Teaching, Writing, and Thesising: Oh My!

In One Mean MFA fashion I’m writing a blog post instead of just banging out the last ten–really 8 pages of my thesis essay. The essay is a discussion of my influences, my process, and why I write. As with everything related to my thesis, I’ve waited until the last minute to complete it. I know what I want to write, but as is the case with any of the writing I do, it’s not the conception, or the characters, or plot, or whatever that troubles me, it’s simply sitting down to do it.

As you know I’ve been teaching high school English since March, and while I’ve been surprising more productive despite being busy, I find myself entering my apartment after a long day of teaching teenagers and being unable to do anything intellectual. I would wake up earlier to get some writing done, but my only qualm with this is that I already wake up at 5:30.  How much earlier can I wake up? 4:30? I mean I would be able to get a good hour in of writing a day, but I’d have to hit the sack around 9ish and that is not going to happen.

Teaching wears me and while I know it’s going to sound terrible, I refuse to bring home any teacher stuff. All my grading and planning I do at school, at my desk, in my classroom. My first year teaching I used to lug around textbooks, papers, homework, and tests. Back and forth, I’d carry it into my house and work on it at the kitchen table; the same place I did homework in high school. Because I’ve been trying to stay focused on my thesis, I’ve decided that it’s more important to devote my kitchen table space to my work. Not my students’ work.

Still, even though I’m not grading or planning at home I can’t seem to get myself to be motivated enough to do anything when I finish teaching. I know I started teaching in the middle of a semester, but I”m looking forward to summer when I can have my days off to continue looking for an instructor or adjunct position in the area and get some writing done that doesn’t have anything to do with my thesis. Teaching high school again has really helped me decide what my priorities are and writing is definitely on top.

Making money is great; I’m not going to lie, but I can’t honestly say that when I wake up to go teach those high school kids that I’m truly content and satisfied. I found so much more happiness teaching college students how to write papers and got paid peanuts to do it. I got to see them grow as writers and thinkers. At the high school,I mostly witness new cheating techniques and different levels of complaints about how I chose the most horrible literature for them to read. I will say, on a positive note, that they are really enjoying the novel I’ve chosen for them; this is a refreshing change from all the complaining.

While I know everything will work itself out–I’ll get that essay done, finish those last-minute touches, and manage to be super teacher–right now I wish I had a little more motivation to finish the measly 2500 words I have left to write.

I will add, in an effort to be positive, I have been enjoying thinking about my process and what I learned about myself as I wrote my very first novel. It’s also quite awesome that I get to write about myself for 10 pages. Can’t complain about that.

Now that I’m feeling more focused and ready to work, I think I’ll get to it. Who knows I might get it all done tonight.

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7 comments

  1. When i got to the middle of this Blog post i was awe struck. It has nothing to do with your day or your struggle though. it felt as if i was reading my own writing, not now, but from the future in a way. I’m in college now, on my way to getting my degree in english. I’d love to teach and be able to help students with their own writing. If your not content at the end of the day because you don’t have time for yourself, then why not try to MAKE time. Bend the curriculum here and there. What i mean by that is, if you give loads of work to your students, your leaving yourself loads of work as well. Give them one day off a week. Not from class, but from homework, a paper being due, anything. To give yourself what you want for once. Take that free time and write. Your career isn’t supposed to take over your life. That’s my opinion. But what do i know im still in college!. good luck!

    1. Phil, Thanks for the comment. I can see your point but, grading homework, essays, and tests isn’t the issue. I just feel like my teaching style and personality are not as condusive to teaching high school. While I do work my students hard, I am quite good at getting everything done at work. What wears me out is the classroom management and the disrespect I get from the students daily. The students don’t ever have to face consequences for their actions (which is partly because of the school’s policies and partly because their parents don’t support teachers). I will say that I do struggle with putting myself first, an issue that is actually a major theme in my novel, but I more than anything I really want to be a great teacher the students will respect and teach them works and leave them skills they will carry with them for their lifetime. Best of luck with school, sounds like you’ve got your goals on track. I don’t know you’re doing this yet, but I hope you’re completing your education requirements to get a teaching license for your state. The one regret I have is that I didn’t get my license while I was in college. Not having a license will hold you back when it comes time to be employed and in this economy it’s better to be sage than sorry. Again, thanks for the comment!

