Recently in Bringing home the bacon Category

August 16, 2010

Winding down...

Today is the 'official' last day of my summer, although since I had a 'work obligation' last week, I could say last Thursday was my last day but it's not really 'official' unless I have to show up there every day and check my email obsessively every couple of hours. Yes, tomorrow, I 'officially' have to report to work again and from then on, I will no longer use 'quotes' when talking about work ... but I'm sure you will still be able to hear the 'sarcasm'.

Overall, it was an OK summer.  It got much better once we had air conditioning but it was fairly uneventful. No trips to the emergency room, no surgery, no deaths but there were some near-death experiences. Have you ever taught a 16 year old how to drive? Yeah, there was that.

I've been sitting here organizing bookmarks and paying bills for the last half hour, hoping if I start out in order, I can get through the next few hectic weeks sane. Though that's questionable. We have a lot of new teachers I'll have to get straight, a lot of data to enter and, oh yeah, I have to straighten out the whole school's network since we are all in the middle of a construction zone.

I swear, if one person says to me that it must be nice having our library in the mobile building without as much traffic coming through, I am going to pop off. It's not nice, it means my circulation will  be down, which means our reading scores will suffer which means it'll look like I'm not doing my job ... but mostly, it is a deviation from the norm and I don't handle change well. Just sayin'.

So I'm not really looking forward to tomorrow. Not the literal tomorrow, anyway. The Universal Tomorrow doesn't seem so bad but tomorrow, August 17th, is gonna suck hard. 

At least I won't be the only miserable one there. Nothin' to it but to do it.

July 4, 2010

... and then ...

So what I have noticed it that between FaceySpace and Twitter, everyone I know and/or would talk about is privy to my every post so ... I need to use this more. Because no one comes here or cares what I have to say here. And maybe that's a good thing. Being too linked is bad for the creative process ... I find myself editing, sitting back, changing my words so that no one will be offended.

When did I start caring if I offended someone?

I know exactly when it was. When I realized that by speaking out, I had been black-balled.

I'm not going to change any of that here. It's been done. I'm not moving up here, no matter HOW much I achieve and I've accepted that. Those that have put me here will have to deal with the repercussions someday just as I have had to deal with them every single day of my life.

Karmageddon, bay-bee. Good luck with that.

Anywhooo ... I'm back. I think. Still trying to figure out where and how I fit. Still trying to raise my kids. Still having to remind myself to breathe. SSDD.

April 28, 2009

A call to ... not panic?

March 13, 2009

Holy Looney Bin, Batman!

That was the subject of an actual email I sent to Tim yesterday shortly after the bell rang. I was still on an adrenaline high from the day and had a hard time typing even that. I had to type something, though. I had to reach out to someone that would reassure me that the entire world wasn't f*cked up, that there were good, decent, sane people out there and that someone loved me and, of course, that person was Tim. I'm sure the rest of the email was a garbled mess that made very little sense but I clicked send, tossing out my message in a bottle from the isle of crazy that is my school.

You know, when I became a teacher, I didn't go in with many romantic notions. I knew it would be hard but I also knew there were great rewards. My first year, a one year stint in the media center at a large, overcrowded elementary school, was a learning experience. I fell in love with a couple of special needs kids. I got punched in the head while breaking up a fight. My heart broke when we lost a student to a house fire. I realized at the end of the year that yeah, maybe I could make a difference, that maybe I had just found what I was supposed to do for the rest of my career.

When I got my own library at the end of that year (in a much smaller school with a better reputation) I was thrilled. With fewer students and fewer classes, I would be able to really get to know the kids and the teachers, maybe even get in the classrooms to help out the teachers with special projects. I had a courtyard right off my library and I could envision taking my students outside on nice days for storytime. Ok, so maybe I got a little romantic about it.

Over the past 6 years, my school has seen a lot of changes. We're on our 3rd principal, 75% of our staff has turned over, we've been redistricted and a full half of our clientele changed. Suddenly the West Greenville kids were taken out of their neighborhood school and bussed across town to our East Greenville school (and vice versa). What this did was send some very low performing students to our formerly high performing school. It also made us a Title 1 school (meaning the majority get free or reduced lunch) which makes us eligible for more federal funds. Our previously strong PTA redistricted to nothing. It also brought a whole host of behavior problems that our tiny neighborhood school has never had to face. 

I'm not being Pollyannic about our school. Seriously, we never even had a need for In School Suspension (ISS) before. If a student had trouble, we called home and it got taken care of. Since the redistricting, we have felt a change. If a kid gets in trouble, a call home ends up with the parent coming to our school ready for a confrontation. Some of them bring weapons. Calling home doesn't fix the problem, it invites more problems onto our campus.

