It’s been nearly a month since I’ve written an update and that’s due to two things (1) having a ton of schoolwork and (2) having met a new guy who I’ve chosen to spend a good portion of my free time with. While the latter has helped me factor into my life some emotional levels of happiness, I’m still coping with massive levels of anxiety from school. It’s nearly March and I still wouldn’t consider myself in a very good place.
A simple sign of this is that I haven’t written in nearly a month. As a writer, I often find myself bundling up thoughts into a long list until I have the time to write them out or am about to explode because there are so many things I want to say. I think the explosion should have happened 10 days ago (as you’ll see from the length of this post and the others to hopefully come by days end), yet I still didn’t write to fix it. So, on this Wednesday, due to a head cold, sore throat and daily misery about going to work, I decided to take both a sick day and mental health day in one. It’s not even noon and I plan on spending the next two hours unwinding in front of this computer and trying to go through my list of stories, ideas and the whatnot that I’ve noted in the past few weeks and that need to get out of my head.
Overacrching to everything going on in my classroom, in my musings on music and in my life is my confusion/disdain/fear of doing year 2. At this point in time I could not be more unsure of whether I will continue teaching next year for several reasons:
(1) In the last two weeks I have found myself waking up half an hour before my alarm goes off with panic attack feelings about all that I need to do in my classroom. I go to sleep just fine, but I wake up in a zany place and I can’t get back to bed or do anything besides have a mental freak out. Obviously, this is no way to live and the solution is for me to calm down, but no matter what I’ve tried, I can’t bring myself back to a place of peace. The thought of repeating this process for the rest of the year, let alone next year does not sound enjoyable.
(2) In the Bay Area region, people get assigned to three main areas: San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. I am placed in San Jose, which inconveniently is the furthest locale from San Francisco––about an hour drive each way, public transportation N/A. In my ideal world, I’d be living in San Francisco right now, however living there isn’t really realistic. But, my colleagues and TFA friends in San Jose are in talks to make it a bit realistic by at least moving to Oakland next year. While I am totally down with doing so, I don’t really have the people to do it with. I’ve made a handful of friends, but none of them are those close friends that you need to have a certain relationship with to be ready to spend a year in the same home environment. So the lack of having close friends in proximity and the frustration with whatever living situation I choose next year––stay in San Jose and be far from the city I want to live in OR move closer to the city and deal with a realllyyyyyy long commute every day, are feeling like complete losses right now.
(3) With each and every day it’s becoming apparent that I probably shouldn’t be teaching because I just love the arts too much. TV, movies, podcasts, literature… you name it and I will spend time loving (or passionately hating) it. I’ve known this all my life, but I’ve also always had an attitude that I’m-just-not-good-enough-to-partake. I’m too nervous to ever write screenplays, put together more than 800 words for an article, pump out music blog posts on my own site, etc. I know all of the parts that make someone a success in the arts world, yet I have chosen to let those pieces go unfulfilled when it comes to me.
Instead, when college ended and it was finally the time for me to pursue music journalism legitimately, I went the TFA route. Now that I’m in the classroom, I get jealous at the mention of any of my peers who are successful in the blogosphere, I’m still not 100% ready to take a step back from my second year of teaching, but I know it will make me 100% happier to pursue my arts passions (And don’t even get me started on how most California students, including my own, have no arts education).
So on one hand, I have my commitment to TFA, the time I have put into becoming a decent teacher, the personal pride I will earn for having accomplished my commitment, and my fear that I’ll fail in the arts world keeping me in the classroom.
On the other hand I have all the opportunities in the world to take to become the employee I want to be: Music journalist? Venue manager? Year round festival production staffer? Tour manager? Besides music journalist, I’m not quite sure how I can fall into the hands of any of these other positions. Losing that safety net of a respectable, if not prestigious, job in my classroom is guiding me away from the leap into unemployment to try to secure an arts job. But if I could just take the time to figure out the route to one of these dreamy jobs, I’d. be. So. Much. Happier. This internal debate drives me crazy… every day.
So, I think I’ve almost reached the point where I’ll put my fear of pursing and failing in the arts world aside in order to seek new employment. I’m getting closer and closer to saying this is my first and last year in the classroom and preparing to jump into the joblessness pool, to proving my worth to a zillion executives until someone deems me worthy and working my ass off for something that makes ME happy. So, if you know anyone who works for a Bay Area venue, or newspaper or entertainment blog or production company who could use someone with skills that include Cornell Daily Sun 2009-2010 Arts Writer of the Year and kindergarten math extraordinaire… now would be a great time to tell me their names
However, I must acknowledge that I only said, “almost reached the point”, because I’m still not positive that in a year from now I won’t be a teacher. I’m just positive that I’m very strongly considering early retirement now more than ever.
(4) I’ve complained time and again about impossible students, gushed over the adorably intelligent ones and over this school year I’ve been (eek) lucky to lose a few (please don’t hurt me for saying ‘lucky’). Due to pregnant moms and immature behavior and moving to a new neighborhood, some of my most challenging or most participatory students have left my classroom and I wasn’t all that sad to see them go. I don’t think I care about my students the way a great teacher should. Don’t get me wrong––I put on a lovely façade every day at school––but inside I don’t vehemently care about my kiddos the way I care about listening to every “This American Life” podcast. Things like this tell me I should probably not be a teacher (or at least a Rocketship teacher).
(5) But there are small moments––very, very, very, very small in the grand scheme of all that I have done––that make me think “Hey! Maybe this is what I should be doing?!”
The first was my discovery of the website abcya.com. Holy kindergarten math learning this site INCREDIBLE. It’s everything in my curriculum and the little ones can play it online. Yes that all-caps shows my excitement for discovering a kindergarten website. And thank you to person on the TFA pre-k/k content community who mentioned it. I don’t know you, but I LOVE YOU.
The second occurred when I was teaching my students how to strategically fill out a hundreds chart. One of my highest students, G, sits next to the lowest student in the grade, J. I went to help J and G was watching. First I had J write 1, then 2, then 3, then his numbers turned into squiggles. However, he was trying and that was good enough for me and I was positively reinforcing his hard work by saying, “Good job! Keep going!” Now, G is sitting there with her chart almost perfectly complete and she’s watching me tell J, “Good Job!” even though he’s writing squiggles. Her eyes look at her perfect paper, look at J’s paper full of squiggles that I said looks greats, then look at me. She repeats this a few times, her expression is utterly confused that what she’s been writing as 4s, 5s, 6s and so on are all wrong. It. was. Precious.
The third occurred after school on Valentine’s Day. Our grade did a movie screening of “Wall-E” and during the movie one of my students was being mischievous, so I had him sit on my lap to stop disrupting the other kids from watching. After 15 or so minutes, he tried to get up and I pulled him back asking, “Where are you going, mister?” He replied, “I need to fart.” Up he went and he walked over to the corner of the room, stood there for a second and returned. He hopped back on my lap and said, “I farted once” and continued to watch the movie.––Disgustingly gracious.
So 5 long points later you can see, there have been a few ups, and many, many downs. What’s Ms. Fields to do?
p.s. to top it all off, whilst thinking of a good title, I came across this on Gakwer. Hence the title.