Back to the Work

When I posted the Work, I didn’t mean to come across as complaining and I wasn’t really in a bad place.  I was attempting to express what that one moment was screaming at me. I was just tired of feeling like I am trapped on the giant cosmic hamster wheel of tedium.

Things never seeming to get better. Just one day after another and no visible end in sight to the dilemmas and conundrums.

Things undone and needing to attention. Things that need to be seen.

Sometimes I don’t feel like I am being seen.  Like my problems and issues are too mundane. Too first world to count.

I know I am lucky. I know that I have been blessed with more than two decades of continuous employment. I have been everything from a model to a legal secretary.  Since 2006, I have been a teacher.

It was my dream job.  The dream that I let myself have.

The one that was acceptable.  Honorable.

But for the last thirty years of my life, there has been another dream.  The writing dream.

Many of us have it.  Many of us give it up to find things that pay the bills. Dreams are pretty good at not paying the bills.

Life shouldn’t just be about paying bills. It should be about living. It is easy to get caught up in the things that we do to make the money to live.  It is even understandable.  The electric company won’t take a free copy of my last book as payment for next months electricity.

Paying the bills is a necessity.  But, the life you choose to live doesn’t have to all the bells and whistles.  It just has to have the ones that matter to you.  Not to everyone will understand.

And they don’t need to do .

You just have to get to the work that makes you happy.  That work that feeds more than the bills.

 

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The Good with the Bad

The day began with insomnia

drifted into lateness

and fell into despair

One found dead, the news feed reads

the reaper’s  prize

at last

sorrows grips friends

still other silent cheer the end of the road

two kids in a doctor’s office sick with the flu

 

two strangers cling to life

victims of happenstance

attended by the best

No news is good news or so the fellows say

No news is bad news worries the friends

beloved ones

Victory arrives late

lesson learned, acceptance obtained

a child born

new shoes,  credit extended ,

then end of an abusive relationship

 

No clever words need

or cliques expressed

Just another day

the good with the bad

the bad with good

perspective the only means of definition

 

 

Manic Mondays or Why I am Leaving….

Lately all my days are have been intensely crazy as I try and navigate from the life I have to the life I want. A life where there is more time to write and enjoy with my family and friends. So after eight years in the classroom, I have decided to leave.  It isn’t that I don’t love teaching or my students. I love my profession and my students have keep me going day after day through the stress of being a teacher in the era of Common Core and accountability. It has kept me going through the politics that invaded my school.

Still after much thought, I have come to the conclusion that I am burnt out.

I am fried beyond belief. I can’t do it anymore and be effective in the classroom.  My days as a teacher have never ended at 3:31 in the afternoon, but this year they don’t end on Friday and the weeks of preparing and working through the weekends. Even my “breaks” have been filled with either on lesson plans or other school related projects or working a second and third jobs. It has been exhausting. Financially, I am doing better.  I am at least gripping solid ground. But, mentally, I am so exhausted that I find myself dragging every day.

I know I am burnt out on the constant pile of work and never ending feeling like I am not doing my job right.

So what to do.

Find a new job or position in education.

Yes, teaching is a calling, but after eight years in the classroom. I am tired of being dumped on. Tired of being praised for my work on one hand, but criticized for how well I am juggling everything.  Observations are dog and pony shows where you trot out what the administrator wants to see and hope they like you and don’t have something to prove. I once got a low score because I didn’t say “this is important” during a lesson on critical thinking.  Another time, I was criticized for misspelling something even though I turned it into a teaching moment for my students. Friends have been given needs improvement scores even when their students aced the state tests.

The quest for data on everything has been particular hard on me. There is no time to really teach my students. No time to teach them to love my English or learning. Just time to go from one test to the next or in my case one meeting to another.

And this year, I was tossed backwards in a fight. This year, I woke up in the middle of the night by a panic attack after dreaming about school. I don’t trust my administration to have my back and work with me to help my students. I feel like the county that I work for doesn’t care about my health just their numbers.

