Day 325

In another 40 days, it’ll be a year since I physically left work. Mentally, it’s been drifting away, but not as much as I had hoped. 

Recently Dana has started the habit of unplugging at 9pm in order to wind down, and I think that is a brilliant idea. Those last checks of e-mail and social media can kick up a storm of unnecessary thoughts and ire. I wonder if the divisiveness present in our society today can be somewhat attributed to the constant interaction with the outside world without leaving enough time for self reflection and prepping to be polite, mannerly, and prepared to be tactfully persuasive the following day. 

That’s not important, and since I perceive that Dana is the only person that reads my musings posted here, suffice it to say, “I am profoundly proud of you for striving to unplug!” 

That is all a prelude to tonight’s thought storm raging in my head. Since we’re away for an educational workshop Dana is attending (which, had I still be working I would have been thrilled to be at myself), Dana didn’t unplug at 9pm tonight since she got back to the hotel room around 10pm. And, there’s a big hullabaloo erupting within an Association I am no longer a part of since I’m no longer working, but Dana still belongs to. 

I’m trying to think of the situation as not affecting me because I no longer have any skin in the game. But, that’s not wholly true. I’m married to someone that does, and the issue at hand is one of the factors that caused me to leave teaching when I did. 

She filled me in on the most recent interactions occurring on social media. And, although I removed myself from membership of those pages because it would provide stress I no longer need to expose myself to, I want to respond. I want to put my perspective out there because it’s Side A vs. Side B with Faction C trying to bridge the divide while Wallflowers D quietly determine which Side is being the most ridiculous and Majority E is only aware that “something is going on.” 

This time next year the people in A, B, C, D, E will shift around in the great game of political musical chairs and today’s leadership will be tomorrow’s pariahs while today’s pariahs will be tomorrow’s onlookers. And the cycle will repeat. 

As I think about what exactly I would say if I were to respond, I’m at a loss. It’s a game of King of the Hill where someone is always going to feel righteous, and someone is always going to feel defeated. And someone is always going to be glad that they got to play, and someone is going to think the game is a stupid way to spend recess. And someone is going to feel left out, and someone will do something that others think is unfair. And a fight will ensue. 

But this isn’t a game. I mean, it is, but is one that has a bigger impact than just bragging rights for controlling the hill. 

But, what can be said to those playing that game, and believe that this particular game is the only way to pass the time during recess? 

This is why, when I was younger, I often spent recess sitting peacefully by myself. I mean, sitting in class was hard enough, why on Earth would I want to spend my free time fighting other kids about how to fairly knock each other down? 

Usually some others would join me, and we had a decent time not beating each other up. 

I removed myself from that Association’s online group in order to prevent myself from responding in a situation exactly like this, but I’m also finding it difficult to not respond outside of my own thoughts. So here I have this blog: a place to respond and not respond at the same time. 

And here’s what I have to say about it: screw responding about Sides and Factions and Wallflowers and Bridge Builders here’s my issue… 

Block scheduling… 

No. 

Not block scheduling.

Its about workload. 

Something I learned about myself in the past three years that I always knew, but couldn’t sufficiently articulate is that I am introverted. That doesn’t mean I’m shy or anti-social. It means that I can get over stimulated easily. It means interacting with others takes energy, whereas extroverts draw energy from interactions. It means that my brain processes things in a roundabout way from the birth of the thought to actually uttering it. Extroverts’ thoughts just kind of erupt from their mouths unfiltered. (Curiously, I ramble when I write, but not so much when I speak. But, that’s probably because I can edit as I go, and no one is interrupting my thought before I’m able to fully and sufficiently express it to completion. And, in the cases where I want to make my viewpoint known, I can edit out extraneous ramblings, like I would with this one.) 

Yes. All of this is necessary to respond as I want to respond, and I understand that very few people that aren’t very close to me have the time or interest to digest this response. But I’m posting it here where I’m not forcing my bandwidth on anyone that’s going to form opinion about my perspective solely based on seeing my name, or think tl;dr, which I have learned is the current Internet slang for “too long, didn’t read. Apparently that’s also justification for expressing an opinion without actually engaging in discussion. 

I wish I could attribute the author of this quote: Listen to understand. Don’t listen to respond. 

I also heard somewhere that most teachers are introverted. I have no idea if that’s true or not. The argument for why that could be the case makes sense to me, but my experience also identifies many, many teachers that are obviously extroverted. And, apparently 75% of the population is extroverted compared the 25% introverted. Still more, there are degrees of a scale a person might identify with — kind of like gender, I suppose. 

