I’m learning the difference

I’m having another one of those duh moments. I’m suddenly realizing the difference between Facebooking and Blogging. What can I say, but I am a slow learner, but I”m a tenancies one and refuse to give up. Learning, to me, is almost like  getting little presents spontaneously.

Today was one of those days. My faith in Humanity was rediscovered. Thank you Thurston High School. Best doesn’t begin to describe it. Smooth. A little too smooth, but it had it’s moments of reality.

The two senior literature classes were awesome, even in their napping. I probably don’t want to give too much detail away to protect student privacy. They are so sweet and adorable at this age, especially when they are sleeping. The way I figured it: it was Friday. I was doomed right from the start. I was their second sub in a row, and I couldn’t see anything remotely looking like a record of yesterday’s events. No clue what kind of sub they got, and there are some scary ones out there. Majority are the sweetest, but I suppose there a few in every occupation. I hope no one is thinking of me in this fashion.

I usually write a short story to the teacher I am in filling in for, giving more positive than negative if possible. So the twelfth graders were a dream. But even the Sophomores were sweet. Maybe it was I that was still asleep, but I wouldn’t let anyone pinch me. The best part about the students were I could treat them like young adults from the get go, and they could either choose to treat me the same or get on my bad side. I tell them right upfront that I’m a pushover and easy going until someone crosses the line, and then I gotta get all serious. And this is turning into a blog…

Three hundred words is not for Facebooking. I’m noticing that I’ve finally changed channels in terms of what kind of writing I’ll do where. If my writing starts to dig a little too deep and I want to allow it to expand in any direction, I’ll transplant it from Facebook to WordPress. I still could lose my job, but I don’t think as instantaneously as I did last time. The only time. Hopefully my last.

For the most part, the Thurston Colts students were working on projects that are due next Tuesday. I made my rounds, prodding gently those who weren’t doing any work to perhaps at least look like he’s doing work. If I confiscated every cell phone I saw today, it would have broken the teacher’s desk.

Remember: I’m a sub. It’s a Friday. Oh, it’s an early release day when the day once again forgot it’s supped to be raining. Football game and Dance this weekend. I enjoyed chatting with all of the athletes in the room; maybe that’s a reason why these students were really on top of their game. Sorry. I refuse to edit or I’ll convince myself to remove clichés. Not today.

I thought I had another reason for cutting the kids a bizillion yards of slack, but mostly I was still tired after the third graders at Dos Rios played me like a fiddle. I was running around the entire day except for the half an hour lunch break.

Today was more about respect. I caught the first class of seniors off guard when I told them that my name was Susan. Someone asked me if that were my last name. No. I’m noticing that sometimes not having a title puts kids more at ease, and that tends to make the transition smoother. Some kids had to call me Ms. Susan. They acted as though they had never had a teacher like me before. I like to remind myself that that is so true as there is no other teacher like me, and today this philosophy paid huge dividends.

Obviously, I don’t teach for the money. My first full-time job teaching is my testimony.

I’ve probably written about being recruited to teach at the Willamette Leadership Academy, now in Sringfield, but recruited isn’t quite the word. Beg. That’s how they used to get all of the teachers. I should know. I spent plenty of time on the phone calling every single substitute on the Lane County Education System list and beg people to at least think about working at WLA. Most people laughed. You want me to teach how many courses, without a prep or proper license, for what kind of money? Oh, and you don’t get health insurance or retirement. We had people lining up for miles to get into the door.

There were a strong core of us who thought we were fighting a valiant, though futile war. It wasn’t bad when there were only two companies of twenty-five students each. When the high school doubled in size, it only made our job that much harder.

I think the thing that ticks me off more than anything is that most of us stuck it out. For the most part, tenure was never in anyone’s title. A few Sergeants had stuck it out, but before  2007, the teacher’s lounge had a revolving door.

I had no clue what I was walking into. I didn’t know that the salary was about half the amount a teacher in Eugene or Springfield would make. I didn’t even care that there wasn’t insurance or retirement. I had been waiting to teach for way too long and I wanted to do it while I still had the energy.

The best thing about working at WLA is that I got to kill off my entire teaching career in a five-year span.I was like a Shooting Star. When I was told I wasn’t being asked back for my sixth year, an unheard number, especially for the rank of Captain, I was told it was because I was burning out. Oh, work eighty plus hours a week for five years. Summer would be cut down to the regular forty. Teach the hardest students possible. Teach at least three classes without the proper authorization. I did it because I believed in the mission. I didn’t agree with the physical corrections they use, lugging tires around from one pile to another doesn’t do much good if the student is either adamant about they didn’t do anything wrong or don’t know what they did wrong. My biggest wish was that the school would employ psychologists instead of military personnel who are really good at yelling into the faces of students. I almost wet my pants the first day I was at WLA, watching an adult less than an inch from a student, spit flying. I hate yelling. I hate conflict. So, what the hell was I doing at a military-style school where Academics came second and behavioral was primary. In the very beginning, having a good First Sergeant was so much more important than getting a good teacher. 

