Monthly Archives: November 2014

I teach high school!

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Yes, I said it.  And you know what I love it!  I feel good in the morning going to work.  Yes, I know teacher are underpaid (all of them) and underrated (most of them) but nonetheless, it is a job I look forward to doing every day.  I have to work.  It is part of my chemical make-up.  It is also part of my family financial make-up. Why should I do a job I like?  I rarely complain about the students or my daily routine.

I dreamed of being a stay at home mom all through my teen years.  I said to myself I would be a stay at home mom until my oldest was in high school, just like my mom did.  Then reality struck when I stayed home. I was bored!  I cooked, I cleaned, I took good care of my son, and I was still bored.  I worked part time during that period of my life and I was accused of talking down to my co-workers.  I was hurt by that accusation.  I wasn’t trying to be mean or talk down to them, I was around a baby all day and worked several nights a week and, well, you know, baby talk was my colloquial.  So after almost 2 years of being a stay at home mom I went back to work, outside of the home, full time.

I did that job for another 8 years.  I enjoyed it, mostly.  Well except for the part about: customer service, working nights, weekends, & holidays, being made to feel guilty for having to stay home with a sick child, and a myriad of other retail related woes.

Then an opportunity I have never regretted came up.  Teaching.  I had wanted to be a teacher before I decided to have a family.  Why not now?  It would take a little more education, time, & maybe even a slight pay cut but I would not be swayed.  My husband and I sat down and talked about it for a while.  Finances, schedules, and life changes were discussed.  We did not take this change lightly.  We prayed and talked to others about it.  We devised a plan for survival.  Luckily, we never had to implement any of the components of our plan.  I got the job!

In 2007 I started teaching and I have never looked back.  I have loved every minute of it.

There have been days, weeks, months, & yes, years that I have wondered if what I do is all worth it.  Is the money worth it?  No, I am in charge of 150 students.  I see 90 a day (first block of 30 students every day).  If you do the math I make less than the average babysitter.  Are the hours worth it? Sometimes, I am NOT a morning person so getting up at 5:45 usually becomes 6:00 and PUSHING it out the door.  Are the entitled students worth it?  Man, there are days I wonder how they got to be that way: wanting and demanding everything they say blaming me for their problem of not understanding simple directions, complaining that there is to much work in our class, need I go on?

So, you ask, what prompted this blog post.

I will tell you.

A student, or maybe three students, or maybe even more that that told me I have influenced them in some way, shape, or form. But this one in particular…

We do silent reading in our class.  That means we spend 15-20 minutes of each class reading, self selected text.  (My master’s research was driven by Readicide a book by Kelly Gallagher.) They pick out a book and read.  They do have to complete a book share presentation and write a review for a class book (this gives other students an opportunity to look through colleague testimonials and find a book they want to read) but other than that they just read in class.

He told me, “I hate reading!”

I said, “Let me try to help you?”

He said “OK”

Challenge accepted.

I helped him find a book about a war vet called Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy by Ilrario Pantano. That was his first quarter read. Today he selected his SECOND book for the year.  He is reading Burned by Ellen Hopkins.  He told me today he loves reading poetry.  His friend (who also made the same declaration at the beginning of the year) took him to the library today to get the book.  His friend (who says he has never read a book until he picked up Mob Boss by Jerry Capeci) just started reading Crank by Ellen Hopkins and is already (much to his pleasant surprise 3/4 of the way through) and told this student that Ellen Hopkins is a good author.

These young men hate reading, would never say they liked reading, like reading!

That, my friends, is why I love teaching.  That testimony is worth so much to me.

I am supposed to do this writing thing….

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And I fear I am not very good at it.  I fear all the time others will judge my grammar due to the fact that I teach high school language arts.  I fear that my spelling or diction will not be on point for the critics.  And then I become paralyzed.  I freeze and stop doing what I have always wanted to do every since I was a child: writing.  I allow all that anxiety and fear to overcome me and I DON’T.  It is awful.

I spend all day with students telling them to step out on a limb, to try new things, to risk it all because “they are able”. I, then, come home and ignore all the best advice out there.  I think there is no way I could ever be good enough.  But there is a way.  It is the only way.  The best part is we get to choose, it is not forced upon us.  I’ll come back to that.

I stepped off the track of writing when I was a senior in high school and moved to NOVA.  The guidance counselor at the school told me that journalism was the way to go and that creative writing would be a waste of my time (I now work with the same teacher who , was teaching that course lo those many long years ago).  So I succumbed to her suggestion and took a journalism 1 class as a senior in high school.  I can’t tell you I hated the class.  It was fun there were people I made friends with and I was given an opportunity to write a feature in the 4th quarter.  But I wasn’t interested in writing any more.  I soon fell in love with Chaucer (this goes along with my life long love of all things Shakespeare and Tolkien). I was then off on an adventure of a similar but very different nature.

When I was a child I grew up around people who embraced technology wholeheartedly.  It was never something to be shunned or afraid of.  I remember my dad bringing home our first desktop PC.  I was 12 or 13 (in 7th grade at the time) he was taking some Army classes at Ft. Leavenworth and this was better than a typewriter.  I think we may have been the only people on the block with a computer (but maybe that is my child’s mind).  I remember being one of the only people on my first college campus to have a word processor (those of you who are old enough remember but those who aren’t: they were like laptops but they weren’t, they had 1 inch screens and you had to save your work to a 5 inch floppy disk).  I typed so many papers on that thing!  It was in my mom’s basement as recently as a few years ago.  My kids have since played with it.

I have been surrounded by technology so much of my life.  The biggest thing I remember though is the virtual academic discussions we had when I was in undergrad at GMU in Fairfax, VA.  This was where my writing could actually happen and I would not feel the fear of being judged for my ability.  I felt that in my passion for the content I was comfortable enough to write and write often.  I graduated and didn’t so anything with my BA in English until 2006 when I switched careers.  Shortly after I became a teacher I began pursuing my masters degree.  This course was a shift in pedagogy for me.  I learned to be aware of the students.  I learned that I, as a perpetual student, also needed to be aware of my needs. The other amazing thing this course taught me was that my writing is worth something:  I am a good writer & have good ideas worth discussing.

I have started to work here and there to write more and more.  My emotional side loves writing poetry but I find it easier to write prose.  I know poetry can be easy and fun but I am still afraid of certain judgement in that area.  I feel comfortable with the “journaling” type writing I do.  I feel if I find that one or two people read my work and like it then I am “doing a good job”.  Unfortunately, my writers worth still hinges of what others think.  If it didn’t I wouldn’t put it out on a public website ;).

So I said I would come back to that one thing…being good enough is all in your state of mind.  It is all in how you view yourself.  As a writer you could allow the grammar police to pinch every screed you pen.  That one criticism would be enough to stop you from every writing again.  I know for a long time it kept me from posting things, even of the medias.  Then through slow and fairly constant validation I was able to overcome their criticisms and become my own writer.

Nowadays, when I tell me students what I enjoy these things range from cooking and hanging out with my family to photography and writing.  I want to be a writer.  I want to write.  Do I desire to be Anne McCaffrey, sometimes, in my childhood imaginings of what I could have been but not usually. I am pretty satisfied with being a high school teacher and encouraging students to do what they want and educate themselves.  And while I really enjoy writing I don’t think I could write the sort of work I love to read.  Am I ok with that? Yes, absolutely! I am satisfied with what I write it brings me joy. And as selfish as that sounds, I’m ok with that. But I am still afraid, sometimes.