1. Not having enough time. This, I acknowledge, is a bullshit-type excuse. Sometimes on the weekends I find myself lying leisurely on the floor, staring at the ceiling. I'll roll to the side and my eye might catch my wooden memento box so I'll investigate old letters, poems, cut-outs from my college alumni bulletin etc. I usually find something entertaining or awkward and call my mom to share. While I'm on the phone I might notice the dust that has accumulated on my (old roommate's) TV, or my $35 IKEA desk, so then I clean. I tend to my plants. I vacuum. I do laundry. At the end of a perfectly "free" Saturday my most productive feat is generally some inane household task or a trip to the gym.
2. Feeling a perpetual need to do work. When I was writing my (yet unpublished, so secretly non-existant) book, writing was my "job" so I made it a priority. Now it's just a luxury that I afford myself after my lessons are written, my papers are graded and my students' parents are contacted. I put writing beneath several activities on my personal priority scale: the gym, clean clothes, bills, teacher work, etc. I've come to realize, though, that I will never do enough work to satisfy my job requirements (or my department head) - my lesson could always be a little better, a few more parents could definitely be contacted and the pile of papers really should diminish on a daily (weekly?) basis. That said, I should include writing into my personal job description/priority list. But I don't.
3. A general lack of inspiration. I do not like my job lately. All the beautiful things that happen on a daily basis (and yes, they really do happen!) are shrouded by other bigger and uglier things. Since this blog is not anonymous, I shouldn't elaborate, but since I'm sort of seething, here goes:
- My job, though definitely better than being dragged across hot coals face first, is no longer preferable to Chinese water torture. And while never formally enduring either, I doubt that statement contains much hyperbole. I no longer trust anyone I work for, and while I used to shrug of administrative incompetency and focus strictly on my students, the former is starting to greatly interfere with the latter. Let me elaborate:
- I was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan because I taught my United States History students about the genocide occurring in Darfur, Sudan. This led to a highly awkward meeting between my department head, other administrators, my union representative and myself. I was forced to sign a paper acknowledging my own incompetence and inability to adhere with Maryland's "core learning goals." That my students kept pace with the other US History classes was ostensibly ignored. A lot of things were ignored, actually: their midterm grades, the quality of their Darfur essays (in many cases the ONLY writing assignment a few of my students have ever turned in), or their genuine motivation in an educational activity I still characterize as both authentic, relevant and important.
- During my scandalous teaching of the first genocide of the 21st century, my students produced posters geared to educate the school and the community. The posters were the greatest things I've ever seen in my 6 years as an educator - graphic and accurate yet hauntingly appealing to the eye. Other teachers came into my room praising my students. One teacher was even crying because what the posters represented is so gruesome and real, and our government is so paralyzed and incompetent and self-involved to do anything about it. Don't get me started. A week or so after I painstakingly hung the posters in the hall, I came into my classroom to find approximately 25 posters in a giant pile on my desk. It made me want to do something rash and loud and violent. It made me want to cry. It made me want to eat my shoes. My students were incensed - especially since the packing tape had stuck the posters to each other (and to the mouse poop on my desk) and their work was - for all intents and purposes - destroyed. I waited until my diaphragm allowed air to properly enter my lungs, and casually rolled myself into my vice principal's office. There, I used my sweetest, fakest voice to ask, "Who took my kids' posters down and why?" The answer? "Ms. Hooks, you are simply NOT allowed to tape things up in the hall. It removes paint... [blah, blah, blah]" I was still violent, but, as ridiculous as her reason sounded at the time, I believed her. I reassured my students that their posters could be rectified and that the tape was ruining the (lack of) aesthetics in the hall and tried my best to forget anything had ever happened.
- Which became increasingly difficult last week when a different (tenured) teacher in our school approached me about the genocide in Darfur and asked me help her launch a miniature Save Darfur campaign inside our International Baccalaureate school. As I volunteered to be the 1st floor's representative, this teacher had students hang posters outside of my classroom. (Right next to the Student Government Association's campaign posters and adjacent to the AP/IB testing schedule.) In case you were wondering, the posters are currently taped to the wall.
- I was written up for allowing a student to "race down the hall in my wheelchair during the instructional day." This is, I must point out, an egregious lie. Especially she is a self-proclaimed documentation specialist, and the date she cited was a day when I was sick. God bless my journal.
Time out. More soon...