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Archive for the ‘work’ Category

Me (the librarian):  Can I help you find something?

Student:  I’m looking for a book.

Me:  Well, we happen to have a few of those here in the library.  Are you looking for a particular book?

Student:  (in all seriousness without a trace of sarcasm)  Yeah, I want a book where someone is telling a story.

Me:  (deep breath) (LONG PAUSE because REALLY?  Thanks for narrowing that one day)

Well, let me direct you to our fiction section.

(Are you freaking kidding me?  WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING THESE KIDS????)

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Finding My Place

I haven’t really posted about the new job because I am not sure what to say about it.  I had been at my previous job for eight years.  I was in a supervisory position as the head of the English department.  I had a definite voice at the school and at the risk of sounding full of myself, people listened when I spoke.  I used to sometimes have to hide when I really, really needed to get something done because people stopped by my room all day long with questions, concerns and seeking advice.  The principals, vice-principals and myself got along well.  I could be my complete self with them, never felt like I had to put my guard up around them or censor myself.  I am not saying I was unprofessional, because I don’t think I was, but I could be frank with them and still be taken seriously.    I loved my bosses, which helped make up for the long hours and the frustrations that come with teaching.  I changed careers because I resented how much of my own personal life that teaching consumed.  I did not like bringing my work home with me.

So, yes, I love that when I step out of the building at 2:55 I am 100% done with work.  I can go home and take the dogs for a walk, go shopping, read a book, go out to dinner, whatever and I never have to feel guilty about papers not being graded or panic because I don’t know what I am going to do with my period 3 class the next day.  This is good.  I love this.  I love having freedom and time to myself and weekends that are wide open to head to Vermont for a camping trip.

But I sort of feel like a nobody at work.  Nobody looks to me for input, instead they ask me to laminate things.  I can’t get a good read on the principal and where I stand with him, so for now I am sticking to the “good morning, how are you?”  small talk.  Nobody is waving me into their office just to vent about something or laugh at how incredibly moronic teenagers can be at times.  I taught AP seniors for six years, those are the smartest kids in the school, I taught them and I taught them well.  And now I babysit kids during the study halls and loan out VCRs (VCRs?? for Christ’s sake, can you find something a little more current to show your students perhaps?)

I have been trying to reach out to the faculty and let them know they can use me as a resource, but I think in the past their librarian was not very helpful and so they are not sure how to use me or what for.  I know it is still very early in the year and I need to give it a little time, but it is a struggle.  I want my free time, I want my own life that doesn’t always revolve around work, but I also want to feel that what I do is valuable and that I am making a contribution to this world.

 

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Dewey Who?

As you may know, I have gone back to grad. school to get my MLS (Master’s of Library Science).  I already have a Master’s degree in education, but this time around it seems so much harder.  (That’s what she said!)  This time I am learning about a whole  new subject that I really don’t know much about or have much experience with.  I have to read a lot of dry text books about card cataloging and reference services.  I am writing a paper about the issues that rural libraries face and let me just tell you, it is fascinating (insert sarcasm here).  Not only do I have to write my paper, but I have to review three of my peers’ papers.  All of which are as equally fascinating as my own.  I switched careers because I didn’t want to read and comment on any more papers ever.  What the hell?  Someone didn’t get that memo.  On the bright side, and yes, there is a definite bright side, this Fall I will be a librarian!  I will be in charge of my own library and sharing books with adorable fresh faced teenagers.  In anticipation of this, I have been devouring young adult literature like crazy this summer.  Any of you read any good YA lit. lately that you can recommend?

As for right now, I have to get back to completing my peer reviews.  You’re jealous of me, I know it.

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Today all of the seniors in my high school did their exit presentations.  This is a semester long research project we work on in their English classes.  The culminating assessment is for them to present what they learned to a panel of students and faculty.  As the head of the English department, I organize this whole she-bang.  For the past few weeks I have been working on making the schedule.  It involved making sure all 120 of our students had a presentation time and a panel of at least three students and three teachers.  I had to make sure every classroom had a laptop, a projector and a set of speakers.  I had to get all the grading rubrics on google forms for teachers to fill out. In other words, I have been a ball of stress for the last few weeks.  It isn’t just the organization that caused me stress.  It is the fact that my work as a teacher is on display for the whole school to see and critique.  If a student doesn’t do well, it reflects on the teacher.  It makes me feel vulnerable in my professional world and I don’t like feeling vulnerable ever, most of all as a professional.

Today my seniors taught me a huge lesson.

Today wasn’t about me at all.  It was about them.  This was their day to shine, to show the faculty the amazing young adults they have become.  It had absolutely nothing to do with me.

I went to one presentation of a girl I had back when she was a freshmen in my summer school program.  As a freshmen, she had to do an informal presentation as part of her final.  I remember it well.  It was the girl, me, and another teacher sitting at a table looking over her shoulder at her laptop while she walked us through her powerpoint.  She got so nervous she thought she was going to pass out or throw up and had to lie down on the floor.  Today, she stood up in front of a room of ten people, dressed in a blouse and skirt and spoke to her audience like a professional.  She made eye contact with everyone in the room, she cracked jokes, her voice didn’t shake, she was animated, entertaining and informative.  That is what today was about.  I watched another young man present on which vehicles are more practical for living in Maine, hybrids or diesel.  This particular student probably has a reading level that places him around 4th grade.  He has always struggled in English classes and has never really experienced any academic success.  Today he taught me and the principal all about the make up of these different vehicles, compared the financial costs of these vehicles and answered questions about the safety features of each vehicle.  In other words, he experienced academic success for maybe the first time ever.  I could go on and on, telling you a different story for each student.  I could tell you about the shy young woman whose younger brother has Asperger’s Syndrome who talked about the need for schools to educate students on how to interact with special education students and be more inclusive.  How she was moved to tears talking about how upset she gets when she hears students saying, “That is so retarded” and how teachers don’t do much in terms of correcting students on these insensitive comments. Every presentation touched me in some way and I am so proud of my students and the people they are.