Still, we were sure we could handle it. We created an ISS class, we created a positive behavior program. We loved all our kids, found ways to get them to be proud of their new school and to teach them basic skills (respect, self control, kindness) that many seemed to be lacking. We tried, we really did, to make the best of a difficult situation for everyone involved but, sadly, it's not working.

Take yesterday for instance. Now this was arguably the worst day in the history of our school but it is pretty indicative of where we are right now.

The day started out pretty normal. I had an ECU student come to read to my classes so she could finish up an assignment. Our media center was busy, bustling but happy. Meanwhile something was brewing on campus that no one could have seen coming.  Around about 11 am, several students from the SED (Serious Emotional Disability) class (formerly the BED or Behavior/Emotional Disability class) came into the library and plopped down at the computers. Something was up and I had no idea what but they know the Media Center is their safe haven whenever something is up. I found out later that the 3rd grade student in there was attacking the Assistant Principal and had kicked her in the face before he was finally calmed down.

About half an hour later, we went into our office for lunch, still not too alarmed since the SED kids usually have one or two blow ups a week. We were just starting to relax when we heard blood-curdling screams coming from the 5th grade hall. Several teachers went out in the hall but we stayed in the media center to keep the students calm and focused on their work. When we walked down the hall about 10 minutes later, though, we saw a few dazed faces and a cop in the hall talking to a surly 5th grader. It took us a while to find out what had happened but apparently there were 2 separate incidents.

  •     Zach (aforementioned surly 5th grader) had decided he didn't want to comply with the rules and he turned into The Hulk, pushing his desk across the room, sending it crashing into several others and screaming at his teacher that he "don't have to f*cking do anything!!!" The class was taken off to PE and he was left behind with the teacher and the cop that was still on campus from the earlier kicking incident.
  • Meanwhile, in the Art class, two girls got into it, one hit the other and the other hit back so hard it knocked the first girl back into the doorjamb so hard she got wobbly. They were taken back to their class (after getting ice) to talk the problem out and, while everything seemed fine and calm for a bit, the instigator (who had hit her head) suddenly stood up and started backing out o the room. In the doorway, she started shreiking about the monkeys in the classroom. She was totally freaked out so apparently she was seeing  those freaky flying Wizard of Oz monkeys, not cute little chimps. Her teacher held onto her while he waited for her mother to come get her. When the mom was advised to take her daughter to the doctor, that a hallucination could be the after effect of a concussion, she kind of shrugged it off, as if her daughter complained of seeing monkeys every day.

As surreal as that was, we were getting back to teaching when I was asked to cover a 4th grade class. "They should be fine, they are just writing and don't worry, Robert is sleeping it off." Not sure what the teacher meant (and a little afraid to ask), I went out to the trailer to cover the class and sure enough, there was a group of students diligently writing stories and one boy sleeping at his desk. Apparently, he had lashed out at the teacher while taking his meds earlier and thrown his water glass in her face but had been sleeping since. How are we supposed to teach him when he sleeps half the day? No one had an answer or me but I did find out he was going to be in the SED program starting next week. Only 6 months into the year to get his some help. Yay red tape!

Before I left that classroom, one of the exceptional teachers came in flushed and winded. She was told to come there to get her out of a different situation in the SED trailer. Apparently a student bit her arm, then went on to slap her teacher in the face. The Assistant Principal came in a little later to check on her and thank me for covering. I went back to my (hopefully) peaceful media center.  I heard later that I had just missed the motorcycle cop driving down the sidewalk between the trailers and the school to respond. I would have had to jump aside. *shucks*

I was just getting back to work when I heard a commotion at the door. The 3rd grade TA had her arms around one of her very angry students and was bringing him to me (of all people). Apparently, he had a fit in music class and the principal, after hearing me talk about him earlier in the day, thought I would be a good person to help calm him down. I led him into my office, asking one of the students that was in the media center to jump behind the desk and run circulation while I talked to him.

It took a good 5 minute before he would look at me but as I touched his arm, his clenched fists unballed and he finally grabbed onto my fingers. Holding his hands, face to face, I just talked to him until the rage left his eyes. He is suspended until next week so I'm not sure what is happening with him but I do know that, in part, was what set him off ... he is in a very volatile household and being home will be a huge inconvenience to his mother, which will cause more volatility. I felt terrible putting him on the bus but I told him I loved him (I seriously do love this kid and I have since the first day I met him last year. More on him later, I'm making him my project) and to come see me Wednesday.

