5 different English classes, three of them with over 27 students.
And a play going on at the same time. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
(You can sort-of see my hairline way down in the right-hand row there, my elbow on the table.)
I mean, it's all gonna' be great... but it's gonna' be crazy.
I haven't really done any planning for the coming school year. I filled my summer with distractions: work, visiting Vancouver Island, and attempts to rest and relax. In spare moments, I couldn't seem to develop the get-to-it-ive-ness needed to really start planning for something as cognitively taxing as the coming school year. So I didn't.
But I'm here now.
Today we had a Professional Day presentation from somebody with a pretty good handle on the ins and outs of the new BC Curriculum. I'm hoping it rekindles a little of my enjoyment of teaching and helps me feel a little more like my work has a lasting effect on people. I miss that feeling.
A few years into my teaching, it felt pretty natural, like it was an extension of myself. I felt like I could come to the school and navigate it naturally, and it didn't seem to drain my resources too much. I could come to the school in the evening or afternoon and focus on my work and enjoy it, and I genuinely felt like I was getting stuff done.
The last few years, however, haven't felt that way. Admittedly, I've been very distracted: separation, drama, and fatigue can make it difficult to focus on work. Come to think of it, my inability to internalize my practice coincides with my inability to write or finish writing a song. Perhaps I'm just in a drained-creativity mode, whether in career or leisure.
But I hope that acting on some of my more progressive desires will help me make teaching a more real part of my life, not just a job. Perhaps building an effective in-class curriculum will help me get get my head back in the game.
I've been trying to do a few other phone-related things to get my head back in a good place. I deleted Pokemon Go from my phone; it seemed to have served its purpose in getting me to get outside even when I didn't want to. And although I still think I'd enjoy it, I don't miss it. I turned off my data so I'd be less likely to check my phone constantly. I also have decided to stop listening to podcasts when I go for walks; this lets my mind wander a little and helps me to keep from constantly filling my mind with talk.
In the meantime, here I am. Starting my 10th or 11th school year, a veteran of sorts who still doesn't feel like he knows what he's doing, who still expects the "Fraud Police" to come to the door and kick him out onto the street. But chances are, things will work out. It will. It will.
Things will work out.
Noisey posted this documentary on December 1, 2016, I Saw The Light. I watched it today. It's a well-made little film about Christian evangelical culture's relationship with music.
I attended a few Christian festivals with my church youth group: Sonfest in Abbotsford and Jesus Northwest in Vancouver, Washington, both in the mid-90s. As a Christian teenager, I had a good time at those festivals. I admit that I enjoyed the concert elements far more than preaching or "worship," so perhaps I didn't get the full experience as described in the documentary. But I remember feeling really good and meeting lots of other Christians who introduced me to really great music. I still listen to some of that music, even 20 years later, even after my faith has long gone.
A few days ago, I was filling up a couple booklets with CDs for my car. Going through the old CDs—all on spools at this point—I was a little bit floored that I had such a significant Christian music collection: Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Daniel Amos, Starflyer 59, etc.. I'll probably keep those CDs forever; they're an essential part of my collection.
Funny thing is, I've had The Hold Steady's "Chillout Tent" running through my head for the last few days, which tells a very different music festival story. Enjoy:
Should I feel guilty about enjoying this lovely, melodic, narrative drug-trip song? The Ottawa School Board might think so.
Makes me wonder what the Shewens are up to these days.
Tomorrow, here at the school, is a Professional Development Day, and hundreds of judgemental teachers will pass through the building. Dozens will enter my classroom and quietly judge me based on my classroom's appearance. So I tried to tidy up a little.
It's still a mess, but at least it's a little less of a mess.
When I saw the tweet above, I started thinking and tweeting aggressively; I'm going to try to transfer that energy here.
I read both articles at The Atlantic—"Why Introverted Teachers are Burning Out" (January 25 2016) and "When Schools Overlook Introverts" (September 28 2015)—and found myself both affirmed and discouraged: affirmed because it was nice to see that other people might also see introverts' struggles with the highly social environments encouraged by 21st Century Eduucation, and discouraged because I was hoping these thoughts would continue to simmer below the surface of my daily consciousness—and disappear there.
I understand that personality labels are merely shorthand, but I share a lot of characteristics attributable to introverts. Generally, although I can be social I need time to recharge on my own; I get overwhelmed by large, continuous, unpredictable social situations. At a recent counselling appointment, when I told my counselor that I'm an introvert, she looked at me and said, "How can you be an introvert and keep yourself going in so many social situations?" I told her that I generally like people and that I generally see the good in people, that I can coast and improvise skilfully, and that I take care of myself through the day. As far as introverts go, I'm OK at bouncing between social situations and antisocial ones.
But introversion has led me to second-guess my decision to be a teacher. It's a lot of talking all day long and the performance gets tiresome. There are plenty of days when I don't really have a chance to recharge and I fall further and further behind. By the time I get home, I'm shutting down and using avoidance and emotional withdrawal tactics with my own family. And that's not good.
In the meantime, education is heading down a path of individualization. As a participant in the education system with introverted characteristics, these are some of my concerns:
Every lunch break, I spend most of my time in my classroom. At the school where I teach, the school culture doesn't really expect students to skip out on their lunch to get work done, but I like to tell people that I stay in my classroom because I want to be available for students anyhow. However, after 15 minutes or so, if no students show up, I usually close my door and keep to myself. I have had many different extroverted staff members at multiple schools ask why they so rarely see me in the staff room; I tell them it's my recharging time.
But with all the demands of teaching in schools today, I can't help but feel like it's not enough--like a lonely lunch break is just not enough for me to make it through the day.
So when I see articles like these, I feel a little less alone. And perhaps I can squeeze a few more years out of this career despite my incessant introversion. But I have somewhat high hopes that the increased individualization and destruction of classroom-based models might make more room for introverts like myself. Perhaps, beneath the rubble of the archaic content-area-based system, I and fellow introverts will find a place where we can master our learning and recharge our batteries appropriately.
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