career

Well, S&^!

Randomly, I was looking for a poem I had written and posted here. I had nearly forgotten that I had this blog.

Shame.

On.

Me.

I was totally sucked into my stupid high school teaching job. Meanwhile, this perfect space was waiting. I looked and saw that I hadn’t written anything since January. Nearly a year has passed. 9 months. I could have incubated a baby in that time.

Crazy.

I’m currently teaching a creative writing class at the high school level. This is fun and depressing. Have you ever read teenage poetry? Mostly, it’s awful. Mostly, it’s about breaking free from the tyranny of parents or about having a crush. Today, I spent nearly the entire day working on writing end comments for my students’ poetry.

As this year has passed, I realize (at this very moment) that everything I write is for someone else.

End comments for my creative writing students.

End comments for student essays

End comments for online students

Emails to a crazy PLC lead who is driving me to madness

Emails to administrators

Emails to my contractor who is taking an ice age to finish work on a tiny house

Emails to the parents of my students

More f***ing emails

My time is spent in meetings. An absurd amount of meetings. The amount and content of those meetings would be something Stoppard and Beckett would find too absurd.

Meanwhile, it’s all being ignored. All meaning the important stuff.

How does one even fix this problem? I guess, just like weight loss or quitting smoking, or deciding to become a marathon runner, it must come from within.

As I looked through old posts on this blog, I see that this is a running theme. I don’t have time. I don’t have time. I don’t have time.

Right now, as I type this, I’m in my classroom. School has been out for almost two hours. I’ve been to a meeting and have written my last end comment for the day. I have a mountain of papers to grade and should probably stay another 3 hours to get close to finishing it by Friday.

Instead, I’m going to head home and read and plan my writing for Nanowrimo and finish the laundry.

Sorry for the random stream of consciousness.

One Mean MFA is f***ing back.

The Steak Beckons

While I love a good four day work week, my unemployment situation has me all confused. My eating and workout routine is all off, my book a week challenge came to a halt, my sleep schedule is messed up, and on and on. I’m kind of glad America is back on schedule, because maybe I too can get back on schedule.

The dietician and I created a schedule for me. I have officially (it’s on the fridge so it’s official) set aside time for job hunting, writing, watching TV, and working out. I was supposed to be on this schedule last week, but couldn’t get into it.

I’m a TV whore, and love watching The Today Show. I always get caught up in the Money 9-1-1 segments, or the fashion segments, and I love Hoda and Kathie Lee. I swear I’m like an old lady stuck in a twenty something (late twenty-something)’s body.I get back from my 6 am torture spin session and Matt Lauer, Ann Currie, and Meredith suck me in. Then after two hours of having done nothing but made my breakfast, I find myself unable to get focused. I also love watching reruns of Frasier, Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Friends. There isn’t an episode I haven’t seen at least a dozen times, and yet I sit there laughing.

I’m a loser.

I don’t know if I can give up the Today Show, but I will try to turn off the TV tomorrow morning and actually utilize my schedule. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually get some writing done. I’ve been working on a few short stories, and an essay, but my novel needs major revision and my memoir needs work too/needs to written. In grad school, I had a writer friend who called short stories “fun fiction” because he’d work on the little projects in between the big projects in order to get  through the sometimes hard ass drudgery that is novel writing. Since I’m not working and have plenty of free time I’m going to try and use that mentality.

I think I need to read more short stories though. I’m always in novel mode because I’m always reading longer works of fiction. I have a few collections I’ve been meaning to check out since grad school. I bought them and they are sitting on my bookcase getting dusty. As far as teaching, I love teaching stories, but I love reading novels. What about you? Do you have a preference? I should devote a post to this.

Well, now that my brain seems to be cleared of the cob webs, it seems like forever since I’ve been in contact with you readers, I’ll get to work on some other stuff.

Other stuff includes:

a) the thawed steak on my kitchen (it’s kind of early for dinner, but that’s never stopped me before).

b) the essay I’ve been meaning to write for about a month. It only has to be about 1000 words. Honestly, get it done lazy bones.

c) I have GOT to outline my memoir. I’ve been having issues with the organization of the memoir. I don’t know if I should read more memoirs or just get writing. I can’t decide on the structure, the tone, really none of it. Also, should devote a post to this.

d) I need to reread what I have of my novel, so I can decide what I want to do with it. After letting it marinate in my file cabinet and on my flashdrive for about a year, I think it’s finally time to finish it and send it off. It would be super awesome to get that thing out into the world by the time the wedding comes along.

Sometimes, after I write these random journal/diary-like entries, I wonder what you readers think of them. So please, tell me. Do you hate them? Want me to focus more? What do you want?

I can’t promise I’ll give up these random here’s-what’s-going-on-in-my-brain posts, but if you hate them, I can limit them for sure. Or warn you at the beginning of the post.

Okay, the steak beckons.

