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There are five school day wake-ups left this year. I am not sad.

This has been a rough year for behavior. My own students’ behavior has improved greatly over the year, this has been a goal, but they’re still not where they need to be. We’ve been working on basic things all year long, like being respectful, not putting hands on other people, and raising hands when there is a question as opposed to just shouting things out. The exception is my first hour. They’re pretty awesome, for the most part. Of course, there are many great kids in my other classes, it’s just an uneven ratio this year and I’m exhausted. Not from the teaching, you understand, from everything else.

The students who aren’t mine, who pass in the hallway, enough of them are ridiculous enough to mentally drain me almost every day. You would not believe what happens in the hallways of a middle school sometimes.

Seriously, this is the most difficult job I’ve ever had, and I’ve been through a few since I started babysitting at eleven years old. Babysitter, waitress, hostess, retail worker, historical presenter (on a historic farm), carriage driver, educational programs presenter, and administrative assistant, just to name a few. Those people who think we have it easy because we have a few weeks off in the summer (when we attend workshops, trainings, and mandatory meetings) can take a long walk off a short pier; this job will kick your butt, which is why so many new teachers don’t make it the first five years. I took a break a couple of years back, which was a really good thing for my mental health.

At work, I have to be the adult, I have to set the example. That’s part of my job.  Sometimes, I’m not a great example when I’ve been pushed to my limit. When I screw up, I apologize, not for being angry, but how I handled it. Since I became a teacher eleven years ago, I’ve probably been called every name in the book, in a few different languages, no less. It gets to you, especially when it happens on a daily basis. Not an excuse, my skin is a lot tougher than it used to be and I’m constantly working on it. Sometimes, I really wish people could see how their kids really act at school, but like my brother said, those parents would probably blame the teachers.

So, at the end of this school year, I’m not looking for accolades, pats on the back, or anything else. I just want peace and quiet for a while. I want to not be called names and talked back to. I want no one to laugh in my face. I no one to blatantly lie or cheat and think I’m stupid enough to not notice or figure it out. I want to be myself for just a little while, to go to the bathroom when I want to, and to not grade. Not. One. Single. Paper.

Teaching is not for sissies.

Happy Summer!

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I haven’t written in a while, I’ve had a lot going on. It’s been all I could do to post a meme. May is always crazy busy, especially if I’m in a show. Any parent with school-age children can tell you that there is at least one activity per week in May and having a high-schooler is no exception. Concerts, advanced-placement testing, driver’s training… oy. Add to that my own end of the year teaching craziness (data, testing, data, testing, data…why???), a college graduation, and that leaves little time to write.

But now I see a light at the end of the tunnel (20 teaching days left) and I’m making myself sit down to write. It’s important, like exercise.The more you do it, the better you get.

Here are some of the random things that have either happened or that I have thought about during the past couple of weeks.

  • Anyone who is wondering what to name a baby (or a pet) should go sit in on a college graduation. Seriously. We listened to 1,200 name combinations read in about an hour and a half. The odds are that you’ll find something you like.
  • One of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans, tragically died at the young age of 37. She is responsible for shaking up the Christian world in amazing, progressive ways and was a voice of reason in these crazy times. I feel she was a true modern-day prophet.
  • I believe now, more than ever, in supernatural things.
  • There is a new royal baby. I make no apologies for being happy for them because new babies are wonderful and I like them. Fight me.
  • You meet some incredible people in theatre. No joke. The level of bonding can be intense.
  • If you really love someone and they really love you back, you feel safe and valued. I feel safe and valued.
  • One way or another, I need to stop wishing my life away. Changes must be made. Do something that you love, or at least find fulfilling.
  • My faith has taken a beating lately.
  • Having adult children can be wonderful.
  • Eating the first asparagus of the season right from the garden is fabulous.
  • I feel much younger than I am. I’m not comfortable with my number and I don’t know that I ever will be.
  • Do you have a pen-pal who lives in a different country? You should. Mine started out as a pen-pal, but is now a dear friend.
  • I’ve never been more disillusioned about the state of our country than I am right now. O. M. G. It feels like we’re living in a dystopian novel.
  • It’s spring, time to get my hands dirty, literally.
  • Teachers compiling data is a stupid thing. Really, really stupid. Hire someone to do that; there’s more than enough on my plate.
  • I am still planning on moving to London.

And lastly:

  • It’s been a bad year for suicides. Suicidal people are not weak or looking for attention, they’re desperate and genuinely feel that ending their lives is the only way to end their pain. Don’t judge them, listen and love. Get them help. You could save a life.