Graduation is in two weekends.  These students are about to embark on new adventures and start lives of their own, whether it be going to college, getting a job or learning a trade.  I am excited for them and also a little jealous.  Remember that feeling?  The fear, the cockiness, the excitement?  As my parting lesson for my seniors I always show them this video.  It says everything I wish I could tell them.

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*lyrics to “Peace Frogs” by The Doors, hopefully not really the case.

News on the job front.  I had the phone interview with the school in New Haven and I have made it to the next phase.  In a little more than a week I will be heading to New Haven to tour the school, observe some classes, teach a lesson and then debrief and be interviewed.  The school is going way out of their way to be accommodating and hospitable.  They are reimbursing my gas mileage, the recruitment officer (the RO for short) even offered to fly me down for the interview but I wanted to have my own wheels, and they are putting me up in hotel for the night.  The RO has emailed me often, keeping me up date with everything going on and just being way too cool for me to even put into words.

It is strange.  What started out as a whim, “why not just apply and see what happens” is turning into, “Oh my god, could I really be moving back to Connecticut soon and starting a new job?”  Everything is so up in the air in the right now.  I have no idea how many other people are being interviewed and how much of a chance I actually have.  I have no idea if I am cut out for the intensity that this job seems to demand.  I feel like I am entering the unknown.  If I am not offered the job, I am not sure what that is going to do to my ego.  I also have no idea what that means for next year for me.  I can always stay where I am, there is no danger of me losing my job there, but the question is do I want to?  I think I know the answer to that.

That would be a big fat resounding NO.

I am ready for change.  I need change.

Please, please, please send me good thoughts on April 4th and I will be sure to keep you posted on how it goes.

For now, I am going to be planning the most kick-ass 30 minute poetry lesson I have ever planned.

 

 

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Earlier this year I saw the movie Waiting for Superman.  It is a fascinating movie, if you haven’t seen it.  When I got home after seeing the movie I did some research on charter schools.  I found out there are none in Maine.  I looked into Connecticut, where I went to undergrad. school (and where most of my friends live) and found a school there that was looking for a couple of English teachers.   On a whim, or high off the inspiration of the movie or something, I applied for the position.  And then I sort of forgot that I applied.  This weekend I received an email from the school saying they would like to conduct a phone interview.  As I stated before I have been unhappy with my job this year.  So, I set up a time (tomorrow evening, by the way) for the interview.  And then tonight?  I turned on 60 Minutes and what do they have a segment on?  Charter schools.

Is the universe trying to help me make a change?  Or is it just mocking me?

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Shhh…..

I am a high school English teacher.  I am also the head of our English department.  On top of that, I work part-time as an adjunct professor at the local community college.  Teachers in the state of Maine, and really across the nation, are grossly underpaid.  However, the rewards outweigh the paycheck, thankfully.

My job defines me.  It is who I am, what I do.  Weekends and vacations are spent planning and correcting.  I bring my job home with me every night.  The actual act of grading papers has never really been something I enjoy, but teaching has.  Being in the classroom, interacting with students, helping them work through difficult tasks, create meaning, this has always been where I shine, where I am the happiest.  In the past, my students have made me love my job and have made the red tape, bureaucratic b.s. worth it.  Not this year.  I have not enjoyed my job at all this year.  I have five classes, three of which are full of wonderful, high achieving students.  Two of which are not very academic, but they are fun kids, charming, mischievous, and likable.  However, I have reached the point of teacher burn out.  My job isn’t fun anymore.  It consumes so much of my life and I am not liking it.  I continually feel overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated.  I am on an academic intervention team that is working to help improve our students’ achievement and I feel like all the time and work we are putting into this project isn’t going to make a damn difference.  I feel like a bad teacher.  I can’t motivate myself to come up with new lesson plans, so I have been relying on things I have done in the past, whether they were successful or not.  I just came back from February vacation and I am already counting the days until April vacation.  I have become THAT teacher.  This has me freaking out.

I have been thinking and reflecting for the past couple of weeks on what my alternatives are, what I can do to make me happy with my job again.  The obstacle I face is that I have a Bachelor’s degree in English, which is completely useless and a Master’s degree in Education, which qualifies me to teach and that’s about it.  I’ve thought long and hard about what it is that I love to do.  I love sharing books with people.  Nothing makes me happier then when I hand a student a book and they come back and ask me for another or the next one in the series.  I want to continue doing that.  I do not want to worry about test scores.  I do not want to bring my job home with me every night.  I want my vacations to be vacations.  I do not want to be in charge of ten other teachers.  I do not want to spend my prep period counseling other teachers and supporting them when I have a stack of papers a mile high that need to be graded. Selfish?  Maybe, but it is the truth.

Once upon a time my dream was to own a bookstore.  Last year, I worked part-time in a wonderful little independent bookstore near me.  I loved the job, but I really don’t think I could handle the business aspect of it all.  I also fear for the future of independent booksellers with Amazon and electronic readers.  So where does this leave me?  Ahh… yes, the library.  I want to be a librarian.  There I said it.  I want to be a librarian.

I am speaking with an adviser on Thursday to figure out if I need to get my Master’s degree in Information and Library Sciences or, since I already have a Master’s degree, if I just need to take a few courses to get certified.  Either way, I am excited for what the future holds.  I haven’t said that in a long time.  It feels good.  It feels right.

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