:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Teacher-itis (Stephany)

As of this morning, we officially have 3.5 days until Christmas break. As a teacher, I can’t tell you what a big deal this is. Most people think that it’s just the kids that get buggy at the end of a semester, as they look forward to Santa’s arrival and no school and no teachers and no books and no dirty looks and all that… well, the folks who think it’s just the kids are absolutely, completely, totally, and in all ways WRONG. The kids are buggy, of course, but we adults get pretty buggy, too, when it gets close to a vacation! Apathetic students, end of semester grades and deadlines, general holiday stress, and this nasty cold weather conspire to create an atmosphere of chaos and, well, BUGGINESS, and presents itself in so many as the condition called Teacher-itis.

[Speaking of chaos, in my last post I dared to fly the bird at the week I’d had. “BIG mistake. BIG. HUGE.” (That was my homage to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I love that movie.) Why do I tempt the Fates, challenge the status quo, complain and moan, and in general set myself up to teach myself that things usually can get worse??? Why, oh why, do I do this? Well, I suppose I am a little like Tangy T but not as smart as Wendy, and I’m a BULLHEADED asshat. I sure am. After my last post, I mean RANT, I made a real mess of some very important and delicate things. I will spare you the gory and unnecessary details. (You’re welcome.) I made a couple bad choices. I procrastinated on a project that I really, REALLY needed to nail. I drove five hours one way to watch my daughter’s cheerleading team compete, only to have a fender-bender and get a ticket for said wreck, ONE BLOCK from the convention center, missed her performance, and then drove five hours back home. I lost two students’ book reports – yep, LOST THEM, and then I had to fess up and ask them to forgive me and to do another (albeit modified) book report. I wracked up a late fee at the video store, dang it! Basically, I topped the week that I claimed deserved the BIRD. Wah, wah, wah… okay, crying about it doesn’t help. Maybe a couple bottles of wine will do the trick… Hmmmm…. Might be worth a shot! Who’s in???]

If you aren’t a teacher, you may be rolling your eyes right now, thinking (quite sarcastically, I’m sure) “poor woman… gets holidays and summers off, only works from 8-3 every day… POOR THING.” If you are a teacher, you know just how much I’d like to punch the crap out of anyone who’s thinking that. A for instance: I was at one of the kids’ activities this week and made the comment that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. An oh-so-wise woman (sarcasm intended) looked me right in the eye and basically called me a whiner, “Don’t you teach? You get off everyday at 3. Maybe you need a lesson in time management.” Now, she may have been trying to be positive and remind me how good I have it. (I do know I have a pretty doggone good gig, by the way.) Maybe she was trying to break up my pity party. Maybe she was. I wasn’t thinking in those terms in the instant that came out of her mouth, though, and it took everything in me NOT to set her straight (meaning punch the crap out of her). If you are a teacher, you know that your work day begins WAY before the bell rings in the morning and usually ends sometime after your own kids are in bed. If you are a teacher, you know that grading (especially as a high school English teacher) NEVER ends, and you know that your mind never really shuts off in terms of coming up with ideas, assignments, projects, and strategies to improve your teaching and help your students learn more. (If, however, you know how to shut this off, I’d really like to have that installed as an option! I never want to totally shut it off, though, because I find that some of what works best for me and is best for my students comes at the most inopportune or random times. Every now and then, though, it might be nice to shut it off for just a bit…) We work 50+ hours a week all school year long, and THAT’s why we get our summers and breaks off!

ANYWAY, the end of a semester is one of those times when I (and every other teacher) want an Easy Button, for sure. It’s a time of last-minute scrambling so kids can get their grades up, test writing and grading, essay grading, catching up, planning for next semester, and just wrapping everything up. It’s an exciting time, too, because there is the prospect of starting fresh in just a few weeks, but it’s still a few weeks away and I’m thankful for that. All of that adds up to Teacher-itis, for which there is no cure but time and the pulling up of the big-girl panties, shaking off the funk, and just DEALING with it with a smile and an appreciation of the fact that we’re half-way to SUMMER break!

