I should not be writing this. I firmly believe that what I pay attention to is what grows: years ago in my career, I trained myself to focus on the good. Rather than seeing student tardiness, see their willingness to come to class. Rather than filing away a snippy student tone, file away what I learn when I ask “what’s up? I didn’t expect that reply.” Writing with the explicit purpose of focusing on costs and barriers is dangerous. But these other thoughts counteract my awareness of danger:
- During Wisconsin’s Act 10, when teacher’s unions were stripped of meaningful collective bargaining and public disdain for teachers was in full display, my friends and I repeatedly had a saying: do not pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. That sentiment holds true now.
- I am raising two brilliant children. When I explained some elements of my teaching life coming this year to my older and then told him “I will just have to learn to like it,” he chided me, saying that what I just said was one of the most maladaptive things he has heard from me. He (still under 20!) encouraged me to acknowledge the truth as I saw it, advocate for myself, and keep on teaching well.
- Hearing about other teachers I admire has made me feel less crazy. Maybe this will help someone.
Why this journal exists now–
Early in the pandemic, I was, as educational leader, conferencing with a younger teacher new to our district. That teacher shared that he was really struggling because the lockdown/online teaching destroyed his work/life balance. I ruefully thought to myself that I have never had work/life balance. All through my marriage, I have heard my partner occasionally say how much he hates being married to a teacher. In recent years, I have articulated to myself that my family has paid a price (sometimes economically, sometimes emotionally) because I am a teacher.
If I go back to Tom Rademacher’s blog, this other line stands out: “I’ve run this race for fourteen years now and never run it cleanly. I always end with busted knees and new scars. I’m always exhausted, every year, tired straight through my chest.” I’ve run this teaching race thing now for twenty-eight years. That chest comment? I end normal school years with a rattle in my chest, feeling each breath. I throw my back out every June, then wait for recovery. I have never accomplished a work/life balance, and the pandemic forced a reckoning with that truth.
Why this journal is *no longer* “anonymous”
I originally published large portions of this blog this summer in what my older son called my anonymous rage rant under the blog RRRidonkulous– because wow! How often this year have I heard what was going to happen in my worklife and thought, well, that’s ridonkulous. And RRR–RRR– reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, baby.
There was reasoning for an anonymous rage rant. A morning some weeks after we started concurrent/hybrid teaching, there was a school-wide hold (keeping students in place to give a medical or discipline situation privacy) put at the end of my prep hour. When the hold would be released, I would need to be in a different room, logged in for the zoom kids with needed sanitation done for face-to-face kids. An un-doable three minutes was allotted for that. So I decided, since the nexus for the hold was not my hallway, to go to bathroom. When I was passed by a school official, I realized I was afraid. Afraid that the fact I was in the hall during a hold would be put in my file. Afraid that the observation would be ammunition against me. I at first thought that this was pandemic emotions hyperbolizing sentiment, but…
Later that month, a colleague drove hours to help a friend diagnosed with cancer. In the ride, her car developed a loud noise. As she bought groceries to leave at the door and ran errands she could, she wondered if her car was driveable to return that night to be in school the next day, Monday. She felt a fear that this would be a mark against her, an entry in her file. The fact both of us came to conclusions of fear and insecurity says a lot. This was in the midst of a pandemic where our emotions ran high, but then, so should have support and understanding in meaningful ways.
Currently, our lead principal has offered to have a restorative circle hearing of angst in my department. I note that there is a significant portion of the department who decline because they are nervous to speak their minds. (There is also a significant portion who declines because they have not been bothered by anything. Life is, as always, complex.) But here is the thing about being quiet– it doesn’t enact change. Here is the thing about speaking– it requires oh so much energy.
I am stepping away from being a leader after this year. My admin, my department know this is the final year of being instructional leader, and this blog will help me process how and why that is. Being quiet, though, does not enact change. Being compliant does not allow systems to bloom into fully healthy organisms.
In all my leadership, my number one value is transparency. Here are my words. I own them.