a girl and her boy

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Tag Archives: work life

The Day Job

Sitting in a meeting with my colleagues after the students left today, I caught myself wondering how in hell I made it. I’m glad I did, no doubt. And I’m doing well. But how did I survive? And what can I bring to the table to help my students?

I work in an alternative education setting now with students who have drug abusing parents, who have been raped or molested (repeatedly in some cases), who shoot up drugs to dull the pain of extreme poverty and neglect. They have anxiety and paranoia and PTSD and psychosis. These kids are just babies at 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 years old. Some have have already sat for hours in front of judges or counselors or CFS agents at their tender ages with stony “yeah, and what the fuck are you going to do about it?” faces.

These youths, both in my classroom and in others all across our nation, are disenfranchised and in awful shape and are looking to us to do something about it. And what are we doing about it? One of my students fell through the systems’ cracks and is now missing on the freezing cold streets of Massachusetts.

It’s a 6 hour a day, 30 hour a week job that is paying the bills so why worry so much, right? But it’s more than that to me. These kids here in Salem and the ones I left behind in Maine are my  kids. They didn’t come out of my body (and I’m glad for that – can you imagine the stretch marks?) but they have my heart and dedication. I know I have to learn a certain amount of emotional separation, but I haven’t yet.

I’ll have something more intelligible to say about this eventually. I just had to get this off my chest.

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Perspective and Anger

I’ve been thinking a lot on the experience I blogged about previously. I realized it wasn’t so much my colleague gunning for me as I’m overly sensitive to people questioning me.

This is another childhood hang-up with a story.

My family moved around a lot as I was growing up. I think I counted once that I had moved 16 times before I graduated high school, most of it during my formative years of grade school. I had very few opportunities to learn how to navigate the social waters and all the rules and regulations of interactions for I never lived in one area long enough for me to bother establishing any relationships. I tried it a few times early on and learned that it wasn’t worth it.

And on top of this, my parents fought all the time and were emotionally and physically abusive. When questioned by people, at first I would be honest with them, but then the wrath of my parents would fall on me:  “why was I lying to all these people about what was going on?” they would charge. Soon I learned that I must be mistaken and began to really lie by not telling the truth.

I developed a severe complex. All throughout school I would find myself lying for things I didn’t even need to because it had become such an ingrained habit. There would be times when I would lie about the origin of a bruise (I’d blame sports or being a klutz) or there would be times when I would lie about why I misspoke (instead of simply making a mistake, I tried to make myself seem cooler by saying my Russian pen pal was teaching me her language and I goofed trying to say one of the words – totally transparent). It was bad.

When I graduated, I realized the extent of this and stopped the behavior. I flipped and instead of lying a lot, I became brutally honest and blunt. I also developed an intense sensitivity to people calling me a liar because I used to lie so much. I’d wonder, “Am I? Am I telling an untruth? Am I still doing that?” And instead of standing my ground, I’d back off and end the conversation; totally awkward.

And I realized earlier today that that’s what happened the night of the play. It wasn’t so much that this colleague was trying to trip me up, she was asking a clarifying question and I took it the wrong way.

I have been so angry this weekend. I am so upset that after all these years of healing and therapy and writing and knitting and talking it out that the way I was brought up is still affecting me adversely. It’s so frustrating. Here I am, nearly 27, a professional in a very public and social position, and because of my childhood experiences, I seem incompetent because of these hang ups.

I’ve also been wondering if I should go back to counseling. It didn’t do me any good when I was growing up (yes, I went to counseling for YEARS and YEARS as a child as my parents thought I had a deep-rooted negative memory from childhood, what it was, they would never say, and that’s why I was such a mess). But I wonder if it would now that I am an adult in a very stable and supportive environment?

All I know is that this has got to stop and I don’t know how to make it. I can’t continue being so sensitive to people and situations. I can’t seem incompetent in my job because of my awful childhood.

A Lesson Learned

It seems like every few weeks I learn a big life and or professional lesson. And this week, it’s how to navigate small town politics – keep your mouth shut and talk only about the weather.

You see, I’ve been sick the last few days and was out of school all day Wednesday and Friday. I really honestly thought I had a stomach virus. That is, until tonight. Tonight it dawned on me that it’s a long-term health issue that flared up for the first time in months, close to a year. And this illness, when manifest, mimics the flu.

Well, tonight I went to the play my students put on. And I ran into one of my colleagues. My colleague asked how I was, and forgetting small town and small school politics, I mentioned that come to find out, it was another health issue, not a bug. She looked at me like I was a liar because she has that condition, too, and she never had that. I had to explain that there are various manifestations of this illness and that mine is different.

I’m a little upset about this, but lesson learned. Smile pretty and keep my mouth shut.

