Once, I took this professional development seminar about dialogue journaling. My daughter and I do this now - I'll write a note to her, she writes back to me, I respond to her response, she responds to mine, etc and so forth forever and infinity. You learn a lot about people this way, by exchanging written notes. Writing is kind of freeing like that. I think because...well, the other person can't interrupt. You get to say your WHOLE piece, all the stuff in your brain, and THEN they can respond. I don't know about you, but when I'm talking to someone, one of two things happen: they interrupt me to tell me their thought(s) while I'm still in the middle of giving mine, or (2) I get nervous I'm not making sense and I completely trail off and stop.
Oh, wait! Before I get into my major wine whine, can I tell you a really powerful story about what writing can do? Two years ago, my hardest little gangsta girl completely exposed her raw and tender soul to another classmate via dialogue journaling. I read a whole exchange that went like this (fyi: I fixed the crazy 2nd grade spelling and grammar so you could decipher it):
Gangsta Girl: I don't believe in Santa Claus.
2nd Grade Girl: I believe in Santa Claus. Why don't you believe in Santa Claus?
GG: He ain't never leave me no presents.
2nd Grade Girl: Well, I will give you presents.
2nd Grade Girl: Because I like you.
GG: I like you too.
2nd Grade Girl: I'm glad we're friends.
GG: You're my very best friend in the whole school, 2nd Grade Girl and I was just kidding I believe in Santa Claus too.
See? Writing heals. I'm pretty sure if someone would just dialogue journal with Putin and those crazy ayatollahs in Iran and Donald Trump and all the right wing political hacks on the whole entire planet plus all the fundamentalist religious crazies, the world simply wouldn't be as scary. Writing is power.
Oh, wait! Can I tell you one more story about how writing causes connection? The lady I was sitting next to in the dialogue journaling class, the person I had to dialogue journal with, shared via writing that her dad had just died. So I wrote back that my dad had died XX number of years ago; that I knew it's a hard thing to go through, saying good-bye to a mom or a dad no matter how old you are.
And for about 10 minutes we just sat and wrote, telling our stories. I learned her dad had had Alzheimer's, and that she nursed him at home til the very end when she had to cry "Uncle!" and just take him to hospice. I learned she still felt tremendous guilt over the items her stressed out, frantic brain threw into the suitcase as she packed him up for hospice. And I learned that when she got to him there and was unpacking all of these crazy things, she sat down on the floor of his room and just cried. Because she realized: Oh. Oh. Why did I even bring any of this. He's not going to come home.
On the break, I talked to her about it. She sat and sobbed; it was that fresh. And I sat and sobbed with her; it was that sad. I just patted her back, and expressed empathy. Losing people who were sources of strength and wisdom to horribly debilitating things is quite possibly one of the hardest roads to walk as a human being. Simply because you have no power to fix it, and it's not your fight to fight.
At any rate, at some point between the sobbing and the consoling, I let her know my husband and I were really struggling (this was just the beginning of the beginning of the end, when we were at the start line and realizing: this ain't workin', somethin' done got broke). She told me she had also divorced several years ago, and asked if I thought my job had anything to do with it.
Funnily enough, about a week prior to this class, C and I did have a (slightly heated in which I was incredibly over-defensive because I was so stressed out, even then) discussion about the stresses of my job, and how I bring them home. Teaching is a hard job to leave behind you. You can't necessarily just shut the door and pretend there's not a mountain of paperwork you need to see to still, or that parent-teacher conference prep time looms, or that that one ass crazy parent is continuing to make your life hellacious, or that one kid is just...I mean, jesus god. What the freaking hell is WRONG with that one kid?? And I know y'all already know how I feel about those jacked up data worshipers.
She told me there's research out there that says teachers have about a 12-15% divorce rate, which is fairly high-ish. Not the highest, but high-ish. It's the paperwork demands, the stresses of the job, the longer-than-expected work hours, and the fact that teachers - particularly elementary level teachers, in which there's a ginormous percentage of women, because little kids I guess - spend a large portion of their year, their time, and their lives devoted to other people's children while their own only get what's left of them at the end of the day. And these days, that's not a whole hella lot, I gotta say. Didn't make me feel better, but it sort of explained a tiny fraction of why I was where I was. I will say to you right now that teaching/public education is responsible for...what's smaller than 1/4? 1/3? .05/100% ? something like that...of why my marriage ended. (FYI: I don't care if that last fraction freaked you out. I am not opposed to combining Mathematical concepts, just as I remain unopposed to combining races and religions, cultures and curious juxtapositions of punctuation; I feel it adds spice to an otherwise dull existence.)