Likewise, just as it’s impossible for a male to completely understand what it’s like to be female or woman to understand what an erection feels like, it’s impossible for introverts to be aware of how extroverts live or extroverts to understand the severe angst hearing “get into groups” with unknown people feels like. 

Somehow I really lucked out my first… oh… thirteen or fourteen years of teaching. I had three academic classes, usually two advanced Junior English and one regular Junior English in the morning and two Newspaper classes in the afternoon. 

The blessing was that much of the Newspaper classes would be students I had year after year since it was an elective. Some students I had from their freshman year until their senior year. I was involved with one family for twelve years as a freshman sibling would start as her senior sister graduated. Furthermore, those classes were self-directed, or, I should say, I let them evolve into self-directed classes, where I didn’t get up on stage everyday to entertain the whole group. I got to know small groups each year a little more and spend most of my time each year with the senior group of students that I knew the best. Plus, I would recruit students I liked hanging out with from my Junior English classes for Newspaper their senior year. 

Ultimately, my afternoons allowed my introvert self, if not recharge, to at least not drain me. 

That left me with ample time to store up energy to tackle the interactions with the 70 or so students I interacted with from around 7am to 11am depending on whether or not I was able to teach periods 1, 2, 3 or 1, 2, 4 based on classroom availability. 

A couple of years I opted or was politely encouraged to take an overload class for an additional 20% pay. Hell yeah, the pay was nice… in fact, ultimately necessary to dig myself out of debt and not be financially paralyzed from a divorce, but this was also before I was able to articulate what being an introvert meant. 

Honestly, those overload years were brutal, and I would have to balance my mental health vs. a 20% pay boost each year I did so. 

Now, keep this in mind: although I was technically teaching six classes, two of them were a breeze due to not really having to expend much energy interacting with them. So, even with an overload those years, which sapped every drop of energy I had to the point of near insanity come April, I was really only fully engaged with one less class than the five classes per day that full-time teachers were scheduled for. 

The last two years I taught were part time, and I’m having a hard time remembering the third to last year: whether or not I still had Newspaper or not. More specifically if I ever had a course load of five academic classes without that Newspaper breather. I know my second to last year began with that intention, but a month into the school year, I decided I couldn’t handle it with the other crap I was dealing with, so I went part-time… once again teaching four academic classes, but this time for a total of 80% of my pay. Even then, I was wiped, but since other factors were involved, it’s impossible to guess how much can be attributed to workload. 

Now, block scheduling came up a few years back. I think sometime between 2003 and 2006. Kenosha had switched to block scheduling a few years before, and, from my father, what I knew about it was it effectively had teachers teaching an additional class. 

Setting aside the politics, effectiveness, research, cost analysis, and all that nitty-gritty, obviously I’m going to be concerned with, how does this affect me? 

Without getting into the debate about the merits or deficiencies of block scheduling, what it meant for me personally was that it was going to add an additional 25-35 students and potentially their parents to my workload, on top of more daily contact time. 

I get it. Extroverts are thinking, so what? No big deal. Listen, you just don’t get it. 

It’s not about the extra work. Well, it is that too; but, for me it was about those additional interactions and the extra time I would have my energy drained away: contributing to less patience, more irritability, more stimulus, and less time to time to process it, which causes more impulsive reactions leading to stress causing incidents. Day after day after day. 

Had I begun teaching in a district with block scheduling, or, hell, even just taught five academic classes at the school I did teach at, I honestly don’t know if I would have lasted. Of course I don’t mean that I would have died, but my first marriage may have collapsed sooner.  I may have suffered a case of clinical depression like my father did when he was 41. I may have made the administrative shit list for snapping inappropriately at a student. I may have self-destructed in some other way. 

An obvious rebuttal to all of that is, “Well then, you shouldn’t be a teacher.” Yeah, no shit. That’s why I quit when block scheduling became a certainty. Be glad I’m self aware enough to piece all of that together and circumstances allowed me to. 

But you know what? I’m pretty sure I was a good teacher. I’ve got enough evidence in the form of letters, thank yous, and life-long relationships to surely say I had every right to pursue a career in education. 

To make matters worse, that 20% extra pay the district offered to take on the additional workload? Gone. Just gone. 

You start a job. The job requirement says you have to be able to lift 50lbs repeatedly for 6 hours a day. You say, I can do that. It’s a strain. And that’s okay. The job also says, we’ll pay you more if you lift 60lbs repeatedly for six hours. Yeah, okay, it’s hard and you need to rest a bit longer afterward, but that’s the tradeoff for extra compensation. 

