Friday, September 23, 2011

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pleasure

There's a quote in Eat, Pray, Love (my favorite book of. all. time.) in which an Italian man tells Liz Gilbert that Americans don't know anything about the pursuit of pleasure. According to this wise sage of a European, we get burnt out working all week and then spend the weekend in our pajamas staring at the television.

Which, sadly to say, is not too far from my truth these days.

I always turned my nose up at teachers that worked all night when they went home and spent all weekend doing nothing but classroom preparation.

Now I? Am that teacher.

I leave my house at 6:30, get to school by 7, and have an hour before students strut their way into my room. And while an hour seems like a good amount of prep time, it goes by pretty quickly when you spend the majority of it sobbing next to your printer and shouting "Why? WHY WON'T YOU PRINT?"

Then there are 7 to 8 hours in which I'm responsible for the education of teenagers. I blab on incessantly, they fill out some worksheets, and it's basically all a huge blur. By this time, it's three o'clock and I haven't eaten or gone to the bathroom since before I walked out of my front door. I putz around my room, attempt to plan for the next day, and by the time I think to look at the clock, it's 5pm.

This is where the problem lies. In my post-work hours, I used to go for walks, meet up with friends, and cook beautiful dinners that I documented on The Preppy Vegan. Now it's all I can do to heat a can of soup on the stove before I glaze over and stare open-mouthed at the TV for an hour. Tonight I was so out of it that I actually resorted to watching the Rachel Zoe Project, which, if you haven't been watching, is just as boring this season as it was 3 or 4 seasons ago when it started.

Next week, I've made a promise to myself to leave by 4:30 everyday so that I can do things for myself, like exercise. Other than that, any ideas to prevent burnout other than ceasing all viewing of Rachel Zoe? How can I make time for myself and still get my work done?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oh You Fancy, Huh?

I'll admit teaching isn't the most fashion forward career. While we're reminded at every staff meeting to "look as professional as possible" it seems that for some it just may not be possible. (Do the words "Christmas sweaters" and "cropped pants" bring up horrible memories for others as well?)

Also, teaching in a school with uniforms is makes one falsely overconfident, since no matter what you wear you'll definitely be in something cuter that uniforms. *shudder*

So I'm determined not to let the low fashion expectations of others bring me down. I'm planning on bringing a little Jackie O. into this little ol' place. My first stop?, where I'm determined to use the paycheck that I have no time to spend. The best find:

Caroline dress, $69.99 (sale)
Now that I'm teaching middle school instead of kindergarten, I've decided that it may be appropriate for heels to find their way into my wardrobe rotation. Plus, the clickity-clack of heels on linoleum saves me from having to say "Please stop talking, because I am right behind you."

Natch, Target has come through for me with some awesome 2.5", non-leather finds, like the Euna heel....

in leopard....

...and brown.
You may ask why I need a pair in every color, to which I would have to treat you like one of my students and demand that you put your hand down and stop asking so many questions.

I think my ploy to become Best Dressed Teacher of the Year is working, since my other extremely tall and intimidating student T. came up to me the other day, twirled my ponytail in a circle, and said "Ms. G, I seen you walking down the hall in that dress lookin' all faaaancy."

Mission. Accomplished. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Got Your Back, Yo

One of my favorite students is a big, linebacker sized boy named J. He's big, he's intimidating, and he's mean. Last year, he was suspended for bringing a weapon to school that he'd made out of scissor blades.

So, when I say "favorite" I don't want you to think that it's because he shows up for class, homework in hand, ready and eager to learn.

Instead, he makes me earn my measly paycheck. I have to constantly remind him that he should be quiet, sitting down, and focused instead of whatever else he tends to be doing. (Usually wasting time or getting his friends riled up.) I'd heard a lot of stories about him and his behavior before he ever stepped foot in my classroom, but I chose to turn a deaf ear. I wanted to give him a fresh start, and made a deal that I wouldn't yell at him if he wouldn't make me ask enough times to have to yell.

But still. After years of being behind, he's made wasting time at school a fine art. His behavior is making progress, but it's slow. Or so I thought.

Yesterday, after I reminded someone that, actually we weren't writing notes in class and were actually trying to learn something, I got an eye roll and dramatic sigh. (First of all, I perfected the eye roll and dramatic sigh, honey. Do not git loud wit me.) I chose to ignore her reaction, but as soon as I'd turned my back, I heard J. lean across his desk and whisper threateningly: Do NOT disrespect my teacher. 

I tried to hide my smile, but I couldn't. The toughest kid in school has my back. I think I'm going to be alright.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Ain't Got No Boyfriend?

Today was my first real day of teaching. Since the first week of school mostly involved assessments, going over the rules, etc., today was the first day in which I took center stage.

I've quickly that teaching itself is more of a performance art than anything else. (I now feel great camaraderie with Broadway actors who drag themselves off the stage after doing two shows a day on the weekends.)

So I create vivid Powerpoints. I make jokes. I'm working the audience, they're engaged, they're excited. (Well, excited as 7th graders can be about most things.) We're learning, everyone's quiet, and I keep having to pinch myself because hey, this is fun!

And then, like magic, a hand raises! All eyes dart to my student who is obviously paying SUCH good attention that he needs more information for his insatiable thirst for learning.

So I call on him. Big mistake. Huge.

"So, Ms. G. You gotta husband?"

Nope. No husband.

"You ain't got no boyfriend?"

Nope. Ain't got no boyfriend. 

"You gotta lotta girly-friends?"

This gives me pause. Are they inquiring about my sexual orientation or my social status? So I ask:
"Are you asking me if I have a lot of girlfriends?"

"Yea, yea. Those. You got some?"

To which I have to say Do I seem like someone who doesn't have any friends? Huh? HUH?

"Naw, naw Ms. G. Calm down. We was just wondering."

And just like that, they turned back to their lesson their rapid-fire questioning about my personal life was no longer interesting.

I neglected to mention to them that I almost bought a cat last week. Too soon? I think yes.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Please Excuse My Minor Meltdown

Picture this: You work a reasonably lengthy day at your middle school teaching job, drive home on 20 miles of country roads, stop at the Black Rock Cafe for gas, get honked at by a trucker, and then get home. You and your roommates then proceed to sit and stare at each other without the slightest clue of how to spend your evening.

Because there is nothing to do. You live in the middle of nowhere.

Oh, and I should mention that, in this scenario, you're not you, you're me. (In the middle of nowhere.)

In my defense, I'm not difficult to entertain. I go for long walks, I read everything I can get my hands on (including the Sunday New York Times...brush your shoulders off), enjoy a few Housewives episodes now and then, and partake in an occasional wine night out on the back porch.

But, in small town America (or at least the one I live in), there still seem to be an inordinate number of hours in a day. Back in Charlotte, I would have killed for more time to fit in all of the fun and fabulous things on my to-do list. These days? I try to force myself to fall asleep at 8pm because, hey, at least I'll be bright eyed and bushy tailed for the next day that consists of...exactly the same thing.

And don't get me started on the fact that, in a town of 5,000 people, none seem to be unmarried males in the 25-35 age bracket, bringing up the distinct possibility that I will die old and alone in a nursing home, scented with urine and surrounded by pictures of my cats.

I used to live in New York. I used to meet friends in Charlotte to shop, lunch, and pop over to the Chanel exhibit like it was nothing. Now I drive 30 minutes to get to a Wal-Mart and go to bed at 8pm.

Sigh. At least there's a liquor store.

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