I am a writer, but I am also a teacher. After a long day of professional development and a long evening of working on my syllabus, the last thing I wanted to do was sit down and write. I’m tired and achy and I just want to relax, but I can’t build my students’ identities as writers without building my own. One thing I learned this summer is that to teach writers I need to be a writer — not a once-in-a-while-when-inspiration-strikes writer but a sits-down-and-writes-even-when-she-is-ready-to-drop writer.
A writer shows up and writes. Every day. No matter what, even if it is just for five minutes. To call yourself a writer, you have to write, even when you don’t feel like it — especially when you don’t feel like it. It doesn’t matter if you write brilliant prose or crap as long as you write — every damn day.
So, here’s to writing crap after a long day of teaching. I am a writer, and a teacher of writers.
As I look toward the future and my new job, I need to remember to let go of the past. My last teaching job didn’t end very well, and I need to make sure that I don’t allow that experience to color my new experience. My last school was a very toxic place, and it affected everyone who worked there. The effect lasted even after I left. For months, I had nightmares about that place. Gradually the nightmares faded, but they would return whenever I had lunch with one of my friends who worked there with me. Just talking to her about teaching was enough to trigger the nightmares. Slowly, those nightmares faded as well.
I knew I was truly over that job the last time my friend and I had lunch. She was talking to me about all the changes the school district was making. As I listened to her talk about the new curriculum, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders, and I’m not being figurative here. I literally felt something leave me, and I felt lighter than I had in months. As we talked about her new school, I realized that leaving that district was the best thing that could have happened to me. Instead of hating my former principal, I actually thanked her for getting rid of me. I was so bitter for so long, it felt good to release the anger and to know I was in the right place of my life.
I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t know if I will like my new school, but I realized that my attitude will determine my experience. If I go into the position expecting the best, I will likely receive the best.
Three years ago today I started my blog on WordPress. It was the same year I lost my job at the middle school where I worked. After a fruitless job search that spring, I turned to writing. Focused on my teaching, I had pretty much given up writing. I thought about writing a lot and had ideas for novels, but I never followed through. I thought that if I couldn’t be a teacher, maybe it was time to focus on my writing. Since then, I have continued to work on making writing a regular part of my life. I found part-time teaching jobs at two local community colleges. At times, I became so busy that I again gave up my writing, but I have returned to it again and again.
This year, I gave up the search for a full-time teaching job. I let all my applications at the school districts in my area expire. I quit looking at the job postings. I had even decided I would no longer search for a full-time teaching job at the college where I worked. I had applied there several times and never gotten an interview. The last time, I applied I received an email from my department chair expressing his sympathy for me not getting an interview for the latest position that came open. He offered to give me feedback that would make me more likely to be hired at the college. I didn’t take him up on his offer. I work hard for the college. I’ve gone to countless professional development meetings and taken part in academic cohorts and equity training. My grading is up-to-date and my students always say how much they like the way I teach my classes. I’m not sure what else I could do to increase my “hireability.”
Then, last week, out of the blue, I got an email from a school I interviewed with last year. They said they had another opening and they were so impressed with me they wanted me to be part of the candidate pool for their current opening. I thought to myself, if they were so impressed with me why didn’t I get the job last year? I sent my resume and transcripts to the human resources person. The next day, they emailed me for an interview. We interviewed over the internet last Tuesday. I was worried that my interview was impacted, because my virus protection blocked my camera from working and they couldn’t see my face. I thought the interview went well despite my technological gaffe. On Friday, I checked my email. They had said they would give me an update about the hiring process by the end of the week. I was going through my email, thinking to myself, Just as I expected, no email. I kept scrolling. In Thursday’s email, I saw it–Offer letter from CEC Parker. I couldn’t believe it. I had gotten the job.
After three long years of scraping by on part-time wages, I will finally have a full-time job. I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, but I missed being in the same school every day where I was a full part of the staff, not just a part-time employee. I don’t miss my last school, but I missed being a full-time teacher. While I am looking forward to being a full-time teacher again, I don’t want to give up writing. I want to make both parts of my life blend together. The last couple of weeks, I’ve really worked on making time for my writing, and I have found that I can write and teach at the same time.