Some people are going to think that through and say, “Pffft. I can do that without breaking a sweat.” Some people are going to think the analogy doesn’t work because physical exertion isn’t the same thing as mental and emotional exertion. Some people will righteously point out that the repeated lifting will build muscle and make the lifting easier. 

Whatever.

After sixteen years, the boss says, you’re now going to repeatedly lift 60 pounds for the same pay. 

Call it increasing productivity. Call it administrative right. Call it changing economic conditions. 

Is it fair? Is it right? 

Yeah, it’s the “real world,” which apparently means a world where people get shit on, and if they don’t like it, it’s their own fault. 

I genuinely can not understand how almost all of my former colleagues, knowing that the Employee Handbook clearly says a teacher will not have more than a maximum of five instructional periods did not force a resolution to the conflict between that language and the current work requirements. 

It doesn’t matter whether or not there is a minimal chance of “winning.” Why fight for Section 13 of the Handbook if you’re not going to fight for fidelity of the language in the handbook? Why bother having a handbook at all? 

You have accepted a greater workload with no additional compensation. Compensation for work provided. That is such a basic and fundamental aspect of the labor movement that if you don’t fight for that, you might as well just tear up the rest of the handbook, and cease to exist as an Association because the only thing the Association is willing to do well is provide another arena to play King of the Hill in. 

Seriously. Work/Compensation. If you don’t draw the line there first and foremost, what is the point? 

Maybe I’m just pissy because I struggled lifting 50 pounds. I could lift 30 pounds pretty easily. I could even throw in some extra flair and do it with pizzazz. Maybe anyone could do that. Maybe. Maybe I’m just so incapable of living in the shitty “real world” that I should just stick my head in the oven. 

(maybe it’s time to take my anti-depressants.) 

What I do know is that it is beyond my comprehension how an organization that’s primary reason for existence is to represent the best interest of teachers would ignore and accept such a glaring conflict between language in an Employee Handbook and actual practice. 

Oh yeah, so what would my response be to that thread? I still don’t really know. Something along the lines of… 

You know what? Fuck it. I’m going to go back to sitting peacefully in the playground corner enjoying the rest of my recess while the rest of y’all fight about how to fairly push each other off the hill. The game makes no sense to me. I got mine, and in this shitty real world, I guess that’s all that matters. 

3:41am

P.S. Sweetie, it would be best to send all the documents as soon as you think about it. 

Day 303

Have I mentioned that for the first time in a long time, I’m anxious for it to start getting nicer out… because I want to spend time outside? That’s weird for me. 

I seem to have been overly tired recently. I’m worried that it’s because I’m not feeling pressure to get anything in particular done. And, even though I’m not anticipating Spring Break or the end of the school year, I’m still somewhat in sync that those things mean some nature of change. 

I’m starting to get curious about my reactions to the start of the 2017-2018 school year. That will mark a full year of not distinguishing between a school day and a non-school day, between a weekday and a weekend, between night and day. It will also mark the end of the beginning of a hopefully long journey of that routine. 

The past couple of weeks I’ve been in a routine of painting minis, experimenting with the kiln, crocheting, practicing the banjo, getting caught up with Star Wars universe non-film stories, struggling to get into an exercise routine, and brewing kombucha. I also got my taxes done, which wasn’t a thrilling task. 

National politics are irking me. As is the ongoing mess of RUSD as it applies to Dana. 

I think right now I’m just adjusting to having lived a life “waiting” for the next step (graduation, Spring Break, summer, retirement) to sitting at the finish line much earlier than expected and not knowing how to frame my day-to-day outlook. 

It’s an awfully big change from beginning nearly every task with, “Now, I have to…,” to “Um, I guess I can….” I just feel like I’ve fallen into the trap I hoped to avoid, and that trap is saying to myself, “I can nap” a bit more than seems right. 

But, I don’t really know if I’m sleeping more than I should be. That’s the problem with not having accomplished tasks recognized by some external source. “Are the essays graded yet?” “Did you get your grades done?” Those things get checked off as accomplished, and there’s an acknowledgement that I’ve done what’s expected of me. 

Now…? That which I accomplish is primarily only recognized by me. I am absolutely okay with that. Grateful, in fact. The problem is only that since I don’t have an external opinion of “task accomplished,” I’m not feeling a sense of completion. And, now I have a bunch of tasks “in progress” with no clear points of starts and finishes, which leaves me feeling like I’m not really accomplishing anything at all. 

… and so what? 

9:52pm