When I was still working as a literacy interventionist in Norwalk, I made a spreadsheet that kept track of my students’ test scores as well as their previous scores and anything else that would be relevant to that. I used spreadsheets as an English teacher as well, as they helped me formulate my ideas and make sure I kept all my plans in line. I also used them to keep track of IEPs and 504s and other important legal documentation. As a teacher, there’s no shortage of important documentation you have to keep on you at all times. The profession has become incredibly stressful in that sense, and you’re always expected to have some deep knowledge of every single person who walks through the door. Just realistically speaking, that’s impossible for one human brain to handle at one time. Fortunately for me, I left teaching before it became too much of a burden on my psyche. I got out before it got me, essentially. Hopefully things stay that way in the future while I look for another job in the meantime.
What I’ve noticed is that a lot of jobs seem to ask for intricate knowledge of spreadsheets and Excel, as well as Microsoft Office. It’s an important skill to have knowledge of if you’re trying to market yourself.
I’m no expert when it comes to manipulating data and spreadsheets, but I’m definitely familiar with them and the software that accompanies them. They’re basically hardwired into my brain as the most efficient way of organizing information in an online software. Being the kind of person who’s a bit disorganized in the head from time to time, it can be nice to have something out there that actually serves to help you, instead of hinder you and the way your brain tends to work.
Lounging around can be really beneficial, if the occasion calls for it and it seems right. I’m not saying that lounging all the time is ideal, because eventually you get tired of it and it drags you down into a pit of misery and depression, but lounging from time to time, when you deserve it, is great. That’s why this vacation so far has been perfect; I get the chance to relax a bit, unwind and set myself loose. I can write, I can play games that I haven’t played in ages, and I can see family. I don’t get to do all of those things so casually all the time, whether it’s because of work or whatever else is going on in my life.
I can learn Japanese in my off time, I can drink coffee whenever I wake up instead of at a designated time in the morning to get myself pumped up and ready for work. I can visit my therapist when the time calls for it rather than at our designated appointment time. I can even write whatever fics I want to, and I have unlimited (well, sort of) time to do it. That’s what makes this season so special to me: the time it affords me that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
I’m having difficulty coming up with blog post ideas for this long week or so off, but I’m trying my best! I don’t want to abandon my 300 words a day habit in 2020, and I’m so glad I was able to keep it going throughout all of this year. It’s made me a better, more self-conscious and deliberate writer. There’s so much more I could talk about too, but at this moment it feels like dragging things along if I do that. Instead, let’s end it here.
Being absent for a day can feel great and rejuvenating. I love the feeling of staying home when there’s supposed to be work, even though I know it might feel bad and unproductive as well. However, being absent on a day that might be extra stressful can fill me with joy. I love the opportunity to sit at home and do nothing, as it can be incredibly rejuvenating and helpful to my mental health. There’s nothing wrong with taking time for yourself, and I feel like there’s always room for more.
I mention all this because, as I write this, one of the co-teachers for R&P is absent today, and I have to teach his class at the end of the day. I’m fine doing that, but it’s the other side of absences; when someone is out, another person has to fill that space or spot. It’s not enough to just expect a completely calm day when you’re absent. Things on the other side are difficult for the people who require you to be there. Being absent means someone else has to fill the void, and even though you’re having fun staying home, not everyone has the same luxury afforded to them when they’re free for the day. Some people have kids and have to take care of them, or they only are able to take sick days when their kids are sick. I know a few teachers who save their personal time specifically so they can take care of their kids, for example, and I can’t imagine having to do that. Like it makes sense, of course, but on the same token, I feel like I need that time for myself, too. What would I do without it?
That’s all for absences today. Hopefully this all makes sense and doesn’t just come off as me rambling about how much I love not being at work. Sometimes it’s really a mixture of everything, and I just need to relax.
This blog post will go up on Wednesday I think, but I’m writing it on Sunday from the perspective of someone who’s reflecting on a crazy, ridiculous week into the future. A week that’s going to test me and make me stressed out, undoubtedly, but will hopefully give me the chance to reflect on my current job and my happiness there. For that, I’m grateful for the opportunity and hopeful that the future will benefit things further. I just need to push through this week and then hopefully things will be better on the other side!