MEANWHILE, one of our 4th graders found out he was suspended for 2 days and HE flipped out and had to be carried to the office where it took 2 people to hold him while waiting for his social worker to come pick him up.

AND a parent came into the office drunk off her ass to complain that her son is being unfairly punished because can't ride the bus anymore after he "allegedly" sexually assaulted another boy on the way to school. She eventually was escorted out of the office and off campus only to meet with several police cars across the street.

There were many more little incidents yesterday ... the parent that tried to barge into the principal's office without checking in, the rude phone calls about the late bus in the morning, a little fist fight in Kindergarten (I say little because their fists are little) over two pencil boxes that were touching ... and at the end of the day we were left shell-shocked and bruised.

I filled my water bottle at the bubbler and went to check in our first year 5th grade teachers Robbie, 22 (who was with the monkey-seeing girl) and Katie, 22 (who had the surly HULK SMASH DESK kid) and make sure they were ok. Slowly teachers began filing in to talk and share what had happened and before you knew it, a group of us were laughing to the point of crying.

Some teachers (like a few of the 1st grade team) were totally oblivious to the entire day, which is great because we know that the volatile emotions were contained. Some of the teachers knew every detail about their one incident or about the incident in the office but had no idea everything else that had happened. In the end, none of these teachers knows every single student that was affected nearly as well as I do, having had the privilege to teach every last one of them. To say it was an emotionally wrenching day is a gross understatement.

Again, I have to say this was an UNUSUALLY insane day. We were chalking it up to a combination of the full moon and spring fever. Then we realized today was Friday the 13th and we all thought we should boycott for our own safety. While that sounded like an excellent idea, when I pulled in this morning, every single teacher was there, even the one that has a black eye. The police weren't called once today. We all kept looking at each other nervously, as i we were waiting for the other shoe to drop and, when the end of the day came with no incidents, a spontaneous celebratory cheer rang through the halls. 

Do I still think I can make a difference? Of course I do.

Do I think I deserve more money for what I do? Oh, HELLZ to the YEAH!!!  Our state/county/city is facing a budget crisis of epic proportions and with the recent hiring and budget freezes, no one feels too secure in their job. I know, I should be glad I still have a job. I would like to get paid for what I'm worth, though. 

Do I wish I worked someplace else, in a cubicle perhaps? Some days, you betcha ... but not today. This Friday the 13th went off without a hitch. Monday? That's another story.

February 11, 2009


Have pride in how far you have come, have faith in how far you can go!

Had an epiphany of sorts last night. Was giving a presentation about journaling to my Delta Xi chapter and was talking about how writing can be great therapy. I had been thinking about how I actually got started writing, why I wrote, from a technical, professional point of view that I  totally forgot the pure anguish some of those sleepless nights, weeks, months were.

When I was talking last night, I remembered the rush of actually letting it out and looking at the paper and being horrified that I had finally said out loud what was happening to me. I remember the day I went to my shrink and handed her a piece of paper and showed her something I wrote about a panic attack and she finally GOT it. I had been seeing her for a year and I hadn't been able to put into words how I was feeling but that day, she changed my medication. Why couldn 't I say it? I'll never figure that out.

I truly thought I could make a difference in someone else's life when I started all this. I was going to write a book about theraputic writing and tell my story, and give people that tools they need to work through painful memories safely by writing. It was my calling, my destiny ... I was sure I would finally realize my dream.

And then I went back to grad school. I had to support my kids. I had to work full time but I was sure I would keep writing. How could I not?

And then I realized what being a teacher meant, how all consuming it was, how I would be filling up my spare time with details and reading and preparing and learning and workshops and SIT meetings and committees and oh my god I haven't written anything substantial for ages.

How did this happen? When did I put my dreams on the back burner for my career? How did I go from the free-spirited artist that I used to be to the over-worked, under-paid overachiever? 

I was talking to my assistant this morning (can we just call her my Handler, really? Stacey does so much more than assist me in the library. She keeps me from screwing up constantly!) and I told her how the presentation went last night (good, I hope!) and how it made me realize how my ship might have sailed, how sad I was that I have put my dreams on hold.

"I really thought I could help people. I feel so ineffectual sometimes," I lamented.

"Sharon, you do help people. Every day, you make a difference in AT LEAST one person's life. Whether you help them with a computer problem or answer a question or find them a book or just show them you care. You make a difference to every person in this school."

(see how good she is?)

I could feel the tears coming, but I blinked them away. She's right. Every smile I give to a child changes their day, if only for a minute or two. Every hug, every laugh, every story, every word out of my mouth has the potential to change a life.

I got this job because I needed way to support myself and my children.

I've become a teacher because I realized that I have the power to change the world, one child at a time. 

