Work Starts Up On Monday Again

Cue all teachers sobbing into their pillows.

 

I have actually been doing OK. Probably because it is break, lol, so we shall see how that changes next week.

I was supposed to actually work on some lesson planning and stuff this break, but nahhhhhhhh.

I really just let myself rest and relax and it has been really good for me.

Advertisements

I Closed a Chapter

On Saturday night, I went to see my former students perform their musical. I knew it was going to be bittersweet and be a weirdly emotional evening for me.

I was right.

But not for all of the reasons I thought.

Let me start by admitting something that will probably not be a surprise: While I did not appreciate the way my administration handled things at my previous school, I never blamed the students. Meanwhile, my current school is not the ideal fit, either; due both to administration and students. Therefore, I have missed my old students so much. Every day, in fact. While teaching my difficult classes, I would wish for my former students.

I experienced plenty of regret over leaving. While I wouldn’t have had my same position, I deeply regretted leaving and wished that I had stayed and taken the other position. This is despite the fact that I would not have been great at it. I missed the hours. I missed the students.

I had spent three years with these kids. I wanted them to do well. Of course I was going to come see their musical when they invited me. I wanted it to be great because the kids deserve that.

That being said, there was a part of me that was petty and awful. A part of me that was still actively hurting; who would compare it to what I had done with them.

I hate admitting that, but it is the truth.

I needed validation or proof or something. Was I really a bad director? Did the school have good reason to force me to leave? Were my students honestly much better off without me?

Please note: I did not want it to be a dumpster fire! I wanted it to be on level with what I had done. For my own sake, I needed it to not be Broadway. For their sake, I needed it to be good.

So I was very nervous as I was driving to the school that night. I hated myself for conflicting emotions and it consumed me while I drove there.

I get to the school. I am hit with pangs of “Why on earth did I agree to come?” I walk in the building and am hoping against all odds that I do not see any of the other teachers I used to work with. I notice that the audience size is on par with what we used to have, but smaller than our usual Saturday crowds. Of course it is football season and in the south, so that might be the reason. I purchase a “Star Gram” to send to the cast. It was weird to send it, seeing as I am the one who started them. Some of my former students are ushers and say hi as they let me into the auditorium.

Here is where karma gets weird.

My former technical director also came to see the show that night. We had not planned this at all. In fact, I have not spoken to her since the last day of school!

(I mean, I had e-mailed her in September asking for a letter of recommendation to grad school, but have not heard back from her, so… let’s not count that?)

Laughing, I walked up to her and we began talking. We sat together and caught up. We both admitted that we wanted the kids to be great but were hoping that we weren’t rotten directors. It was nice to know that it wasn’t just me who was uneasy. We looked at the set and were surprised by the fact that there didn’t really seem to be much that was BUILT. There was a set, but it was pieces that we already had. Granted, they had smartly picked a show that did not need an overly complicated set. This was a good choice. The costumes were pieces the kids already owned or from stuff we had gotten previously. Technically, our sets and costumes had definitely been more elaborate. Reading the program, we knew about 90% of the cast and crew, so it wasn’t a lot of new blood.

The show began.

There were parts of the show that were really cute and parts that were a bit rough. But this is how all educational theatre is. There were sound issues, so we knew that all the problems we had experienced with mics were not due to us! It wasn’t user error! There were pitch issues. There were minor snags. But again, these are things that always come with seeing a show.┬áIf I hadn’t been so familiar with the show, I wouldn’t have known.

It was a good show.

There is a local competition for high school musical theatre. We had competed in it while we were teaching there and the school was competing again this year. The judges were there that night. A few of my former students were really excited because their new director came from a school that received nominations, so they thought that meant they would definitely be getting plenty of noms this year. Honestly, I don’t know if that is happening. It tends to be the same schools who get nominated over and over, they dominate musical theatre. Looking over the last 5 (even 10) years, it is essentially the exact same group of schools over and over. Their reputation as musical powerhouses is well known and documented. Unless many of these schools have really bad nights when the judges watch their shows, I do not think my former students will suddenly find themselves swimming in nominations. Do my former students deserve nominations? Of course. But established school systems will probably get them instead.

All in all, I thought our musical last year was better. Did I enjoy the show? Yes. Were the students amazing? Yes. Was I there because I love these kids? Also yes. In the end, my previous concerns were met – my students were putting on a good show.

After the show, we went out into the lobby to talk to the students.

And here is where things changed in a way that I was not expecting.

The technical theatre students (and some of the acting students) were so excited to see her and she had a huge crowd around her. This was great to see.