Learning Not to Starve/How I Learned to Feed Myself

Last fall, around October, I had a mental breakdown.  I was bitching to FH about teaching, my students, my weight–everything really. Because he is a wonderful and supportive man, he helped me through it and made me realize that putting in the effort level that I was putting into my teaching needed to be rerouted. I needed to focus on my writing and my career, not my students who didn’t give a f&%!.   Whenever I write, I feel so good. I feel great. Nourished. He reminded me that I needed to write and be nourished because my students weren’t putting the effort in. It was difficult for me to do this at first, but by the time the spring semester rolled around I did just that.

I have now started my memoir, and started work on a short story. Two things I’ve been meaning to do for months, and I finally got around to doing it this semester. I could not have done this if I had been too focused on my students. Still, while I’m proud of myself for reading and writing more, I do think I was terrible teacher this semester. I’m confident that my evaluations will reflect this.

Things I did very badly semester:

1. Took forever to grade student papers.

2. Didn’t respond to emails as quickly as I should have (if at all).

3. Didn’t encourage office hours.

4. Had an attitude of “I don’t give a hoot” all sememster.

5. Was lazy in my lesson planning.

I could go on, but I think these five crimes are enough to show you that I was a bad teacher.

While, yes, I was a bad teacher this semester, I do feel I became this way because when I did give my all, I didn’t get it back from students. While this is not an excuse, even teachers breakdown and need to be rewarded. Even if it is with students turning in their work.

I went digital this semester and only collected work through Blackboard. Having the students submit their work electronically had problems (possible post issue) and while I repeatedly went over the correct formatting and procedure, students continued to struggle with it. In part, I feel they may have been playing dumb in order for me to go the traditional hardcopy format of collecting papers. I also think they don’t listen.

When I look back on this semester, all I think about is how much my students complained to me (and my boss –at the one school) repeatedly. I think about how it was impossible to satisfy my students (and both bosses), how my assignments and methods were questioned continually by both my students and boss (at the one school). Most semesters I feel some moments of reward, incentive to come back next year. I can honestly say, if I I don’t get a teaching job for the fall I wouldn’t be upset in the slightest. I would be totally fine with it (barring I had something lined up that was salaried). In fact (I’ve probably mentioned this already), I’ve been applying for jobs outside of education.

This semester has made me realize that there is life outside of academia. There is a big world out there, and people with my skills can be used in any field. I don’t have to be a teacher.

My mom, my boss (at the school I like), and others have told me that I’m a great teacher. That it comes naturally. I have a gift apparently. Having been told this throughout my career, I never ventured outside of the school walls. When you have a gift, aren’t you supposed to use it? Aren’t you supposed to take that gift and help others with it? (God, I’m so Catholic sometimes) I love school, as both student and teacher, why leave a place that I feel so comfortable? The thing this is this year I haven’t felt comfortable. My hair has fallen out in clumps, since last May I’ve gained about 15 pounds, and I dreaded driving to work. Oh! and my panic attacks and migraines returned. My body gave me physical signs that I needed a change.

The last day of finals I woke up with my chest feeling heavy; I still needed to grade some papers and finalize my grades. As I drove away from campus, done for the semester, I felt lighter and happier. All I need now is a good cry to get out the negative energy still remaining in my system.

The fact that I haven’t been happy, and excited to work on teaching stuff is a culmination of many things. First off, I don’t love teaching the modes, I prefer teaching argument, literature, and of course creative writing. I have had the opportunity to teach argument, but the curriculum and textbook required were not suited to my teaching style at all. I teach a lot of lazy students at the community college level which is actually an extension of high school. Many of my students weren’t at the level necessary to really dig deep. They struggled with basic computer skills, and no concept of how to do research. Also, the lack of care that went into their work was unbelievable. They didn’t proofread, or acknowledge that there are rules of formatting at all. It’s like they just discovered different fonts and decided to experiment using Calbri and Garmound in my class. I think the real kicker as to why I haven’t been happy teaching this semester (okay, all year) was because I was repeatedly told by my bosses (both schools) that I’m too hard on  my students, that I don’t have compassion and am insensitive to the non-traditional student. They are right, I don’t give a f&*$. Get your work done. There is not an employer in the world who would tolerate excuses like: my kids were sick, or I didn’t understand the assignment so I just didn’t do it, or you didn’t respond to my email so I didn’t know how to move forward. Really? Give me an effing break.

So when I think about how I’ve changed because of this semester I realize that not only have I been writing more, but I’m reading more. I’m also really excited about the possibility of a career change (separate post on topic to follow). While I would take pretty much any salaried job that was in my field, that prospects in education don’t look so good, but maybe that’s a good thing. Don’t misunderstand me, I wouldn’t turn down a teaching job, but if I had the choice between a job outside of education (like copy editing or something like that) and a job in education, I think the job outside might win. Just the thought of leaving my work at work….oh sweet lord. If anything, I’m not going to settle. I’m going to turn something that could easily be a negative into an opportunity to refocus and change.