I am tired of being told you will do this and this in your classroom and you are a great teacher, but why aren’t you doing this? And surely you can do this as well. I work and work and my administration praises me, but does not promote me. They talk about it. Even say they are training me for it.  And then give the job to someone else.  I was never even spoken to about the latest opening (or given an interviewed)  even after expressing an interest and told on more than one occasion that I had it.  It was a slap in the face to learn that someone else would be assuming the position and becoming my boss. (If I make it to the next school year, I won’t take on additional duties.)

I am tired of working three jobs to pay bills and still failing to build something for my future. When countries slash budgets, teachers make up for it out of their wallet. I don’t need to work harder which is what I have been doing. I need less work. Ironically, with the start of summer school I will be working longer days.

I have lost the spark that I had when I first started teaching  and I feel like there isn’t enough time or energy to recover it.

So, I am working my resume, looking at teaching other subjects (English is a beast) and working on graduate school. It is time for me to go and when I do I know I will be crying because I love my students. I love them enough not to do this to them any more. I can’t give them my best. I haven’t been giving them my best for a while.

They deserve better and so do I.

Moving Manic Mondays

My whole house seems so much brighter than it did a couple of hours ago.  This week my normal manic Monday has been replaced by a gentle and well deserved break. I woke up with a book besides me and went out onto the porch to read and drink my morning tea. It was the perfect dreary day.

11051906_663114840460500_2886341314953390785_nThen a story idea stuck and I let it take me on a three hour journey.

Now my house is a bit cleaner and I am contemplating a nap.  Life has been really hectic this year and there are some big changes coming in my life. Changes I am making willing and some unwilling.  I have come to the conclusion that I need more days like this where I am free to write and not being pulled in three or four different directions.   I am still working three jobs and writing whenever where ever I can.  Blood Child is still selling and reviews are slowly but surely coming in.  (If you have had a chance to read it then please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads.  Every review is helpful. )

The thing that I can do to help myself the most is not working until my brain is numb.  This past week I worked seven days in a row and barely had the brain power to string together a complete sentence let a lone a paragraph.  I can’t continue this pace.  It simply isn’t health. My mind and body know it.

I have also come to the conclusion that all this work really hasn’t done me any good. I am only marginally better off than I was a year ago. Financial things are a little better and for that I am grateful. It is time though to think about what I really want. Eight years ago, I thought that I wanted to be a teacher for the rest of my life. I was excited about all the opportunities in front of me.  That dreams was one that sustained me for so many years of self-imposed stupidity. I was going to do something with my life. I was going to give back and teach.

I had put an order dream aside.  A dream I thought that I was unworthy of.

Being a writer.

Now, I know that I can do it. I just have to be willing to do it. Willing to crave out more days like these for myself. 10367787_10155402717575397_8913494460226026793_nWilling to give up some income so that I can write and really work on the craft of writing.  I saw this image on Alethea Kontis’ Facebook page and realized that I have known what it takes for years, but have been afraid.  Afraid to give up what I have for what I want. I may never be a full time writer.  Still I am happiest when I am writing or teaching. It is time to do more of what I love instead of acting out of fear.

If you’d like more information on Lucinda’s work subscribe to this blog, follow her on Twitter or like her page on Facebook.  Her new novella, Blood Child is available on Amazon.

 

The Words That Stuck A Cord…

If only teaching the ABC's were simple.
If only teaching the ABC’s were simple.

This evening, I came home from work and discovered that my laptop was a still a school. No comfy writing chair for me this evening just a straight back dining room chair and a cranky not old, but definitely not new desktop. Even my beloved Kindle, carrier of more books than any purse can handle is at school. It was a long day. A very long day for me to forget those things.