Several of my students came over and gave me hugs and talked to me. There were a handful who really wanted to catch up, which was sweet.

But many of them would wave hi and that was it. Get a quick hug, and off they went. Some of them I saw and said hi to and they were like “Oh hey, sorry. I am busy.”

It hurt.

A lot.

Here I had been missing these kids every single day and they could care less. I am not saying that I wanted them to miss me so much that they were miserable. But they didn’t even care at all. Last year, I had seen them more excited to see their intermediate school theatre teachers.

Of course this started an avalanche of worry in my head. Why did they all hate me? Had someone said something that made them think I didn’t care about them? Had I done something? Was I actually an awful teacher and they were thrilled to have me gone?

I left.

Those who had been excited to see me were saying I needed to come see the next show, etc. They were so glad I came, it meant so much to them, come see them again!

But as I got into my car, having just experienced a straight up brush off from one of my students who I had been incredibly close to the past few years, I knew it was over.

The chapter of my life that includes those students is officially closed. If I see any of them in the future, it will not be as a student/teacher. It will not be anything dealing with that school. They will flourish there without me.

It is a definitive goodbye.

I Did Better in Math than I Thought

When you take the GRE on a computer, it tells you your “unofficial” scores directly after. It is your unofficial score, because the computer is only able to score two of the three sections.

I got a 156 in quantitative reasoning. This was a higher score than I got on any of the practice tests I took. My practice range had been about 150-153. Yay! The math score that counts was higher!

My verbal reasoning score was a 155, though. In practice tests I had been getting in the range of 159-163. I didn’t feel like it was terribly different. I don’t know if subconsciously I was so nervous about math that I just didn’t pay close attention? Boo on the score that counts being lower.

The third section involves two essays. Those each get scored out of 6. I feel like I wrote pretty decent pieces, but I guess I will find out in about 2 weeks. For now, there is nothing else I can do but wait. My GRE scores seem to fall in a pretty good range for acceptance.

I just have a few pieces left to knock out before I can submit my application. I have already put together all of the other parts, including proof of application to the university proper, official transcripts, resume, essay on why they should pick me, teaching certificate.

I am waiting to receive my letters of recommendation. I need three, and I sent requests to five people last week. Two have confirmed they will do it. No response from the other three yet. I am planning on sending another request to a sixth person today, just in case. I will follow up with the others at the start of next week? I don’t want to appear pushy.

The final piece is the portfolio. It needs to have 6 pictures and an essay. I am supposed to show different elements from a show I was part of at a school and explain my job and how we overcame problems. I have been taking pictures of the different technical elements for the contest piece I am directing currently. I have a picture of my set design, my lighting presets. I am going to take a picture of the costumes tomorrow, many that I had to hand sew the alterations on since the school does not have a sewing machine. I am going to take a picture of some of the set decor and additional set pieces that I am going to have to make and build myself. Since I am now a one-person team, I am planning on writing about my lack of tech experience being the problem and here is how I have tackled the issues one at a time. I figure that being honest about my weaknesses will show them that I really do want to get into this program to get better!

I am Taking the GRE on Monday

I am in the midst of applying to grad school.

Though I am applying to a program that requires me to do a philosophical essay, get letters of recommendation, create an artistic portfolio, and more… The GRE is what is really freaking me out. Math isn’t my strongest suit.

I first heard about the program 4 years ago from my mentor. She explained how it completely changed the way she taught and that it was the best program she had ever been a part of. She is an amazing teacher, so I was immediately interested.

The program is set up for teachers. It is three summers of intense classes and portfolio building on specific topics during the school years. I started looking into the program to prepare my application.

Then I got hired in a different district as the head of the high school. (Yeah, the school I just left.) So I knew I was going to be very busy that first year, learning the ropes. I decided to postpone graduate school for a year. I knew it would be overwhelming.

The following year I was pregnant. Obviously not the right time!

Last year, I was learning how to handle a newborn. I honestly had the information with every intent to apply so I would have started this past summer. It was in my planner and everything! But in the haze of new parenthood, I just never got my information together.

While I was at that work conference a few weeks back, I saw a session on this program.

At first, I was like “Why should I go to that? If I am starting to doubt I want to teach anymore, this would be a waste.”

But then I realized that I still wanted to be a professor. I would LOVE to teach at a community college or a full university. There are positions open. The only thing preventing me from applying? The letters M.A.

Two colleges were actually having sessions about their “Master’s for Teachers” programs. I went to both.