Breathing Deep

Two huge weeks have passed and I am facing an easy week of a holiday and a half-day. Not bad. I go to school tomorrow, show movies because the students are not going to be paying attention because the following day is a holiday and the day after is the half-day, and I get to come home and knit some more.

I did so much knitting this weekend. It was wonderful.

I finished (finally!) my first Snapdragon sock with the purple, lime green, and orange stripes and am half-way through the second. It’ll be done by lunch time tomorrow guranteed with all the movie induced knitting time tomorrow. And I finished (finally!!) my father-in-law’s first sock in the lozenge pattern and have the second cast on. I’ll have photos of all these fine projects as soon as I remember to recharge my camera’s batteries. I am so glad to have made some knitting progress as it seems like eons ago that I started these projects.

The last two weeks have been awful and so this weekend of knitting and election day celebrations was much needed.

I had five nights (W-Th, and then M-T) straddling the close of the first marking period chock full of 3-hour SAT Prep training sessions, complete with homework, and grading. It was lovely, I tell you, lovely. I nearly called it quits on this profession. But I didn’t. Not every school springs SAT training on its staff, just mine. Luckily, my new colleague in the English department was right by my side to commiserate with. We had a helluva time those long days.

The long days and little sunshine exposure has been getting to me. I have a therapy light but I get up so early as it is to get to school that I haven’t been using it regularly. To use it consistently, I’d have to get up at 4:30 each morning! Yikes. That’s not happening.

I realized after grumping around, knitting, and watching movies today, that part of the reason for my recent bouts of melancholy has been the feeling of displacement. I realized that a year ago this weekend I moved from Orono to Winthrop to take the job in Monmouth and I’ve been nomadic ever since with weekend trips to Orono, moving in May, and then moving again in July. No wonder I’ve been feeling agitated. I haven’t had a chance to get my bearings! I’ve been uprooted for nearly 27 years and I’m ready for my hobbit house, but it’s not time for it yet.

I’m in my second year of my career and Allan has to finish his master’s program. When he does, we’ll be looking for a new job near a college that offers a good MA English for me and a teaching certification program for Allan, which means another move. None of the schools within striking distance of our area offer decent programs, if at all, for either. We’re looking at another 1-2 years before we can even consider buying a house and settling down for 3-5 years or longer. And with this, the possibility of high-maitenance pets (dogs) and children are on hold, too.

No wonder why I feel stressed out so much lately; I feel like I’m just getting going and my entire settled domestic life is still on hold. I crave a house of my own, a garden of my own, a puppy or two, and children so much but it’s not to be for a year or so at very least.

We’ve definitely considered settling down in the area we’re in but we can’t afford the property values on one beginning teacher’s salary. In order for us to buy property in this area we’d have to take out a ridiculous mortgage or buy a fixer-upper, which we’re not enthusiastic about. In order for us to purchase a home in this area, both of us would have to have a teacher’s salary, at very least, and then we’d still be scraping by.

Sigh. At least I like where we are right now. The rest of our life will figure itself out. I’m working on being content in the here and now.

Beyond all this, I’m pleased to say that Patty over at Fibreholic has given me my first blog award! I’m thrilled and honored! Thank you, Patty!

I first started blogging back in 2004 but it never amounted to much. I was pretty self absorbed as a young twenty-something still. It wasn’t until about two or three years ago that I matured enough to realize that nodding to the reader is a must when writing in public like this. I’m pleased that I’ve reached the wide audience that I have and that people have found something worthwhile here. Again, thank you, Patty!

The acceptance rules for this award are as follows:  (1) the winner may put the award on his/her blog, (2) add a link to the person who nominated you if you don’t have one already, (3) nominate at least 5 other websites or blogs, (4) provide links to the nominated websites or blogs, and (5) send the nominees a message letting them know.

I’d like to give this award to the following bloggers:

1 – My dear friend Amy of The Lawsons Did Dallas is one of the funniest bloggers I’ve come across. She’s been blogging since she moved to Texas and she’s been keeping me and her vast audience rolling for about two years now. She recently had the unfortunate life experience of having a miscarraige and so her normal humor was set aside while she related this life-changing experience. She has since reclaimed her humor but her depth and breadth of writing prowess has been demonstrated fully due to these fluctuations.

2 – I’d like to nominate Amber of Berlin’s Whimsy next. I’ve been reading Amber’s blog for a year solid now and there has never been a day when I didn’t feel better for stopping by her space. She, too, has been through many life experiences which offer depth and heart to her writing. Her crafting and photography are nothing short of inspirational.

3 – Next, I’d like to nominate Laurie at Everything in Blue, also the owner of the Ouou shop on Etsy (is it open yet, Laurie?). I first found Laurie through Etsy via her brilliant art and then followed along to her blog where she posts her art in progress and life experiences. I’ve been honored to blog on Laurie’s behalf over the last year.