A typical day for me begins at 5:45 when I stumble out of bed to walk Luke. We like our morning time routine and if I wake up early then we are out the door for a longer walk. By seven, I am on my way to school and by 7:15 I am walking in the door of my classroom. The longest part of my commute is the walk from the parking lot to to the classroom. Monday’s and Wednesday’s, I teach at night so I usually stay at school and a neighbor takes Luke for his evening constitutional.  The time between jobs is spent at my desk either prepping for the next day or lesson planning. Sometimes I read. Most of the time I am working at least an hour after my official “work day” has ended.  Then I am off for three hours of teaching English to new immigrants which I love, but to be honest, I won’t be doing if I didn’t need the money. And I do need the money.

I really do.

The landlord expects money each month and won’t house me for free just because I teach. The phone and electric companies have similar non-altruistic attitudes as well, although I am sure all of them would thank me for doing what I do. A few might even add that they couldn’t do what I do.

So I work at night and on weekends. And whenever I can to make ends meat and get far enough ahead on bills so I can spend more money and go back to school so I will be even more qualified to teach than the five certifications I now possess make me.

For the past two weeks, I have been working with another teacher on our common lesson plans. Common lesson plans are suppose to be a collaborative effort among teachers to raise the rigor of lessons and improve student achievement. They are also pretty awesome at cutting down the amount of time that teachers have to spend “volunteering.” (One of my first administrators told me that any time I worked before or after my official hours was strictly volunteer. ) I am all for it in theory. Reality is a different story, because in reality they are rarely created or implemented correctly.  A few people namely myself and my colleague will be writing the majority of plans that are supposed to be so detail that any substitute can follow.  In turn for our work we will received plans from other teachers.  Plans which we felt compelled to correct and revise because we are now responsible for implementing them.  Plans for which we have had no say in.  Plans made by teachers who have never met our students and don’t understand our needs.

When I questioned this I was told to just be quiet and go along with the flow. Excuse me? Am I a professional or not? Apparently not, since I no longer have the power to make the decisions to improve my own performance or motivate students. I can’t pick a book to motivate students to read just for the enjoyment of it and sneak in some learning along the way.  No, I must teach X, Y and Z on day 27 or I am not teaching to my student’s potential.  I am not even worth a cost of living raise despite my county having received nearly 17  million dollars to give teachers raises. The school board instead gave themselves a raise. They gave the principals a raise and the classified employees a raise, but teacher we want too much when our union asked for a 4% raise.  None of the people who received raises were made to prove their worth by raising test scores. It didn’t matter if their school was considered to be failing or not they got a raise. (The classified employees deserved their raises and I won’t see that money taken away from them for the world, but can’t I get a little love as well. )

My to-do list will always exceed my can do list.
My to-do list will always exceed my can do list.

After forgetting my laptop and kindle, I was ready just to check mail and be done with it then this article entitled “Why Teachers Are Fed Up and Burned Out” by Walt Gardner found its way on to my screen. Gardner, a retired teacher, gave the myriad of thoughts that have been swirling around in my brain a voice. A voice that says I am that teacher on the edge of being burned out. I love my students and my job, but I no longer feel valued. I am being told what to teach, how to teach it and get those tests up with out anyone looking at my kids beyond what the score report saying. My kids do need rigor. I want to give them that rigor, but bad poetry about war and ditching Shakespeare because the teachers writing those plans doesn’t like the Bard of Avalon isn’t want teaching should or needs to be in this country.

Innovation can not come by making us all the same, by making everything common.

And it will not come by punishing teachers.

I wish I knew the answer, but frankly I am beat.

 

 

Darn you… Disney…

We have achieved Kickstarter success and descended into teacher hell.

The good, the bad and the what the hell have all blended into one.  My heart still leaps for joy when I think about the having the money to give Blood Child a professional touch.  It really is a dream come true.

Then I go to work and my desk is over flowing with papers to grade, lesson plans waiting to be written and new standards staring me in the face.

Today, I was schooled at school for my bad attitude on interactive journals.  I am tired. So incredibly tired that the happy, go team go facade that everyone has come to rely on, is cracking.

Two weeks ago in the middle of all of this Papa said he wanted to start drinking again and I loss it. Cried in a meeting on interactive journals because I just couldn’t see how I could do one more thing and face my father drinking himself into an early grave.

But this is where the real work to make my dreams come true begins.