Thoughts on the first session I went to for a program I had never heard of:

  • Pro: Whoa, estimate of $12,000 total to get my Masters? Not that we just have that money sitting around, but that is pretty dang cheap for graduate school.
  • Pro: You can get the degree in 14 months!
  • Pro: In Texas, so I am in state.
  • Pro: Not the same school that I got my undergraduate degree at. I know this shouldn’t matter, but I was worried if I had degrees from the same school twice that it might look like I wasn’t able to get in anywhere else?
  • Con: I have never even heard of this school, so would a degree from there be “worthwhile”?
  • Con: 14 months if you take their full course the whole time, which is two complete summers (start of June through start of August) plus 2 intensive online courses during the fall and spring semesters. As if my current job lets me spend a ton of time with my family, adding in two full time online grad courses during the semesters? I was looking into these programs because it was summer based.
  • Con: About a 5 hour drive from me, so while I was in state, I would not be able to actually stay at home while in school. The set-up is all day Monday and Tuesday with some work on Wednesday mornings, so they had explained that most people get a hotel on Sunday and typically leave Wednesday. That adds up over a whole summer for two summers.
  • Con: I do not know anybody who has gone through this program. I like anecdotes.

Thoughts on the second session I went to for the school I had previously heard about:

  • Pro: Literally a 30-minute drive from my house.
  • Pro: I know at least three people who have gone through this program and all of them are amazing teachers and directors who I would love to be more like.
  • Pro: Classes are only in the summer and just for 4 weeks, Monday through Thursdays. The fourth week is actually a trip to NYC/Chicago/London (rotates each year) with shows and workshops with professional troupes and companies.
  • Pro: An extremely competitive program that is very well known and looked upon highly in this field. In fact, a recent graduate of the program is now a professor at the university!
  • Con: Estimate of about $20,000 total.
  • Con: No classes in the school year, but I needed to update my portfolio during the school year based on what I had learned the previous summer.
  • Con: The same university I received my Bachelor’s Degree from.

Both sessions really made me realize that I want to get my Master’s. And for a variety of reasons, apparently. For starters, it is required for the job that I want. I want out of the current situation I am in and this is my way. It will be hard for a little while, but short term pain for long term gain? Secondly, for myself. I feel like getting my Master’s will really help my own self-worth. I have wanted this for awhile. I want it, I need to work for it. It shows me that I am worthwhile.

And finally, for my daughter.

I have every intention of raising my daughter with the knowledge and awareness that she can do and be anything that she wants to be as long as she puts in the work. She has to work, but she can achieve her dreams if she doesn’t give up. What kind of hypocrite would I be if I told her that but actually had given up on myself? Also, way to show her that a woman can be the person with the highest level of education in a household! Setting an example like that for her? Going for her goal even after having a child, showing her that you keep working at it.

Yes. That is what I want her to see. That she is a smart, strong woman who has a smart, strong woman as a mother.

Once I was all fired up about grad school, I weighed the pros and cons and quickly decided on my Alma mater as the program I wanted to aim for. Several of the things said in that presentation helped sway me without being on the pros/cons list. Both presenters had brought a few people who were recent graduates from the program. At the second session, someone asked about financial aid. I know this school is great with that seeing as I received quite a bit from them with my Bachelor’s and it was actually the reason I picked that school over my other acceptances. But one of the recent grads said something that stuck with me.

“I took a student loan. Yes, I am still paying off my loans from my Bachelor’s, but I figured that I was going to die before I paid off those loans anyway. I know that is depressing, but it’s the truth. Why should I let my fear of taking another loan that I will never be able to repay completely prevent me from doing something that I really want? Oh, and the entire time you are enrolled, all your loan payments and interest are deferred since you are a student again!”

I had never thought about the fact that if I really wanted it, go ahead and get it and just keep chipping away at the student loans. Don’t let my previous student loans scare me into not going for it.

That was the moment I was like “OK, let’s do this.”

I got home and put the information on my desk. I talked to my husband about it. He completely supported me. I looked at it again a week later and started the application process.

I worried about the timing. Maybe now wasn’t the right time. I am such a mess right now.

 

 

And then I started laughing.

I was waiting for the ideal time. There is no ideal time. Yes, pregnancy and a newborn were really good reasons to not have previously applied. But was I really going to let my fear stop me this time?

So I have been working on it. I have ordered my transcripts, done the general grad application to the school, started my portfolio, contacted some colleagues asking for letters of recommendation (including my mentor who told me about the program), started my essay.