4 – My dear friend since middle school out in Utah has been blogging about her family and adventures and it’s been a great way for me to keep in the loop. Leanne, you, too, deserve an award.

5 – Last, but not least, I’d like to offer this award to my dear friend Holly. Holly and I have been friends since grade school and have only recently reconnected at my second wedding reception. I’ve really enjoyed keeping up-to-date on your family through your blog!

Phew. This is a long post. I think I’ll call it a night!

Feeling Calmer

This week was incredibly busy and stressful. The quarter ended yesterday and students were cranky with me for enforcing my grading policy. It’s 10% of the assignment off per day late and if it’s not in my hands by 2:15 on day 5, it’s a zero. There are some kids who missed stuff a month ago trying to pressure me to give them some credit on the assignments. No dice.

And on top of getting a mound of assignments in, I had SAT training 3 nights in a row from 4-7. It was insane. I hate the pressure to teach to the test. I won’t do it but I will help give kids the confidence they need to feel like they’re playing on home turf. But I will NOT do an entire unit on SAT skills. Little mini-lessons here and there, and after school workshops are fine. But I will not, I repeat, will not teach SAT skills as a unit in my classroom.

I have done absolutely no knitting. I have done no housework. I have done nothing for myself in the last 10 days and it shows.

However, I did take last night for myself (and Allan). We dressed up and went to a Halloween party and it was great. I haven’t danced since high school and it felt nice to let loose a little and groove to the music.

I wish I had more time to knit. I have so many things I want to make and so much wool I would love to have, but I have no time at all. Even my 40-minute lunches have been usurped by dealing with school business in the office lately. I’ve gotta stop that. I need those lunch periods for myself. And I need to knit for at least 20 minutes every day when I get home.

And I need to start running again, too. I think I’ll try morning running, even if it’s just 2 miles; 2 miles is better than no miles a day. Allan’s worried because I get up early as it is. He doesn’t want me to wear myself thin. And it’s cold in the morning. But I haven’t run in the afternoon when it’s warm in 3 weeks because I’m so mentally exhausted that I can’t get myself out the door. I figure a short run each morning will jumpstart my metabolism and boost my energy and mood. And it’ll build miles so I can do long runs on the weekend. Come spring when it warms up and grows lighter, I’ll probably run in the afternoon and tack on miles again. For now, I’m simply looking for maitenance of my conditioning and waistline.

That’s it for now. I’ll write about seeing Michael Pollan later today or tomorrow. That was such a life-changing experience that I simply have to blog about it. But later. For now, I’m going to work through a huge pile of grading and planning.

What the eff?

What am I doing spending the hours I should be in bed sleeping doing math?? Oh, that’s right, I have SAT training and I foolishly signed up for BOTH sections thinking it was required and now I have not only planning for 6 courses (7 classes) and grading (because the quarter ends on Friday) but also MATH HOMEWORK.

I mean, really. Tomorrow is going to be so sad. I was scoring 10 out of 10 today on the ELA stuff. Tomorrow I’ll be lucky if I get 1 out of 10.

Ok. I’m off to do a math assessment. Yippee skippy.

Trading Spaces

I swapped workspaces today and it has made all the difference in the world. I had been in the parlor of the hosue, but now I’m in the spare room that hasn’t been used for anything but to stow boxes since we got here. I got it organized, moved my stuff on up, and I’ve cranked out the work! Typically I just tinker, but not this weekend. I got stuff done.

This room has a very similar feel to the workspace I had when we were living in Orono. It was off the beaten path as it was in a little used corner of the house just past the kitchen but it wasn’t too far from the life of the house.

This room is cozy: it has a west-facing window that my laptop sits in front of; it has our spare bed so I can cozy up and read when needed; the bathroom is the next room over; across from the landing is my bedroom. It’s like a little apartment minus the kitchen. I like it because it allows me a place to go to when I need some space.

Being an introvert and being a teacher is a challenge. I spend all day expending energy being social, being in charge, and being professional. When I get home I really need to recharge my batteries. This room allows me to do that.

Prior to the move, my office space was in the heart beat of the house. It was in the same room as the woodstove, and the stairs to the basement, the doors for the bathroom and laundry room were off that room, and it had windows facing the driveway so I was constantly looking outside when I heard a car go by to see if it was pulling in. Because of the location, people were constantly in and out, and thus, conversing with me.

Now I have a quiet space to call my own. I can even pull out my art supplies again and tinker without feeling shy because I can work on stuff in a private space.

I love my new room!