This is where I prove to myself that I can do it.

That I can live up to the hype I have allowed others to spread.

It is time to be the me that others see and that I have hoped really existed.

Thank you for giving me that opportunity.

Because I really do believe that it is a blessing.

That is the only way to make it though this nightmare of the everyday to the world where dreams come true.

I just wish Disney hadn’t made it all seem so easy.

 

A Little Girl and A Gumball Dream

Robbie
Robbie

When you say the word “Autism” it is easy to figure out who is in the know and who is thinking of the Rain Man.

I think of my nephew and his bright face.  Robbie is nearly eight and has mild autism.  Early intervention and lots of love have made the difference between him being able to make connections with people outside his sphere and living in a closed world.  Recently, he donned a mime’s suit and performed in his school’s talent show complete with make-up.  He has learned to make friends and bares little resemblance from the boy who once ran when his senses overwhelmed him. What hasn’t changed is his ability to capture hearts. Aunties aren’t suppose to have favorites, but Robbie holds a special place in my heart.

Gu
Hello!! LA Ink!

The other week, I came across this Facebook page, I’m different, you’re different. Let’s be friends, and my heart now belongs to Sarah as well.  Her summer quest is to meet and make a 1000 new friends.  Each friend that she makes is given a gumball.

Here is her story as written by a family friend.

Sarah was born in 1999 at the gestational age of 27 weeks. At birth she weighed only 1050 grams, suffered from a brain hemorrhage, a cardio respiratory arrest, and major neurological dysfunction. In utero she had constant exposure to drugs and alcohol. Due to underdeveloped lungs, she required supplemental oxygen, and had a feeding tube surgically implanted in her stomach. She was extremely developmentally delayed. By the age of eighteen months she had passed through two foster homes, and had begun having violent episodes of self injuring. Her prognosis was very poor, and institutionalization seemed inevitable.

Then, she received a visit from a couple who had already adopted five children. At first, they felt that Sarah’s situation was more than they were equipped to deal with. They declined the opportunity to foster her, however, neither of them could forget her sparkling eyes, and discussed her constantly. They came to the conclusion that if they didn’t adopt her, who would? Sarah celebrated her 2nd birthday with her forever family.

Gumball Friends and Music
Gumball Friends and Music

Over the years, Sarah has had ongoing medical issues, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Autism and Anger Management. Through a combination of traditional treatments and experimental regimens she has shown amazing progress. With the help of medical experts, behavioral specialists, special educators, family, friends, her siblings and her parents, Sarah, who was not expected to walk, has become a runner in The Special Olympics, and a strong swimmer who loves to surf with her dad. She is a talented artist, and enjoys sharing her unique pieces. School is a struggle for Sarah, and she currently reads on a first grade level. She recently completed a 7th grade, special education program.

Gumball Friends Forever!!
Gumball Friends Forever!!

It can be very difficult for her to make friends. As a result, with help from her sisters, decided to set out on a quest to bring 1000 new friends into her world. She feels that it is her mission to help people understand Autism. To accomplish this, she reaches out to friendly, non-scary, people, tells her story, gives them a gumball, then poses with them, while her mother snaps a portrait. She attends musical concerts, parades and gatherings where she finds that people are more than happy to join her adventure. Sarah, while still facing many challenges, has brought a special love to her family and her multitude of friends.
Written by family friend, Paul Irwin (Santa)

RainmanLike Kim Peek (man who inspired Rain Man) and Sarah is the best person to explain Autism to the world.   Their world is beauty and unique to them.   They are individuals.  I feel blessed to have Robbie and his two older brother (both of whom are on the spectrum) as members of my family not because they have autism. They are just awesome kids whose labels don’t make any less awesome.

So if you see a young woman this summer wearing a tie-dye tee that reads free “Free Hugs” and offers you a gumball, don’t be nervous just say Hi.

Free Hugs
Free Hugs ~ Smoothie time after a long hot day… check it out 6 more friends, all wanted sour gum balls !!! BOOYA!