My GRE is scheduled for Monday morning. I am terrified of this part. Even with the fact that the presenter and recent grads all talked about the fact that their scores were not great and that the portfolio was clearly the most important aspect into acceptance in this program.

I debated taking the GRE in about a month, so I would have time to study. But I know me. I procrastinate. Or forget. Or get busy. Plus, GRE at the holidays? No, thank you. My best option was to take it earlier. Bite the bullet and get it done. Essentially, call my own bluff.

I have not been able to study as much as I would have liked, but that would have been the same no matter when I took it. That whole “ideal time” thing, again. During my lunches, I have been going over sample questions. I took a full practice test today. I fell in the range of “Good”, even with my dismal math skills for the quantitative section. I will take another one tomorrow.

And Monday morning, it is game time.

Not All Days are the Same

Not even all hours are the same.

 

I know at first, you are thinking, “Well, duh. How does this cause you anxiety?”

I am referring to routines. Things that should be the same whenever you do them.

Presently, I am talking about my classes.

I teach three different preps. That means that out of my 7 classes, three are the same subject (Intro), another three are the same (intermediate), and the last one is the only class of that material (advanced). All of my intro courses are doing the same material on the same day, etc.

Obviously the students in the class make the difference. I am not saying that I thought the students in one of my intermediate classes would learn and behave exactly the same way that the other intermediate classes learn and behave.

I am referring to the lack of consistency even within the same class periods.

Plain and simple, my 4th period class is my worst class.

(If teachers ever tell you that they love all of their classes and students the same, they are lying. Of course we have favorites.)

The mix of students and when the class period happens just makes that class terrible. That is fine. Whatever. Most of the time, they are doing a modified version of what the other intermediate classes are doing, since I know they will not get to do the final activity due to being off task. Yet they will occasionally spring it on me and work. Which is great! That is a nice surprise.

I really hate when other classes conspire to suddenly be THE WORST when they are normally great. Especially with how my day is broken down.

1: OK
2: great
3: good/great
4: BOOOOOOOOO
5: OK
6: OK/not good
8: good

With lunch being after my third period, my morning is normally pretty nice. I have conference 7th period, so 4-6 is usually pretty rough. Then I recuperate during my conference and teach my last class.

So I normally have planned and prepared for the middle of the day to suck. But sometimes they decide to up the ante on themselves even more.

“Just how awful can we be today? Can we break our record from last week?”

These days can clearly be disheartening. And it feels like when one class is truly awful, they somehow infect the next class period. They leave their awful behavior hats on the desks for the next class to pick up and wear.

Yesterday was one of those days. Morning and end of the day went fine. But that middle chunk…

4th period didn’t get to play the new game because they wouldn’t focus. Oh well. Not unheard of. 5th period was “fun” because a student threatened me and was physically removed from my room. 6th period also didn’t get to play the game because they were so horrendous that I had them copy directly from the text book. I had them do the section talking about behavior and etiquette.

Either way, I was seriously contemplating quitting.

Now it is time to see if today will be more of the same or if they will participate.

Eight Days is Not a Lot of Time

It is the final two weeks.

I keep a countdown up for my students. Sometimes hearing that there are 8 days left of school is one thing, but actually being able to see it and see the specific day you have finals makes you realize just how soon all of that is happening.

To date, I have applied for 35 positions.

Thirty-five.

To date, I have been offered zero.

Zero.

This metaphoric water is rising and I am panicking.

We did the math over the weekend to see what is the minimum I need to make a month for us to just scrape by.

I need to make $2500 a month (after taxes).

Not really in a positive mind frame today. Or recently, I suppose.

Obligatory “it will get better, things will work out” nonsense.

I’m trying, really. I am. I know it doesn’t look like it. But I am.

 

I Am Not a Grief Counselor

There was an active shooter in a nearby district. The situation is still being reported. Definite injuries, no numbers yet. Shooter obtained. Ambulances and Life Flights have taken injured. There are multiple casualties.

Our principal came on with an announcement about the situation. We are staying in school today. Talk to your teachers, talk to your counselors.

How am I supposed to function the rest of today?

And after the whole bomb incident last week.

I don’t want to do this.

I don’t want to be part of this anymore.

Those poor kids. Two weeks left of school. They had a Lock Down drill due to a shooter rumor just two months ago.

On April 20th (the Columbine anniversary), when students wanted to do a peaceful walkout, our school told them no. Students tried to organize other events. Continued to get told “not right now”.

When is it alright?

When is it enough?

When is it too much?

Because for some people, it is already too late.