Junior Leadership

My school engages in a weeklong series of events they nick-named The Big Week because, well, it’s big. Each of the classes has a four-day activity and the week culminates in The Day of Caring where we break up into small groups and complete service projects around the community. It’s such an amazing week, but it’s exhausting. The freshmen go on MOBY, which stands for My Own Back Yard. In this four-day event, they go to Acadia National Park to camp, learn science, learn history, and learn the origins of literature in an alternative setting. The students go hiking all over the place and it’s truly a bonding experience. The freshman always come back as a cohesive group and it is truly amazing. The sophomores engage in Sophomore Awareness. They go to Camp Androscoggin and listen to guest speakers on topics such as suicide, domestic abuse, and other such things. Again, the focus is on bonding and education. The juniors, the group I was part of, goes to Camp Mechuwana where they we taught them team building games over the course of two days and then on the third day, they taught third and fourth graders. The fourth day was designed to be a “thank you” to the juniors by taking them to a rock wall, but funds were not available, so they played games instead. The seniors have Senior Seminars where they listen to guest speakers on topics such as financial aid, campus life, applying to schools and then they go on campus visits. The whole week is amazing. As a new teacher and new to this program, I had no idea just how exhausting it was going to be.

I brought home a huge stack of books and a pile of papers to work through thinking I had plenty of time. Ha. I barely got anything to done last week which meant that this week was long with planning and grading.

Balancing Act

I’ve been working on preparing materials and lessons for school since I got home at 5 pm today. I feel like I don’t have enough time to preview the texts, develop essential understandings and interesting lessons for every class when they need to be done, ie, NOW. I know everyone says that new teachers work long and hard hours, and I know I got a lot of the thinking done last year, but really? Is it really this much work all the time? Of course it is. I’m in a profession where I am responsible for training my students for life beyond their diploma, for life when they walk out the doors of school, or for that matter, when they walk in.

Life for a high school student is hard and my goal is to find ways to, through my teaching, help make their lives better and easier.

It’s so hard to get everything done. I have been working on preparing essential questions, lessons, reading notes, and other such things since the day began and I feel like I’m not making significant progress in light of my growing task list.

Personally, there has been little time for me and Allan in my busy school schedule. I get home, spend a little time on the couch talking with Allan, and then I sit down to work. And I sit there until it’s time for bed. He supports my career and the time it takes to do it well, but I know that the lack time spent together doing Jen and Allan things will wear us both thin over time. I have to strike a balance.

It’s late and I’m tired. I have to get up early tomorrow to make some photocopies. It’s time to put these thoughts to rest and start fresh tomorrow.

Remind me to take knitting in to work on during lunch tomorrow…

Survived Week 1; Looking forward to Week 2.

Alright. One week down. I’m not going to count how many left because that’s pessimistic and I’m aiming to be positive!

Good things from the first week of school:

  • didn’t get up or arrive late once
  • didn’t forget my photo copies
  • I’m in my own room all the time!
  • I know what I’m doing, mostly.

Things that need improving from the first week of school:

  • need to keep names straight – I know their names, but for some reason I’ll look at a kid and call them by another name… gotta stop this
  • constantly tired and haven’t been running once and I’m starting to feel the pudge develop that I’ve worked hard to get rid of this summer
  • gotta spend less time on work and more time on me when I’m home

So that’s school stuff.

In my own news, I’ve felt awful the last week from allergies. My ears are plugged and my sinuses are dripping. And my meds are not keeping up. I feel worn out and dehydrated all day long despite napping and drinking 3 or more 32 oz. bottles of water. Blargh. This is the only part of this time of year I don’t like. Well, no, that’s not quite true.

There’s one other thing that I don’t like and that’s not having cool enough weather to wear my woolens! I pulled out all the cold weather gear and got it washed up over the last two weeks to get it ready and I haven’t been able to use it. Not that I expected it, but it’s a tradition of mine (new this year!) to pull out and wash the woolens when the first leaves turn orange and fall. I’m going to like this tradition.

I’ve been plodding away on the lozenge socks for my FIL and have finally made it past the heel and gusset. Once I get past that it’s just a few sittings to done. For some reason, the leg takes forever. Especially for men with big feet. It takes more stitches to get the length and it takes foreeeevvvveeeer to make progress. But it’s nearly done now and I’ll be on to sock number two before SSS kicks in. Luckily now that I’m back in school I’ll make more consistent progress by bringing in knitting to work on during my 40 minute lunch break. Lucky me! I eat in about 15 minutes and then knit for 25. I like it. It’s a good stress reliever during the day.

I still have to finish the button bands on Abby’s cardigan. I’ll tackle that this coming weekend. Further, I have Justin’s hat and scarf set that I started last winter when we were visiting for the holidays that I have to finish, my cowl-neck vest, and a few other projects. I’m going to try and move through as many of these before casting on new projects. Let’s see how long that lasts.

That’s it in my neck of the woods. I’d have pictures but I lost my camera. It’s got to be around here somewhere…