For the past several weeks, I have applied for over 20 teaching jobs. I started to get the refection emails last week. I would have been discouraged, but then, out of the blue, I got two inquiries about working as a freelance writer. That started me thinking.
Every Sunday, my husband and son watch Joel Olsteen. I usually watch him too, but I’m not a religious person. Joel is always preaching about signs from God and how God has something greater planned for the future. I’ve gotten really sick of this message as I’ve been turned down for opportunities and nothing in my life seems to get any better, but then these two writing opportunities happened. Maybe, these opportunities are some sort of sign. I’m not saying they’re a sign from God, but maybe they’re a nudge from the universe. Go this way-not that way. Teaching no longer seems to be a viable option for my career, but maybe writing can become one. This also happened the same week, I seriously re-committed myself to writing every day.
My email has also been flooded by messages from other writers who do make their living writing. More signs? I don’t know. What I do know is that I can’t really control what happens with a teaching career. I teach what I am assigned to teach. Someone else makes my schedule and tells me what to teach. But with writing-I am the one who is in control. I am the one who decides what I will write and when. I think it’s worth heeding the signs.
See you next week!
I let myself fall out of the loop. The last two weeks of school started. I was focused on writing and letting my teaching go by the wayside. I thought to myself, Let my library go. The new teacher can clean it up. So what if my grades aren’t done?
But then, I talked to my colleague, Maxine. She reminded me of the work I had done at Mrachek. She called me the cornerstone of the literacy department. I’ve never been a cornerstone before. She told me to “finish well.” So, for a time, I put aside my writing to focus on my teaching. I cleaned my library, so it would be ready for the new teacher and the students I would never meet. I pushed my students to finish their projects and finished my grades. I said good-bye on the last day with my head held high. I took some time to mourn.
Now I am ready to get back in the loop. I can wrap my teaching hat in tissue and put it on the shelf. Now is the time to begin again–to show myself that I am a writer.
via Daily Prompt: Loop
Panicked–how I felt when I got out of the car and realized the dress I was wearing was completely wrong for my job interview. It was too late now. The interview was in five minutes. I had bought three dresses for my interview and all three of them were wrong. This was the least objectionable and it was all wrong! I had to teach a demonstration lesson with kids I didn’t even know in about 30 minutes. All I could do was march in there and hold my head up.
Panicked–how I felt when I looked over during my demonstration lesson and noticed a girl out of her seat. She was shaking her water bottle full of pop and getting ready to spray it all over me and the other students at her table. Luckily, I noticed her in time and grabbed the offending bottle.
“I’ll take that,” I said.
“But it’s mine,” she said, her lip trembling.
I set it in front of the director who was observing me. He was oblivious.
Panicked–how I felt when the director was showing me the campus. The run-down playground, the abandoned field they used for P.E. The classrooms without computers or books. How can students learn here? I wondered.
I had a lot of ideas for how I would help those students, but I didn’t get that job. I didn’t panic, though. Sometimes, things happen for a reason.
via Daily Prompt: Panicked
Sometimes, I wake up and I think, There’s none left. I don’t have anymore to give. I get up anyway and face the day. My son, Hunter, smiles at me and tells me he loves me. He always has something to give. I think, I can face the day for him.
I go to school. One of my students, D’Avonte, the one who used to hate me who now calls me his second mother, says, “Mom, can I sit by you today?” I think, I can face the day for him.
I go to the office. In my box is a letter from Safaa, it says, “Thank you for teaching me to be a leader, and not a follower.” I think, I can face the day for her.
I go to class. Hope hugs me without saying a word. I think, I can face the day for her.
I go to pick up Hunter from school. He dances when he sees me. I think, I had more to give after all.
via Daily Prompt: None
No matter how long I teach, I will always be an apprentice. Just when I feel I have mastered my art, I discover a new technique or a new philosophy. Each new year brings me a fresh canvas, a clean sheet of paper. New students, fresh supplies. As in art, teaching allows me to have a fresh start every year. I can try something new every year. I can continue to revise and develop my craft, and, although I will never reach perfection, neither will I stagnate.