Teaching-wise, not my best year. Work-wise, not my best year. But, something great did come out of this year: more writing and really understanding that I need to be nourished by work. If I’m not going to be nourished and fed in education, then see you students later. Trust me, it’s your loss. I’ve never been one to starve myself.

I will keep you posted on the job hunt.

The Overrated writing of the Pretentious English Department

Do you ever wonder how some of the famous writers of the past would fare in a writer’s workshop? I know I do. Last semester I was in a World Post Modernism course and now I’m enrolled in a British Modernism course. I’m starting to wonder what the big deal is about some of these writers. During my Post Modern course I brought this question up to my classmates, most of whom were literature majors, so it was so of brushed off, you know the good ole  ” oh that crazy MFA.”

Well, when I brought it up we were reading Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy. The back synopsis made me think it was going to be this wonderful thriller, of course since when do I read the synoposis on the back of a book thinking I’m not being deliberately deceived? So, Jealousy is heralded for its descriptions and genius, but you know what there are times in the book (and yes I’m aware it is deliberate, and why he did it) where he repeats paragraphs verbatim. It’s ridiculous. So I wondered, how would a workshop treat this? Would everyone be thrilled by the form matching the content or some bullshit like that? I imagine it going one of two ways, “OMG Robbe-Grillet, this is genius. Simply genius” or “Dude, what’s with the repetition, it’s annoying. Do something about it.” I image the second option more likely.

So for my class this week I had to read “England my England” by D.H. Lawrence. My question for my professor when I stroll in today will be, “what is the big deal?” I will refrain from using profanities as it is disrespectful, but it will be tempting. We are told constantly by writers to “show and not tell” or not to tell too much. I’m a big fan of exposition but in moderation of course. Good dialogue makes me so happy. Anyway, I know I’m rambling a bit. What is the big deal? There are maybe five scenes in the whole story, all which are boring and don’t really do much for the character development. The narrator seems to be reporting a lame ass story about a family and then it ends. Abruptly.

I imagine this being workshopped and people saying, “I think a scene is necessary here” or “your characters lack development” or “why not cut the first few pages and start here” but instead we as students attempting to be scholars are told, the work of D.H. Lawrence is brilliant.

Well, I’m not impressed. This is not to say I don’t think that a lot the literature that is in the cannon (whatever that cannon may be) isn’t brilliant. I do believe writer’s like Woolf, Marquez, Austen, Borges and Joyce and so many others were in fact geniuses. I’m pretty confident that the English departments of the world know what is worthwhile and not, but there are times when I have found some of it to be overrated. 

I will say, as someone who aspires to write for a career, I know I’m no where near as smart as the writers I think are overrated. It could just be that I don’t get it, I don’t have the depth. It call also be a matter of taste. Probably though, these writers aren’t overrated, in fact, it is I who am simply an idiot.

Tomorrow is Monday

Probably by the time you read this it will be Monday, but whatever.

I have been thinking, as I watch the TV in front of me and put off going to bed, that I don’t want it to be Monday.

Now, I know Monday’s generally suck, but the thing is I’ve been looking forward to the weeks passing. As the weeks move more quickly that means my finishing my coursework comes closer to being complete. It also means I’m closer to moving to the same city as my boyfriend and can finally have relationship with him with us both living in the same zip code. I crave this so much. These past three years have been tough with this long distance thing. I feel like I’m missing a half. Look, I know it’s cliche but that’s exactly how if feels.

This is the first Monday in a very long time (I’ll go ahead and say the first time in at least three years) that I haven’t been looking forward to tomorrow. I’m still not in the student mood. I can’t get into this huge writing project I’ve signed up for and I’m getting stressed out. Not that being stressed out is something foreign to me but I feel overwhelmed and scared.

I’m scared I’m not going to finish my school work if I keep up with this procrastinating.

Procrastinating is a kind of new thing for me. I never used to such a procrastinator. I used to be the student to get work done early. Now, I wait until the pressure is on to get cracking. I don’t like this. I need to revert back to my old ways. I’ve been finding the most ridiculous ways to procrastinate too.

For example: This weekend my younger sister by a lot of years was attending her first prom. I felt it necessary that I be there when she got picked up by her date. I needed to be there at the nail salon as she, my mother and I all got pedicures. That is nuts!

Instead, I should have staying at my apartment, an hour away from my parents house, focused. What the hell?

I will say that for the first time in a long time I did get some writing done at my parents house, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I did complete a story to be sent out and I finished my reading for my class on Monday. I’m ready to rock and roll for Monday, but come Tuesday and the rest of the week, I’m soooo not ready.

My Monday work aside, I also found myself up at two in the morning writing my other sister a letter. I don’t know what possessed me to start this letter and I don’t know if I’m going to give it to her, but it’s a long letter and there is some solid writing in it. What I don’t understand is why I didn’t take that energy and apply to the writing project I’m working on? What is my deal?

I don’t know how many of you writers out there have ever experienced this kind of rut, but if you have I really need some advice. I know this is my second, maybe third post about this but I’m struggling here. I’m a young writer trying to figure this writing career thing out.

Help a sista out.