I promise I’ll be more organized next time.

The End

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Sorry I’ve been gone for a while. It’s been a little busy around here with not a lot of time for anything, including blogging, but it’s all good. I’ll catch you up a bit.

First off, I am now teaching for a district, which is a very cool thing. It all happened rather fast and just in the nick of time, as my former job was letting people go left and right with no warning and for no good reason at all. It’s a loooooong story and there are a lot of details, which I will spare you. Anyhoo, I decided to leave before my own head hit the chopping block and I received a wonderful job offer. I love the school where I am. A friend of mine had taught there for years before retiring and always spoke highly of his coworkers and the children, so I felt confident in taking the position. After a month, I am not disappointed. Everyone has been incredibly lovely and the kids are coming along. I think this could turn out to be good fit, once I get all of the new logistics down.

As if beginning a new job and a whole new teaching program wasn’t enough, a few weeks ago, I decided that I could handle everything and go out for a new show, which seems to be going swimmingly so far. I get to play a lovely drunk and couldn’t be more excited, so if you’re in the Metro Detroit area, please come and see Promises, Promises at the Players Guild of Dearborn in November and December.

While all of this was going on, we sent Oldest Child back to college, got Middle Child installed for freshman year at his college, and settled Youngest Child into his new room. (which, incidentally, was his original room when he was born, so not entirely new.) Youngest Child is now entitled to his own room, even when his brothers come home from college to visit. He is also heavily involved in marching band and cross country, so he stays very busy.

I’m choosing to not write about anything political or anything awful that’s happening in the world today, not because things don’t need to be said, but because I’m weary. My heart is sick, my brain is overloaded. I’m confused by how people think, I don’t understand a lot of things, and I know that if I say what I want to right now, there are people who will basically try to put me “in my place”, tell me to stick to writing other things rather than to comment on the travesties of our government and the world. I can’t answer them right now, I don’t have the patience, I don’t have the right frame of mind to deal with such demeaning ridiculousness at the present, so I will abstain from that right now. For future reference, though, I will write what I want to; it’s my blog. Read something else if you don’t like what I have to say.

All in all, everything is fine, just slightly insane at the moment. (Did I mention that I’m married to a saint?) In a few weeks, I’ll return to writing on a more regular schedule. In the meantime, I’m off to study lines, write some lesson plans, and squeeze in some dates with my Marty.

Until then, be kind to each other.

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” ~Henry James

 

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As many of you may recall, I posted a (lengthy) post about a year ago on why I was leaving teaching, and one not too long ago about how I have used this past year to rest my mind and to figure things out.

Long story short: I’m teaching again. I wasn’t exactly looking for this opportunity, it fell into my lap with a message from a friend. When I read the description, I was intrigued and one thing led to another. I will hastily add, however, that I am not teaching in a traditional classroom. My students come from some pretty bad situations. They have a lot of issues and are not living with their parents for one reason or another, so they live at our facility until they can go home or into foster care. Sometimes they’re with us for weeks, sometimes for years and the people who work with them, my new coworkers, are some of the toughest, most caring individuals I have ever met in the short time I’ve been there.

I’m not looking at my new situation with rose-colored glasses, I know that there are going to be some grueling days ahead, but where I am, I can teach for the child, not for the parents or for a test. My job is to nurture and to teach these boys what they need, not push them to impress the state or to please an overbearing parent. My job is to help them trust, to provide boundaries, and a soft place to fall when they need it in addition to their academic lessons. Don’t other teachers do these same things? Absolutely, of course they do! There are teachers I know who have the biggest hearts for their kids, going above and beyond what’s required of them, but they also have those other pressures to deal with that I found unbearable.

There are tradeoffs where I am, though, too. We deal with daily behaviors that are cause for suspension at other schools, but somehow, I’m finding those a little easier on my psyche than the dread of sending home report cards or math tests.

Did I make the right choice? I think so. I’ve given up on thinking that my path through life is supposed to be a straight line. I’m starting to believe that I am put where I’m needed, where I can do some good for whatever length of time, and I hope that’s the case here. My goal is to make a positive difference in these boys’ lives, to be a safe person for them.

In the meantime, send some good thoughts and prayers to land on the boys and the workers who love and care for them, would you? They can always use a little more.

