I stay where I am and do this all over again with an allegedly mean group of kids?
I'm venturing forth on a new adventure; author. New adventures are often scary. And exciting. And I'm not even sure how this all came into being a reality. When I wrote my novel back in 2008, I wasn't sure if I wanted to, or how I would, get it published. And now I am. But I still have doubts. Maybe it was (or still is) a lack of confidence in my ability as a writer. Maybe it's first time jitters. After all, I've never done this before. But, then neither did Grandma Moses when she started painting, so I have a role model. When I sat down to write it, the dam burst and the story just flowed out of me. Other ideas came bubbling up from the soup, floating to the surface and are now stacked up like 747s waiting to land. I've tried working on them, yet seem to get only so far before I get blocked. How do I get back to a place where the stories just flow?
I'm also going to have to learn to promote myself and my writing. And it's uncomfortable, because I was always taught to be meek and humble, (Christian values) or maybe it's something more internal, more emotional (self-esteem over parents' divorce or coming out issues). Obviously, the Universe, my publisher, my editor and the few others who've seen bits and pieces think I am good at doing this, so I now have a lesson to learn in trusting in others. And in myself. So, how does one build confidence?
Teaching is not an eight hour job. It's more like twelve. Or sixteen. I have the students for six of them, and two more are supposed to be planning and grading papers and recording them. But, in those two hours, I also must fit in parent conferences, meetings with colleagues, counseling students, and any other odd jobs the principal asks. Also, I spend many hours wondering how can I get my students, some who are reading at second grade level, to comprehend the differences between metaphors and similes; or even what an adverb is, and then USE them in their writing? Or I may wake up with the piece that was missing from my lesson on the theory of Plate Tectonics so I can do a quick review of yesterday's lesson so the foundation of today's lesson will be more solid. A lot of my weekends are spent around what doesn't get done at school mixed with household chores. So, how do I fit in time to write and bring these 747s in for a safe landing?
Dating and Love or at least a Social Life
I think I've covered enough of my emotional demons on this topic in past posts so, I don't need to rehash them here, yet again. But, if making time for writing is a problem, making time for dating would also be an issue for me. Teaching is not a profession to make money. Being a single teacher with a mortgage and two sickly pets I don't have much, if anything, left over for fun and socializing, let alone romance. Teaching is also tiring. I'm on stage 'performing' five hours per day, and I'm exhausted after commuting home. I don't have a lot of energy at the end of the day and by the end of the week, forget it. I don't feel I have the time, the money and the energy to date. What do I do?
So, I guess my answers lie in one basic word; trust. John Burroughs once said, "Leap, and the net will appear."
As for the photo, I don't have an answer for you, except it's a mess of shells and rocks stuck together buried in the sand. Kind of like me. Except I'm trying to dig myself out, not lay there subject to the whim of the elements.