Okay. That's the end of my Writing-Is-Powerful-Connecting stories. Back to real life:
So I've been very stressed out and angry about work, I don't know if you can tell or not. I've gotten one source of stress off my plate (sad, not-working marriage) kinda sorta, but now I've got this...this...gloppy gloop of 5 week old refried beans sitting cold, smack dab in the middle of the plate still. Fermenting. Mocking me. I've been spending quite a bit of time sorting through my life, trying to figure out what exactly landed me where I'm at, and that dialogue journaling seminar memory just went and raced itself through my brain the other day, and made me remember: oh right! Public education causes 12-15% of all divorces amongst teachers! Stupid teaching.
Then today we had an ice cream social and I'd had a long day so I didn't feel like ice cream, or giving the stupid Sunshine Team $25, or being very social. I don't feel real sunshine-y there these days, so if someone in my family gets sick or whatever they can just take their flowers and shove them where the sun don't shine. Sunshine = pfffft.
And also I've been examining and weighing my options. If someone at my school started a dialogue journal for the staff, it wouldn't be pretty. I mean, my dialogue part would take up fucking PAGES. Get a drink, get comfy. Like, I'd finally write that damn novel. But it would be in a composition notebook with a lot of swears and "And another thing!" and "And you don't even GET it!" and "Do you even KNOW what's going on???" and "Are you people for REAL?!?!?!"
Pages of that. Like Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, only less concise but with better character development.
I think, at this point, where I'm at is: (1) try a different school [good], (2) try a different school district [better], (3) try a different career [best]. The problem with #3 is: what career? First off, which major Fortune 500 or 250 company or even tiny Mom-and-Pop quick mart needs a woman with a Bachelor's of Science in Elementary Education (minor in Spanish, with a concentration in Junior High Social Studies, GPA 3.5...brought that low because of the unfortunate decision to take Astronomy as a Science elective because I thought it was going to be like Pisces vs Scorpio vs Aquarius and stuff but no, turned out it was basically ASTROPHYSICS wtf) and a Master's in Early Childhood Education (GPA: 4.0, and several high fives from the professors who judged my capstone research paper and presentation). I know how to teach vocabulary skills, reading comprehension, language arts concepts, and I can fake my way through little kid math fairly well until we get to confusing word problems, and then some of my higher people are teaching me. I don't know. Would Corporate Trainer work? I bet most Corporate Trainers just fake it til they make it. Which I will have you know right now: I excel at.
Second, Corporate America feels and sounds just as soul sucking. Doesn't it? I mean, helloooo: Donald Trump.
Third, I have a kid, bills, and debt; so I can't just sell all my shit and start backpacking it around the world, living in hostels. And I don't suppose living in hostels WITH my kid around the world would be healthy for her.
But I can tell I'm at a crossroads because I simply can't stay somewhere that's draining me like this. Plus the situation is making me terrified of my bosses and I don't want to be terrified of my bosses; my bosses are pretty nice people, I like them all immensely. But I'm terrified of them coming into my classroom now to rate me (no, seriously, Internet: I am utterly terrified of my bosses coming into my classroom; I'm terrified I'll be having a bad day, or I won't have something they want to see filled in on my lesson plans, or 3 kids won't be engaged that day, or something on their checklist won't be present and I'll get marked down...I don't mind getting Needs Improvement, even though I kinda feel it's insulting to do to a veteran teacher with 20 years' experience...but I worry they're looking for ways to unload veteran teachers for younger, cheaper labor).
I'm working at my very, very hardest, I'm giving them my very, very best...and yet I feel like I keep getting told unless it looks precisely like how this person does it (and, uh, can you wear cute cardigans like she does, too? We really actually love the Stepford Wife model), or maybe you can do it exactly like this research says to, and by the way: unless it produces these kinds of results...you suck no matter how hard you work. I'm starting to feel like, that even if I followed a script, they'd still have beef with me...and I'D BE READING THEIR WORDS.
sigh. I'm sorry, Internet. Really, I just came here to whine. It's kinda late, I'm drinking wine, and I'm whining. I hope you weren't busy or anything.
I'm going to get off here now and get on Craigslist. See if there are any job openings for Town Crier that pay at least $55,000 a year + decent bennies. (oooh! You know what would be really fun?! That job where those guys stand on the corner dressed as a Chic-Fil-A cow or the Android Smartphone droid. I wonder how much THAT pays, and if there are free sandwiches and/or phones involved.)