So, here’s the deal. On Monday, also known as tomorrow for me but two days in the past when this goes up, I’ll be substituting for math the whole day because both the math teacher and math title 1 assistant have personal days planned for that day. What that means is that they needed to pull another assistant from the same building into math to help the regular math assistant teach the class as normal. I just hope he knows everything and understands the rules and all that so I can help him out, rather than having to lead everything myself. Usually when this sort of pairing up happens, one assistant takes the lead and the other naturally takes the assistant role again. When I’m working in Research & Portfolio for example, I tend to submit into the assistant role until Sean is out, and then I tend to take over the teacher role because I’m in all the R&P classes and know it a bit better than the others. That’s one of the natures of this job. It can be frustrating and weird sometimes, but it is what it is and I’m grateful in some ways that I’m being paid at all these days.
Finding a new job can be difficult. First of all, you need to start assessing what you expect from a new job, the kind of atmosphere you want to have there. You have to think of what questions to ask during an interview, and how to handle yourself throughout that process. In terms of long-term jobs, the longest I’ve worked in one place was when I was a high school teacher, because that lasted over a year. But I didn’t enjoy myself there, for many reasons discussed previously in this blog. I’ve also talked about how to ask pertinent questions during the interview process to make sure you get what you want afterwards. It’s a difficult, complicated process, but nothing comes easy in the job hunt.
It might come as a surprise to some people that I’m looking for a new job, but to me, it’s about that time. I feel exhausted doing the same thing every day, and even though my job is mostly fine, I’m starting to realize the hypocrisies and oxymorons that govern what we do. I also feel bad about not having a union, insurance, or a contract of my own, but still being manipulated and exploited regardless of that status. I feel bad about being treated like someone less than a teacher by teachers, because they have agendas to fulfill and aren’t willing to lower themselves down from their pedestals even a little bit. Imagine having a full-time (well, technically part-time) assistant with you 24/7 to make copies and enforce discipline in your class with you? Imagine not having to come up with plans because everything’s already been planned for you? Imagine being that kind of a teacher, and then still thinking you have the right to look down on other assistants. It’s maddening and, more than anything, it makes me want to leave. I don’t need to be here.
Returning to school after a long summer vacation has always been cause for anxiety. It’s the start of a new school year, but it’s also the start of a new, much longer routine system to resume. Over the summer, I develop new, more free habits and routines, related to sleeping, daily time spending, and clothing. I’m not always dressed in business casual at home, I get to spend time doing whatever I want, and I can wake up at a more reasonable hour. These differences are crucial, making the summer vacation truly memorable and worth celebrating.
Being someone whose whole life has been centered around the American school schedule, it’s hard to break the chains of tradition. I’m inexplicably tied to the school routines I had as a child. Wake up early in the morning, go to a high-stakes place of learning for some hours, then return home late in the afternoon and do it all again the next day, barring weekends. Octobers and Marches are long months without as many days off, and June is the fastest month by far. You learn to cherish December, for its long vacation in the middle of the year, as well as the holidays, of course. But you are forever tied to these feelings and traditions of how the year progresses. Normal adults, who don’t work in the school system, like Alex, work year-round and have vacation time on their own terms, and things like that. They don’t have the luxury of a summer break, but they’re also not still tied as adults to the summer’s joyful freedom as they were as kids. In some ways, I envy them. When I was unemployed in 2018, it felt like I was still reliving the school schedule, even through November and December. It was impossible to escape.
Nothing like a retirement party to get the staff feeling nostalgic and reminiscing about better, simpler times. Before students had cell phones and attitudes and their parents held them accountable with higher standards for behavior at home. They taught them manners, respect, and discipline. Those days, according to the teachers, have long passed, and have been replaced with an era of entitlement. How dare students have the gall to talk back, to be so blatantly and egregiously disrespectful? Everything is connected, in their eyes; the millennial generation, the so-called free speech crisis on college campuses, avocado toast and the betrayal of traditional American values.
When I say that this is according to the teachers, I don’t mean the teachers I work with personally. I mean teachers as a general population. I’ve known enough teachers over the years to know what their general moods and attitudes are towards social change. Just as an electrician or a construction worker feels a sense of kinship with the spirit of their profession, so too do teachers.
