Seven-year itch

Someday, in the future, when our kind robot overlords benignly grant us this power, I will write these posts in my mind and they will be automatically transcribed to draft posts. Then, at my leisure, I will review and edit, and then publish. No? Not so much? Before you call a milliner and have me fitted for a tin-foil hat, just know a lot of my brain-time has been spent in some sort of virtual landscape. Right now I am (desperately?) trying to target many a clay-pigeon random thought and start to make some concrete choices for the next eight weeks. I do not handle unstructured time well, apparently.

Teaching years are like vacation packages: 7 days, six nights. The two months of summer breaks are so critical for us in this bizarre profession. I feel like you all tried to warn me, caution me, about burn-out, fatigue, national issues, money-at-the-top, and yet I didn’t listen, I ignored, and I hid. I just wanted to teach. So I did.

My brother-in-law is visiting this week, lots of fireworks planned, food, and maybe the kayaks out on our leech-filled lake. He works for Blizzard, a large gaming company, and is off the successful release of Diablo-III. I have dabbled in this computer game a bit, and my older son has been gently nudging me to play, too; high praise indeed coming from this elitist gamer son of mine. My brother’s-in-law wife did not come with him, recently having had back surgery. I asked him yesterday how long they’ve been married, and it’s coming up seven years.

I just realized this morning how stupid that question was: they got married seven years ago in October when I was student teaching, and could not take even one day off to attend. I was working part-time at Starbucks, raising two little boys, making sure my husband got medical insurance coverage for his diabetes (hence the part-time at the Starbucks) and taking 35-credit course load in order to become a teacher. His career at the time was derailed somewhat by the 1990s dot-bomb thing, and was contracting off and on. Things have worked out fine since, but it was our own struggle during a time no one else was noticing. Thinking back, I became a teacher for a few reasons – during one of my lowest points in the crisis of the household–no jobs, no money, almost no car, and damn near losing the house–a phone call came from the cohort secretary asking me if I was still interested in the teaching master’s program. To say it was the beacon of hope, the light, that came into my life and the snatch-from-the-jaws-of-doom moment for my husband and young sons is not being overstated. It saved our lives. And, I have justified the student loans (which are still large, outstanding, and growing) by saying that I could have the same schedule as the boys, and enjoy being a mom, too.

So, seven years.

This will be my seventh year at the same middle school. Being a “mom” was not something that I was successful at, though. I feel like that promise of leaving at the end of my contract day did not materialize until this past year, and this past year was one of the worst ones I have ever had. Previously, I poured my money and soul into my students, time and more time into them and professional development, and then then my National Boards, and ever-changing administration. Since I have been at my school, we have had 1.2.3.4.5 principals, 1.2.3.4.5 vice-principals and educational assistant mixes, and I have moved rooms four times. Because of some surgery I had scheduled right when school was out (which had been extended due to many snow days) I left my belongings in my room boxed up and ready. I am slated to move to a smaller, dirty room with graffiti on the walls, cabinet door peeling, and the Smartboard tucked in the corner, hard to see. I have asked repeatedly to move me to my old room, but to no avail. I know the new principal will be a great leader for our school, and my concerns for my general education inclusion classes must seem very trivial to her. She comes from an award-winning elementary school with many of the teachers who taught both my cohort classes for my master’s and helped guide me, somewhat, at least with encouraging words, through my Boards. She knows her stuff. And if moving to a tiny, dirty room is the price I have to pay, I will make do. I will make do. I will make do. Not the first time I’ve had to dig deep to scrape out the elbow grease and tenacity I seem to have. Even my surgery was a non-issue. Stairs, stitches, and strife–no problem. I am made from some hearty pioneer stock.

My summer road-map of plans include writing, reading, and getting some sun. I want to get structured again, get some things nailed down, because the variables are gaseous bubbles that stink up the thinking place. In other words, I want to bet back to the love and passion I had when I started, in my own honeymoon phase of teaching.

What is one thing, one thing, you do that lights the sparkle of the upcoming school year? How do you all ignore the baloney and waste that is our current state of education? How do you keep on keeping on?

Oh look – the sun’s coming out.