I just needed to be reminded of that today.

In other news, my LSTA grant went into the FedEx truck tonight and will be in Raleigh tomorrow, almost a week before its actually due. I KNOW, but I wanted to give myself a cushion just in case something happened to it and I had to send in a new packet. It was a job but I'm almost sure I'll get it. *prays*

In OTHER other news, Tim comes tomorrow for Valentine's weekend. Can I just say "Squeeeeal!!!"

*ahem* yeah, I'm a little excited. :)

December 19, 2008

Marking time

One year ago, I was coming down off the high of interviewing for the job I have been preparing myself for since I went back to grad school in 2001. I actually felt as though I was going to get it, that I had a good chance, that despite the supervisors personal dislike for me, he would see that I was miles better than the last person that had the job.

Just like tonight, I was preparing to go out of town for the start of the holiday season. That's where the similarity ends.

Tonight, I came trudging home from work, knowing in my heart that I am going to be doing the same thing over and over and over again for a long time to come.

Today, the card said "I hope you can continue to grow your media program ... "

In other words ... "I hope you realize that you suck and that you are going to rot in that place, rooted in a political quagmire, hopelessly hoping for a chance to escape ... and if you even dare to hope for anything better, I'll kick you back into place again."

Ok, so maybe I was reading between the lines.

One year ago is not so long ago, not so long that the sting of losing the job has faded, not so long that I don't still break down when I think of what my life could have been like if I had gotten the job. Not so long ago that I don't still feel like an utter failure whenever I am in the presence of the two people that slapped me down off the ladder that I was trying to climb.

Yet I stay silent. I fight the urge, I push it down. I grin and bear it "'cause blood in my mouth beats blood on the ground". 

What is hilarious to me is that I have been feeling this exact same feeling for 3 years now. I got passed over for the job three years ago and, oddly enough, I've been nominated for Media Coordinator of the Year three years in a row. Do I need to mention that I just turned in my third MCotY packet this afternoon, without any hope that I will get chosen. How long, Lord, how long?
I wasn't always this hopeless. Four years ago, I was more hopeful that I had ever been in my entire life. I had just met the perfect man and realized that I truly loved him - He's the one that I have waited to find my whole life, the one that has allowed me to absolve myself. I had the perfect job, one that would allow me plenty of room to grow. I had people that kept me informed when opportunities were going to be opening. I had so many things to look forward to that sometimes I was positively giddy.

Where am I now? Exactly where I was 4 years ago, just without the hope. Sure, the house and the car are better but the rest of it? The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

How long can I go on like this? Don't know. The way I felt tonight as I drove home, when it all hit me how I have spent the last year getting exactly nowhere, my guess is that I won't last much longer.

P.S.   Merry Christmas!  *ahem* Doing my best not to slip into the kind of funk I had last year. Taking my vitamins, St. John's Wort, cutting down on the caffeine and upping the water. Going to try to get enough sleep over break and do some thing that will rejuvenate my spirit.  I know I'm in dangerous waters here and I am trying to be proactive ... by request, I'm just trying to be more open about what is happening in my head so that I don't go all asplodey.   

February 27, 2008

not fading one bit

Remember that funk I plunged into around the holidays? The one that was triggered by me not getting a certain job?
 Yeah, well, I figured that time would heal my bruised ego. For the past two months I've let myself wallow, I've gotten angry, I've let the tears come, I've been proactive (looking for another job, rewriting my CV, etc.), I've even *gasp* asked others for support. I've flogged myself for having faith, I've prayed for strength, I've rationalized, reconciled, then resigned myself to the fact that I'm stuck where I am, that no amount of wishing will make this better. And I sat back to wait.

Yup, you guessed it. I'm still waiting.

I've had a chance to see the *winning* candidate in action and every time, I'm left with an "OMG, WTF were they thinking?!?!?!" in a big ol' invisible speech bubble over my head. I'm sure it's written on my face, too, which is why I can't look either the hirer or the hiree in the eye. Unfortunately, I've been the center of a very important state evaluation and have had them underfoot (and in my face) several times over the past week.

Today was the worst, though. We had a scheduled committee meeting to which exactly three people showed up.  I was one. Guess who the other two were.  Go ahead, take a wild stab at it.


I came out of there, got in the car, slammed the door and yelled "I HATE THEM, I HATE THEM, I HATE THEM!!!" ... took a deep cleansing breath ... turned on the music really loud and drove off to go pick up my kids.

I don't know what else to do, really. Since revenge is generally frowned upon in civilized society (and it will not give me any lasting peace), I'm out of ideas.  I'm trying to be a good person, I really am.