To that end, I’m going to modify my goals for the time between now and my next post. I sure hope that’s allowed. If not, I’ll take my punishment, and I ain't skeered a'you, Warden P! J
My goals for the next post, then, are as follows:

1. Get the work DONE. Grade & enter. Plan. Move on.
2. Be home when I’m at home. By this, I mean that I need to be PRESENT at home, especially with the kids. Reserve work & “me stuff” for when they’re occupied or in bed. This is a gift I want to give my sweet babies all-year round, and it has to start sometime. Now’s as good a time as any, I’d say.
3. Relax. Enjoy the break. Choose carefully how to spend the precious few days we have away from school. If it isn’t going to be fun or be beneficial in the long run, skip it. Some things just need to be done, but I want to keep the activity to a meaningful minimum. (Oh, I like that… a MEANINGFUL MINIMUM. Yes.)
4. Reflect. Forgive. Count blessings. Embrace. The holidays are a great time to take pause and really reflect on the year that’s passed… It’s going to be especially important for me this year to reflect, forgive myself, remember all the blessings, and allow myself to move forward and embrace the blank slate that 2011 is.

After writing and re-reading these, the teacher in me just has to come out for a moment. (Humblest apologies.) I would like for you to focus on goals 3 and 4 for just a moment. Your assignment, then, is as follows: In 1-2 detailed paragraphs, and keeping in mind that there are no right or wrong answers this time, explain to me how these goals might apply in your own life. Are they or are they not in line with your year-end goals? How?
I’ll kick this Teacher-itis, I’m sure of it. And I’ll do it in time to enjoy the holidays: my kids, my family, the amazing food, and the time away from work. COFFEE chicks and anyone else reading this, I wish you the same: that you can kick your own “– itis” and that you are able to truly ENJOY yourself, however it is and whatever it is that you celebrate! I wish you laughter – at yourself and others! I wish you peace – in your own heart & mind, with your past & your present, and with those around you! I wish you time – for solitude & reflection and with those you love the most! Basically, I wish you the COFFEE-est Christmas ever!


Katie said...

Hi Steph! Ohhh..... I so do know what you mean about Teacher-itis, and I will definitely hold your coat anytime you want to clock someone who even alludes to the opinion that we as school people have it easy. We work 12 months in 9, THAT's why we have summers off, A-hole.

Anyway....shake it off, Katie. *Christmas thoughts, Christmas thoughts!* Thanks for the Christmas wishes, and back atcha!! The best gift you can give your kids is that focused attention, so you are well on your way. Even though they might think a Wii is the best present you can give them. If that's the case, as you're having special time together and they are trying their best to run away, make sure to yell really loud that "THIS IS THE BEST GIFT I CAN GIVE YOU AT THIS TIME, MY ATTENTION!! APPRECIATE IT." And I'm sure they will.

Merry, merry!

Steph said...

I'm stealing that line, Katie COFFEE...
"I work 12 months in 9. THAT'S WHY I HAVE SUMMERS OFF, A-hole!" I may replace A-hole with ASSHAT, but that's an awesome way to say it!
Hope you're out of school already... if not, hang tight - almost there! ENJOY the break!

patresa said...

Oh, Stephany! WHAT A WEEK! Fender benders, lost papers, buggy schools, insensitive conversationalists… SUCK. This break is going to feel GOOOOOOOOD.

I used to work in schools (it's only been the last 1.25 years that i left education)--first as a teacher, then as a school psych--and I am very very very well-versed in the working 12 months in 9 months schedule, the absolute chaos nearing breaks, the paper grading, the thoughtful-journal-and-freewrite-responding, the meaningful-discussion-question-composing, the supplemental-materials-searching, administrative-paperwork-completing, and… the student work losing. i hear you. and i think every asshat on the planet should spend at least 1 week shadowing a teacher.

(i also think every asshat on the planet should wait tables for at least 1 week.)

2 thumbs up for surviving a stressful 10 days. 2 thumbs up for a hard-earned break. and 2 thumbs up for caring so much about your work. this too shall pass, as you know.

big warm blessings to you, too, good soul.

amy said...

