Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Top 5 Reasons for Why this School Year is Different than Others

School is now in full-swing (at least in my particular district) and after an extremely busy few weeks, I am finally feeling (sort of) settled in. I finally have a minute (or five) to take a deep breath, and reflect upon some of the reasons this school year is so incredibly different from past years.

#5. This year is obviously different because it is the first time I have an opportunity to work part time: eighty kids versus one-hundred and eighty. This reduced student load is already providing ample opportunities for me to make personal connections with students. Granted, those personal connections run the gambit from positive to negative, but the opportunity is there at very least. To date, I have only sent two students out for being disruptive. It's a good start.

#4. It is also different because I have a different, more personalized, and thankfully even more relativist approach to my classroom as a new parent. It is very easy for me to re-think my philosophy in regard to why students and parents act the ways they do because I can see myself already doing some of those things. At the same time, this new found ability to identify with my students and their parents also drudges up feelings of annoyance and frustration when I feel like a parent isn't doing what is in the best interest for their child. Those are the times I get to have the conversation with myself about how I don't really know what's going on in their heads- nor do I necessarily know what's best for their kid. These are the feelings that have also made me realize I might not be teaching in the same capacity I currently am when my little one hits high school, lest I actually inform a parent of my opinion regarding their parenting skills.

#3. There is a new principal in town, and he's not a former (or current) English teacher... which means I also have a new evaluator. This is a welcome change, and not because I hate my old principal or anything like that. I respect my former principal, but I like to change it up a bit and I feel like I was running out of ways to attempt to make improvements in my teaching that would merit an improved evaluation in my former principal's opinion. So, with my new evaluator I am looking forward to the ways in which her varied background will inform how she conducts evaluations. Hopefully this will also encourage me to seek innovative classroom strategies that I might not have otherwise attempted. Hopefully it will also magically make those frustrations of the past disappear-- you know, the ones about never feeling validated or like I was doing even close to a good job in light of any positive hard data.

#2. I have no space to call my own. I shared a classroom during my first two years of teaching with "permanent" status and I didn't know any better, so it never bugged me. Many years later, most of them with my own classroom (space) and I am back to sharing a classroom because of my reduced contract. But, I am finding it's not really sharing when it's another person's space... so as I attempt to teach my fourteen month old how to share with playmates, I am relearning how to effectively share a space that has belonged solely to another person for the past four years. I am quickly learning that due to my controlling nature, I do not share well at all. Which, makes both me and my wonderful husband absolutely terrible role-models for our daughter.

#1. The top reason that this year is different happened just this week, I had an epiphany: I realized just how stupid I am... at least when it comes to dealing with a room full of teens. Over the past decade I had definitely forgotten how stupid adults are (in the eyes of their teenage critics) and I was happily reminded of it during a parent meeting this week. There's no getting around it: I have nothing on that room full of thirteen to fifteen year olds. They will always win when it comes to my intelligence (or lack thereof) in their collective perspective. So, now that I don;'t have to try to be smart anymore... let the "real" learning begin!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why it IS so hard to make friends after a certain age. (For certain people.)

Recently, a friend from high school (Kokoa, I hope I can call you that) wrote a blog about her difficulty making friends now that she is at the hmmm... how shall I put it?... "other" end of her twenties, closing in on her thirties. And, in short: I concur. But it made me ponder: Why IS it so difficult for ME (and other women I happen to know) to make (and keep?) friends after a certain age?

Full Disclosure: I am a self-described introvert. I (tend to) dislike "hanging out" with strangers... and generally just people that I haven't known for decades... and even then I just need my space.

So, I'm basically terming myself a closeted misanthrope, it's just that at this particular juncture, I'm beginning to think I'm not so closeted after all.

I noticed my inability to make new friends when I was about twenty-five. The husband and I had been hanging out with a particular group of his co-workers for awhile (solely in a party-capacity) and one of their girlfriends asked me about what I do in my free time. I know that's not quite how the question was crafted, but that was the essence of it. I told her I was close to finishing up a master's degree in English Lit. I kid you not-- she looked at me, so "Oh." and then quite literally shut her mouth and turned the other way... towards no one and nothing... and away from my company. It was disconcerting to say the least.

After that, and many attempts at understanding /decoding that particular interaction: Was I too noticeably dorky? Was I too obnoxiously educated? Was I not dumb enough? I eventually realized I probably scared the bejeezus out of her by coming off as too academic... I admit I love books, but I never thought that sort of degree could scare someone away in that manner-- it's not like I was working on a doctorate at a top rated school-- or even a master's at a top-rated school. Or, even a master's in a well-respected discipline... but any way... I scared her off and I think it was because she thought I was too stuck up (in an academic? way).

Fast forward to current times and I am just as befuddled now by some interactions, as I used to be by that one I had at twenty-five.

Specifically: When did I become the odd-man-out with my close-ish circle of friends?

I am supposing it was somewhere between pregnancies (not only my own, but other's as well), but I can't tell you for sure. I can tell you I got the hint after the hubby and I weren't invited to the annual celebration we had previously been invited to.

Or, maybe it was when I didn't go to work for a year. All of the sudden, I was into what turned out to be very much my own little schedule-- an extension of my own little world.

Could it have even been my lack of patience with certain others, or my willingness to be upfront? I suppose it was probably a tad bit of all of those things. I guess.

It might have been the last time I saw a friendly acquaintance (I say that now, though I would've just said "friend" before) in the store and bitched about my life's ongoings.

I'm beginning to think I'm just not a person who makes friends... but my Facebook page would attest otherwise.

Never the less, I am without a close group of friends nearby, and with my little sister soon leaving, I'll be without the person who has been my best female friend for the last twenty-three years. Ridiculously, I sometimes even mix-up my sister's name with my daughter's name, if that tells you anything about our relationship!

So... now I've got to figure out this ish! I'm going to embrace the few (girl)friends I've got-- those amazing girls I work with, that friend or two from middle/high school I still speak to, post-collegiate girlfriends that are super cool, and a neighbor or two that shares some common interests, and I'm going to find a new activity for myself. (Even if that means dragging some of my current friends through something that might make us refer to one another as Dr. & Dr.)