It just so happens that the conversation came up, as it tends to come up, while at a retirement party for a veteran teacher. Are kids these days just worse than usual? Is it their parents to blame? What’s it going to be like when they’ve matured into adults? What if they don’t mature at all? Is this the generation we want running our country in a decade or two? It’s inevitable, you know. Sometime down the line, this generation will be in charge of things, just like how the other generations had their turn at the steering wheel. Are you afraid of that? I wouldn’t be. My generation is known for so many negative reasons, but in reality, they’re one of the only generations still trying to fix things, it seems. Hopefully.
You wake up. Not to an alarm, but to the natural calmness of morning. You yawn, open your eyes, and look at the alarm clock.
Something’s not right.
The calmness dissipates. You are reminded that it is a Monday, that you are to go to work today, and that it is currently 10am. You normally go in to work at 8:45am, and yet nothing woke you up at your usual time. You start to freak out; how did this happen? Will I be fired? Can I still call out? Is this the end? Nothing makes sense in your head. How did you sleep through your loud, terrible alarm clock at 7:15am? How did you sleep through the endless phone notifications Alex sent you when she realized you weren’t answering her morning texts like usual? How did you sleep through her phone calls and more? How did any of this happen?
You roll out of bed quickly, put your clothes on, text one of your coworkers, and rush to the door as fast as possible. It’s time to go to work, even if it’s a bit later than usual.
Self-reflection is helpful, but it also helps more to change patterns of behavior to prevent these instances from happening again. That’s what writing is all about; it helps me internalize my thoughts about this moment, while hopefully helping me find a way to do this better and differently.
One such change I can make is to turn my phone volume on all the time. I usually don’t have it on, because when I get texts, the last thing I want is a verbal reminder to answer it. I feel completely fine answering it at my own pace. But vibrations and sounds are the new norm, for now at least. It’s necessary to prevent me from getting in trouble again!
By the end of the school year, things start to wind down. Students feel less motivated, senioritis kicks in, and teachers await the allure of the long, restful summer break to come. Students and teachers alike begin to count down the days until vacation arrives. I used to have a countdown in my classroom, that the students would help me keep track of as the days went by. It was helpful and I appreciated it.
The end of the year is always the same, but the signals are different depending on what school you work at. At this school, after SBAC testing finishes, people start to wait until summer break comes. At the school I worked at previously, April break was the signal that got people thinking about summer break. For teachers, their last professional observation perhaps takes precedence over the other factors, knowing that they no longer have to worry about an administrator stopping in to evaluate their work. For that reason, I always liked getting my evaluations taken care of and finished early, without having to worry about anything else on the horizon.
As soon as students get their yearbooks, the year is officially over for them (although, for seniors, apparently, winter break is the end of the year for them). They’ll start bringing them to class and requesting elaborate notes and signatures from students and teachers across the hall. It’s one of my favorite parts of the year, writing signatures for students who request one from me. I love feeling appreciated, even in such a small way.
The end of the year is the perfect time to start reflecting on the year that passed. Many of my peers have officially finished their second full year teaching, whereas I’m in the middle of something else for myself. I’m just glad to have my head above water.
A bit late to be discussing New Year’s Resolutions, isn’t it? But alas, here we go.
This year, I decided I wanted to go to the gym more frequently. Instead of doing my usual, sporadic gym appearances, I wanted to keep a consistent track record of exercising. I would write my times on the calendar and add up the minutes I’d worked out each month. I would work out for at least 30-35 minutes each time, and I would go to the gym at least 3-4 days a week. So far, since January, I’ve achieved my basic goal of at least 3 days a week, though hopefully throughout the year I’ll get better at reaching 4. It’s a work-in-progress, for sure.
Writing my times on the calendar has actually motivated me quite a lot. I like seeing the red ink mark each calendar day, and I like being able to visualize how well I’m doing each week. I also like seeing how past weeks went, as a way of motivating me to try harder or push myself more in the coming weeks. Though I’m by no means a gym fiend at this point, I’ve found myself liking my gym trips more and more since January started. I’ve made it four months without breaking the streak, so I should be able to keep things steady through December! Here’s hoping things work out.
It also helps that I’m really close to the gym. Being practically adjacent to the gym is one of the best parts about living in apartment 601, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I attribute my willingness to go to the gym partially to the fact that it’s so damn close to us, so I can’t make up as many excuses! If the gym was a drive or so away, I would be less motivated.