Stephany, Stephany! I'm giving that buggy fender bender/lost assignments week the bird for you--that crazy week goes right onto Santa's naughty list!

Our last day was today (insert angelic singing of Hallelujah chorus here), and we had a field trip. Which was surprisingly not that chaotic, since it was in an enclosed area which no one could escape from, be kidnapped, or generally lost in. But leading up to today WAS mass chaos, every day. I really think children of all ages can smell this stuff in the area, and it's like cats to catnip.

I once had a psychotic (seriously, she was psychotic--I do not throw that term around lightly) parent who stood on the playground with me one day (after causing me mass headaches and major weep fests, and damaging self-esteem issues) and flippantly said, "Oh yeah. I could do this job so easy. I mean, I'm already a teacher. I teach daycare."

Now, not to disparage daycare teachers (who are grossly underpaid and rarely deeply thanked, and are nothing less than the saintliest of saints) or anything, but teaching a kid how to read and solve math problems is drastically different than, say, teaching a kid how to wipe his/her nose and/or butt. I mean, all of these skills are essential things to productive members of society, and nothing to be eye rolled at. But daycare teachers are also not being hounded by state and federal watchdogs night and day, day and night, being forced to give standardized tests over how WELL a kid wipes his/her nose and/or butt and their jobs are not at stake if there are a few stray poop marks here and there.

Which is why I really, really want to punch that chick (and all who think like her) in the neck. Teaching is not a clock in/clock out factory assembly job. We're managers, and managers are people on call, day and night. And some years you get a kid or two, occasionally a whole frickin' group of kids, who just make it impossible to put the job down at 3 PM and walk away.

My friend and I were just saying the other day: people think teachers hit the beach and lolly gag as soon as June comes. No way, Jose--June is for de-traumatizing, dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. July is for preparing mentally for the onslaught that is August. And September is just digging trenches. So on, and so forth.

It's hard work, and we're not paid well, and we're under attack a lot. But you get hugs (in high school, these may just be high fives...or a very suave head nod in the hall once in awhile), and sometimes they let you chaperone cool field trips, and you really are making a difference. I can always see how far my kids have come from where they were in August, and that's always a big Wow! moment for me.

So lots of hugs on that cranky week you just had, and hang in there. My break came, and yours will too. And it will be fabulous! And full of goal-meeting and family bonding and zero fender benders. Fab.U.Lous.

And many (many, many, many) blessings to you. Right back at you with all those wishes, S!

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Stephany! Yes! I have all sorts of "itis" too! Vacationitis, burned out crisisitis, needmoretimeitis.... all the above etc-itis. I like this a lot.

And may I just say, arghhhhhh. Yes, this stuff makes me ticked off too. I, having one of my favorite people being a teacher, my sister, know all too well just how many millions of hours she spends helping out with sports on the fly (running the clock, keeping the books, not to mention the longer-term commitments, like COACHING), and all the grading of papers and developing ideas and lesson plans to shape all the children of our future.... these are HUGE HUMONGO things you guys do.

So, you enjoy your break. YES. You do this, Stephany. And congratulations on your goal to be at home when you are..... much deserved Sister Steph COFFEE. :) (p.s. I apologize now for any misspellings or typos.... I'm leaving this on the fly!)

Wendy said...

Stephany, Let me just go on record saying that I am not a teacher, but no way, no how do I think it's easy. And a measly summer off hardly balances out how incredibly difficult I think teaching must be. I don't know how you guys do it.
This is probably an asshatted statement, but even whenever I babysit, I think "ah, so THIS is how to slow down/totally stop time". And I don't mean that in a good way. I think teaching is that X10.

I love hearing you talk about how you're always planning and thinking and putting so much consideration into what you do...you are one of the good ones. And I THANK YOU for that. You should be proud of yourself for what you are tangibly doing to make this world a better place.

I do hope that your Christmas vacation brings you much-needed rest and renewal and you are able to go back with a sassy little kick in your step.

Bless you, Girl for what you do. Have a beautiful Christmas and don't forget the wine.