 

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(This post will have absolutely nothing to do with anything political, of that I can assure you, so any readers who have previously disagreed with my political views have nothing to fear. Or to fight about. Not that my feelings have changed in any way, but it’s very soul-sucking to have to argue and defend all the time, especially after the Christmas craziness and play rehearsals kicking into high gear. I need a break. Just wanted you to know before you started reading.)

I was inspired by a meme on Facebook today. It asked the reader to judge the year based on the difference in where you were as a person at this time last year to where you are now. I know, I know, it’s a Facebook meme, but this one got my attention because I made a major life decision at the end of last year and I’ve been asked a lot about it recently this holiday season, mostly by people I haven’t seen in a long time. Having to answer these folks has made me think about the place I’m now, as compared to last year, and this is what I’ve come up with.

At this time last year, I was kind of a mess, mentally and emotionally. I was at the end of my rope as a teacher; depression and anxiety were a daily struggle that I was having a tougher time fighting as each day passed. I made the choice to take a pay cut, leave the profession that I had acquired several thousand dollars in student loans to go into, and went to work as the office administrator for my church. At the same point this year, I can say with certainty that leaving classroom teaching was one of the best decisions that I could have made for myself. There were parts that I loved: interacting with the kids one-on-one, light bulb moments for the kids, some silly moments, my teaching assistant and friend, Nicole, the hugs and pictures. But the bad had outweighed the good for me. There were plenty of times that I cried all the way home or in the shower from certain interactions or from work situations that seemed hopeless, all the while putting on a brave face during the school day so that I wouldn’t be seen as weak or soft. I was cranky at home, snapping at the kids for small, stupid things, constantly on edge. I was always defensive, feeling like I always had to be on my guard. I felt constantly defeated, that nothing would ever be happy again. I felt trapped.  I know it sounds pretty dark, and my thoughts did get fairly dark, but that is a very common depression symptom and it was true for me then. I want you to see the state of mind that I was in, how ugly it was.

There are teachers who deal with those circumstances just fine, Mr. Marty Man being one of them. He can leave work at work, talk down any outraged parent, and deal with horrible behavior without so much as an eyebrow twitch. My parents-in-law were good at that, too. I’m just not built that way. I internalize the criticism, take it home with me, dwell on what was said, and dread having to deal with the situation again. Like for days and even weeks. Parent-teacher conferences and report cards were a nightmare. While I always gave the grade that the student earned, I knew which ones would turn into a big deal and what would be blamed on me with personal attacks on my personality and teaching ability, even though I always felt that I did my best, but it didn’t matter.

On the other hand, there were absolutely fantastic kids, parents, and extended families, some who still stay in touch. There were some good times, really good times. When I first started student teaching, and then for a long-term sub assignment in the same school (6 months!), I loved it. My cooperating teacher was amazing and the school had a close supportive staff. I enjoyed teaching for that first year and if it had kept going that way, I may have stayed in. For whatever reason, the circumstances changed and it all began to fall apart after that. I know that I was able to reach some kids, that there were kids I could help, but ultimately, I felt that I wasn’t an effective teacher. It’s a horrible feeling. Kids deserve the best, even if they’re obnoxious and difficult to like. I do believe that, from the bottom of my heart, but I found it really hard to put into practice another reason to leave the profession. I’m not good with sassy and difficult. Kids deserve a teacher who can see past that and there are some children who aren’t as easy to love as others. I hate typing this, admitting it to the world, but it’s true. Difficult kids need love, too, and being a classroom teacher isn’t for everyone.

My family has noticed the changes since I left teaching, my kids especially. Mama has a much longer fuse than she used to, the snappiness is much reduced, and I’m much calmer, less prone to black depression holes. The depression holes aren’t gone, but I have more energy stores to deal with them than I did before. They don’t last as long.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with my beloved theatre this year and not feeling torn in five different directions with all of the work at home hours. There is a lot of guilt, I do admit, about the decrease in pay and I’m not sure quite how that’s going to pan out in the long run, but for this moment, this very moment, I’m okay where I am. Why is that a good thing? Because I hadn’t felt that way in several years.

So, on the occasion of this New Year, I toast to change. I toast to scary, freaking difficult decisions, and I toast to dreams that turn into goals.

Saluti.

 

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Well, it’s official. After seven and a half years, including student teaching, subbing, actual full-time employment, and some major student loans that I will be paying off until I retire, I’m leaving the classroom. For good.

Am I bitter, angry, disillusioned? Eh, definitely not bitter or angry, and mostly not disillusioned. Well, disillusionment plays a part in my decision, but it’s not the main reason. There were a lot of factors that figured in to my decision and months of going back and forth. In the end, I decided to leave, mostly for my mental health and for my family’s well-being.