  2. It may not be High School. It may be THAT high school. I graduated from an ABBOT school district 2 years ago. We were ranked about 220 out of 600 high schools in New Jersey. The students were horrible. There wasn’t a single hallway you didn’t hear profanity or a potential fight. Maybe you should look to teaching at a different high school. I understand you want to teach these students morals, but they won’t take what you say or put right in front of them to heart unless they actually want to. If you want respect, being strict or tough isn’t the way to go. Students don’t like that. The more strict you are, the more students will take advantage of you. They’ll keep pushing you to see how far you’ll really go over the edge. You’re patience with them is what fuels your students. Be relaxed. If they act up or become disrespectful, take points off their next quiz or test, or even give them a Zero for the day. As they’re grades plummet, they’ll beg you for help. That’s when you demand respect before you help them at all. You’re there to help as well as be respected. It’s just an idea. I was part of that kind of class. Give them activities, but at the same time, make your class a difficult one. Move the tables around. DONT mix those who WANT to learn with those who can care less. I hated being put through that in school. It irritates your top students. Take care of your top students as well, show them you appreciate their obedience. If you have to send some students out, do it. Don’t be intimidated, but do it calmly.
    In my school we had something called “Corridor aides”. It was a fancy word for “security guards”. if you have them, call one off your desk phone. Dont say anything to the student. Just have them escorted out when they are completely unaware. Be kind, but show your the boss. Reward your students.
    I know I know, students shouldn’t be awarded for learning. But by rewarding them, you gain respect, and your job becomes easier, they’ll want to pay attention, they’ll learn to learn.
    Don’t mean to rant, but i’ve seen teachers quit because of these problems, just wanna give you the tips anyone should have given you a while ago. I know from experience, aside from be only 20 years old.

    And i haven’t completed those requirements, but thank you for making me aware of that. i appreciate that. I’ll look into that as soon as possible.

    And one more thing. Try to take these tips, utilize them once in a while and see what happens. I don’t know this quote exactly, but the real sin is not trying, failing after trying is not.
    I wish you the best of luck

  3. Phil, I totally appreciate the comment. I’ve been teaching for almost four years and I think the issue, as far as class management is concerned is that I took over in the middle of the year, in the last quarter before summer. I have tried a lot of your suggestions in the past, and for the most part, many of them work.

    I totally agree with not putting the students that don’t care with the students that do. I also hated that. It’s unfair to the students who want to learn. In fact, recently I rearranged the seats and put the great students in the front and scattered around the bad ones (there are only two or three of them, but they sure have a way of getting everyone out of line) and our classroom discussions have been going a lot better.

    I hope you don’t misunderstand me when I say that teaching high school may not be for me, it’s not the teaching, it’s just all the beaurocratic bull and hoops that high school teachers have to jump through that takes away from the learning and my writing.

    From the sounds of it, you will make a great teacher. God knows the world needs more of them.

  4. I completely understand what your saying. Taking over a class well past the middle of the year has to be tough. The specific students your talking about were use to the freedoms they had without a real teacher. If they were in the same situation i was in, you can’t be blamed for the way they’re acting up. My senior year in highschool, my english class (crazy coincidence) was without a teacher for nearly two months. we had substitute after substitute until they finally came up with a real teacher. Our freedoms we were use to really took a toll on us for the rest of the year.

    Maybe your real career lies on being something more than just a teacher. Maybe you want to have more control in the school. Instead of having to jump through those hoops, maybe your meant to fix those issues that your school causes for the instructors. And making those natural issues easier on everyone. Maybe even elsewhere, in another type of work place.

    You can always open doors for yourself. Learn new things and try other careers. You only live once (as far as we know), so why not try as many options as possible instead of settling with something you don’t enjoy to the fullest.

    And i appreciate it. Hopefully i will be, It’s only a matter of time till i find out. Thanks!

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