"Only nature has a right to grieve perpetually, for she only is innocent.
Soon the ice will melt, and the blackbirds sing along the river which he frequented, as pleasantly as ever.
The same everlasting serenity will appear in this face of God, and we will not be sorrowful, if he is not."

Henry David Thoreau

December 29, 2007

Death by politics

Last week, I wrote a terse entry  from my favorite getaway spot. I had packed up the car with kids, presents and goodies to spend a restful holiday with T's family. I had looking forward to this weekend for months. My work situation has been brutal, grinding and soul-stomping since the beginning of this school year. With new administration and severe understaffing, even my pretty new library furnishings weren't enough to make me happy at my job and this frustration and unrest were carrying over into every aspect of my life. It was the reason I went back on anti-depressants (which are not working, btw) ... I was hoping they would take the edge off so that I could merely exist until I found a way to make it better.

Well, I thought I had found a way to make it better. A job at the county level opened up, one that I have been working toward for 5 years, one that I went back to grad school for a second time to get licensed for. The job description called for a Masters and a Licensure in one of two combinations ... either a Masters of Library Science and a Licensure in IT or a Masters in Instructional Technology and a Library Science Licensure ... I now have the first combo and am well qualified for the job. As soon as the opening was announced (back in October), I dropped off my resume and sat back to wait.

They finally set up an interview on the day after school let out. In the meantime, I heard several things ... that the job description was being rewritten to focus more on the Library Science and less on the IT (which should have tipped me off), that the pool of candidates was very small, that the technicians were behind me candidacy. All of this should have told me to stop hoping. My gut kept warning me but I let a hopeful thought or two in and began to think I actually had a chance.

When I went for the interview, I was ready, relaxed and rehearsed. I don't do well in interview situations, getting far too nervous and passionate when I speak and easily getting sidetracked. I felt confident, though, even though I was going into a situation not knowing who my interviewers would be.  When I walked in, I found I would be interviewed by two people I knew ... the one that would be making the ultimate decision and a professor from ECU whose class I had thoroughly enjoyed getting an A in. I thought the interview went well, though my 'boss' yawned a few times while I was answering questions, something the professor caught and looked concerned about.

I should have been concerned. I should have known going in that it was a lost cause. I should have noticed when he looked down his nose at me before I left in that he had no respect for me and no intention of taking my candidacy seriously. I should have known that, in this political world where you change your ideals depending on who you are talking to, that my annoying habit of speaking my mind and being strong in my convictions of wanting to serve the children of our county would not go over well.

I found out via email that I didn't get the job. I lost to a sleeper candidate, someone that does not have my qualifications but someone that will make her boss look good. She doesn't need the job or the money but she fills a need for him that I don't. Eventually, I will be able to live with that but right now, I'm on my indignant high horse, full of venomous thoughts and toxic anger.  My holiday escape was wrecked. I spent most of last Saturday in tears, unable to have any fun during a youth group get-together. Sunday was supposed to be a joyful, reverent performance at church, followed by family time ... poor T was relegated to the supportive boyfriend role (which he is awesome at), watching me bob about in an emotional sea of angst.

Yes, I have ideals that I will not give up, no matter how tempting the job is. Yes, I have moral fiber, despite the fact that I do not fit into the mold of other candidates. I don't know how, but I get the feeling that the fact that I am a single mom of kids that some would consider mixed-race, that I do not 'come from around here' topped by the fact that I have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can not be broken by anything or anyone (witness my escape from my marriage) made me unpopular with certain people. 

The irony that I have helped several people that are above me get to where they are is not lost on me. This whole situation reeks of politics.  Why bring in someone that could actually help the department if they are going to make you look bad?  I have been told over and over not to take this personally but I can't help it.  I was hoping it would not be personal but that email told me it was.

I don't know what I'm going to do but I do know that I can't keep fighting this fight if it is going to hurt my kids in the end. Just under a week before I go back to work. I'm reviewing my options but, at the moment, I'm unable to do anything because everyone is off enjoying their vacation, which is what I should be doing.

December 23, 2007

Out of options

Broken. Angry. Disappointed.

I don't know if I have any fight left in me. I have let myself down, let my kids down, and every kid in the county.

Overdramatic? Maybe. I can't help but be passionate about this, after everything I have come through to get to this point.

I know that God does not give us anything that we can not bear ... but, Lord, I'm tired. If this is your way of telling me it's time to move on, a simple plague of locusts would have sufficed.

December 11, 2007

Taking a break

Stretched too thin, lots on my mind but no time. Nerves are rubbed raw. Feeling the need to pull in and conserve.

I'll be back when I have something meaningful to share. 

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