One thing I don’t like about my decision is that I’m leaving in the middle of the year. I know that sucks and most teachers I know wouldn’t do that without a really good reason, but here’s the thing: I feel like I have really good reasons, which I’ll get to momentarily. Will the students be upset? Some of them, I’m sure, for a little while. I have an email address for school that they will be able to use to stay in touch with me if they so choose and my friend, who just happens to be the classroom assistant (I can’t just call her my assistant; it sounds so clinical and she’s so much more than that), will be there for the rest of the year, so their world will not be shattered. In the end, I have to balance the students’ needs against mine and my family’s and this is a case where I feel I have to make a break.

You might be asking yourself what could be so bad that a fairly seasoned teacher would choose to leave in the middle of the year and that would be a fair question. Here are my thoughts

Let me get one thing straight to start: I love to work and to be useful. I hate being lazy and unproductive, lest my gentle readers get the impression that I desire to be a lady of leisure. Staying home all day without anything to do but clean the house or cook would make me insane. I do have a new job to go to, which I will touch on later. My depression, however, has been progressively getting worse during the working months. In the years that I have been teaching, I’ve noticed a major difference between my depression levels from September through June and June through the end of August, something that I had never felt before in any part of my working life, and I’ve been working since I was 15 years old.  During the past few school years that I have taught, I have felt like I made the wrong career choice, yet I was loathe to quit because I had invested so much money and time into this career.

The stressors that come with teaching, parent conflicts and student behavior are at the top of that list, seem to affect me in a huge way that I have not been able to overcome, no matter how much I try. I replay them in my head over and again in a frustrating loop. I have attempted to make peace with this in therapy, but to no avail. These are things that all teachers deal with and most teachers take in stride. While they’re not a pleasant part of the job, people like my husband are able to brush those inconveniences off and go on with their passion for teaching students, many for thirty years or more.

My mother-in-law was one such teacher, working well past standard retirement age for the sheer love of her job. When she eventually retired, she welcomed the break, but to this day remembers her teaching years with extreme fondness. Former students still stop her, no matter where she is, and catch her up on their lives. She was a fabulous teacher who touched a lot of lives. I am not that kind of teacher. In the past couple of years, I have dreaded the end of breaks, half-heartedly put together student projects, and felt my tolerance for even normal student behaviors dwindle. This is not fair to the students. They deserve to have an enthusiastic teacher who gets excited about new classroom ideas on Pinterest and has the patience for a pack of exuberant elementary students, not one who just tweaks an old project from the last year and loses her patience more quickly than she should.

I found myself losing interest in other things that I love, especially over this past year: writing, reading for pleasure, going out with friends. My social anxiety about going places has gotten worse. I’ve declined invitations for work parties and to be with people who I really love being with because I’m panicking in the anticipation of going out into situations where I am absolutely terrified that I will look and feel ridiculous. Mind you, it doesn’t usually end up that way, but that’s the stupid thing about anxiety, which tends to worsen with stress.

There will be some who really criticize me for not only leaving teaching, but leaving in January as opposed to finishing out the year. Those people can think what they want, but I have to do what’s best for me and my health right now. I have put this off for as long as I think I can.

Am I whining? No, I don’t think so. I think I’ve laid things out in a rational way. I’ve simply come to the realization that I am not cut out to be a classroom teacher. I also understand that any job will have its issues, but as a wise friend and neighbor so eloquently put it, I’m ready for a different set of problems. There are people who are fabulous teachers, who love their jobs because teaching is their passion. I am, regretfully, not one of them. I admire teachers like my husband, my mother-in-law, my Aunt-Mom, my sister-in-law, and several friends who are committed to being in the classroom. Lord knows our children need it. When I think about spending the next thirty years teaching, part of my soul wilts a little.

So if I won’t be teaching, what will I do all day? Well, I’m very pleased to say that I have accepted the job as full-time Office Administrator at my church. I am excited by the prospect of being a help to a place that has a special place in my heart and that I will be able to be a face for the church. I think the work will suit me well and I will have more time to work on my writing, rather than stressing about parents and students. It will be a new beginning for me and for my family. Hopefully, this change will give me some breathing room to work on myself while I still contribute financially to our family. I would love to be more present for my kids instead of feeling the guilt that I’m spending much more time with other children. In short, I want to be happy again. If I’m happy, I know that that will carry over into my family, a win-win situation.

I have high hopes for good things.

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