First Sergeants, especially those with Marine backbones, are the most tenacious and dedicated soul that I have ever met, but they are kind of like the Pit Bull in society. When I needed a student chewed on, I always called for a Marine. I loved my SeaBee, but he couldn’t yell worth a darn.

I’ve been working on letting the angst of this job go for going on five years. The job I loved to hate or hated to love.

Even though I hate conflict and yelling, I took to that school like a duck in water. How about a Pisces in water? My natural element. Right from the bat, it was everything I dreamed of. I could wear army clothes and army boots.What law abiding Tom Boy wouldn’t like to wear this every day. I didn’t like the military dress uniform because of the dorky hat we had to wear; I reminded myself of Jackie Gleason. There was that even stupider cover that made me look like the tin man. The BDU regular dress allowed me to wear a baseball cap.

I got used to the yelling; I just didn’t allow it in my room. I didn’t make the kids yell in the classroom. I always waved off the need to call Attention when I walked into a room. No yelling. I hardly ever yelled. I preferred a walk or two around the track. In my last week or so at the school, I spent quite a bit of time walking with students around the track as we both cried.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had  with a young freshman. He was crying, which only got me crying, and in-between sobs, he asked if he were the reason I was being fired. Maybe he had complained about one of my assignments. I don’t know. I never was told why they weren’t renewing my contract. I never asked.

I do know that Spring was around the corner. The Colonel was marking my classes for the next year in purple. It was going to be my first year where I only had to teach English, the only thing qualified to teach. I was so excited. I didn’t really want to move schools, but I was starting to think about packing up five years worth of stuff. Teachers collect. It must be a gene.

Maybe this will be the last time I have to write about this experience. I’m starting to get bored. Some of you, probably are, but I’m not sure if I have ever written the entire story.

It must have been around April that I noticed some things changing. I remember being in the Colonel’s office begging to accept a student back, and feeling extremely surprised that I wasn’t getting my way. I had gotten used to it when it came to either booting or welcoming back a student. Even after being lied to by the best, I worked hard at giving second and third chances, and I believed I could read their character’s in the way our eyes meet. I learned quickly that I couldn’t use this contact as a measurement with those who just can’t give eye contact. I suppose this would be one reason why someone wouldn’t make it in the military.

I never had the chance to serve in the military. Now that women have more choices and don’t have to wear stupid dresses, but they still wear that dorky tie. While at the school, even though it was all pretend, it wasn’t for some. Some were going to be entering the military right after graduating. Mr. Wolph and another student entered the Army the Spring of my first year.

And I did have the slight hope that perhaps if I couldn’t turn students towards college instead of the military, perhaps they would be ready to face the real world some how. Probably wishful thinking. Hopefully none of the students I have known have had to experience anything besides boredom. I pray for boredom for soldiers and police officers.

Anyway, I noticed some chilliness in the air. This was a staff that I have had over to my house for bonding experiences. I could cut the tension with a knife. I asked my counterpart in the high school if she would tell me if anything were wrong. “I cannot divulge on that matter.” It must have tore Cheney up to say this to me. Wed become good friends in the five years, but she was second in charge. I was third. But there was a shooting start amongst us. Someone I had begged to come interview for a teaching position. I was promoted at a typical rate, a rank a year, but early on I was asked if I would learn how to run the show. The Colonel had only two years of full-time teaching before he was asked to be the head honcho, though everyone knew Sergeant Major Arbuckle was really running the show. Kind of like a puppet.

Maybe it was he who didn’t like what he was seeing in my teaching methods. I wasn’t very good with the military protocol, though at least I stopped saluting with my left hand after a month or so. There were all sorts of things. My body was falling apart. I had had knee and shoulder surgeries. I had been through a lot of physical therapy for my back.

I stopped working eighty hours a week. I took time off when I needed. The colonel reminded me on multiple occasions that he and I were lucky that this school would hire us at such an old age. I think he was ten years older, but older teachers and staff didn’t last long there, especially after having any health concerns. I did mention that at first they didn’t offer health insurance. That did change, which almost made it worse when they discontinued the contract of a teacher’s aide after she had a stroke, or a teacher for another health issue.

Instead of thanking me for dedicating my heart and soul into the school that paid me back in low wages, no benefits, they opted to kick me to the curb.

Guess it still hurts. Might as well turn this into a blog. I’m on a roll.


1 Comment

  1. Working 80 hours a week is inhumane. I can’t even imagine it. 40 hours is all I’ve ever had to work at a job… a paid job… and then there’s the “job” of being a wife, housekeeper, cook, shopper, housecleaner, mom-to-dogs-and-cats, landscape gardener, present-obtainer-and-wrapper, and general all-round female stuff. How can you do all that other stuff if you work 80 hours a week? No…nuh,uh… it’s not right… I’m glad you work like you do now… when YOU choose to! xxx

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