Inspiration from Anais Nin

I teach best when I am inspired and return to the diaries of Anais Nin every now and then for the strength to go on.

The following are some quotes from volume 2:

“I only believe in poetry. I want to live beyond the temporal, outside of the organizations of the world… Art is my religion.”

“Much of what I wanted for myself did not come true, but I suppose the day the creator wants something for himself, his magic ends.”

“I would like to care of them all… because they have the courage to be, to act what others only dare to dream of at night.”

“To be a part of a group one has to become a void, a sheep, a sort of gelatinous substance.”

“The monster I have to kill every day is realism. The monster who attacks me every day is destruction. Out of these duels come transformation. I have to turn destruction into creation over and over again.”

“If I still cannot believe in systems, I do believe in people.”

“When I enter a room of people, I feel a strong malaise which warns me I cannot stay, a real anxiety. Places and people I am not made to be with, because I cannot stop feeling. I cannot be with cynics, with debauchees, with callous, hard-boiled, or superficial people.”

“[W]eighed down, as if magnetized by the earth, towards its fiery center, as are all those who are not gravitating upward toward magnetization from the stars, the dreamers, the artists, who seek to elude the earth’s downward pull.”

“One must not be afraid. One must know how to float as words do, without roots and without watering cans. One must know how to navigate without latitudes and longitudes and without motor. Without drugs and without burdens… To float means to be joined to some universal rhythm. It is while floating, abandoning myself to experience that I became tied to the whole world… I floated thus into unity.”

“I have gained nothing from the enlargement of my world: on the contrary, I have lost… Even if I must become a wild and natural park inhabited only by idle dreamers, I must not stop to rest here in the fatuity of responsible adult life. I must do this in remembrance of a life beyond all comparison with the life which was promised me, in remembrance of the life of a child who was strangled and stifled by the mutual consent of those who had surrendered.”

“Past loves are dead loves.”

“For the artist without his vision of life – of the tragic and the terrible – would go mad and only art can save him.”

“People living deeply have no fear of death.”

“Music, the solace. Through music we rise in swift noiseless elevators to the heavens, breaking through the roof.”

Anais Nin

Anais Nin

Published in: on May 11, 2009 at 8:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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What Teachers Mean When They Say They Burnt Out: The Reasons I Left Teaching

“What does ‘burn out’ mean?” you ask.  All I can do is give you the reasons I left.

1.  No one is on your side.

First of all, there’s the students. Some will love you and some will hate you, but if you’re good it won’t matter.  The thing is that you are the authority and that puts you on a different tier.  It gets lonely up there sometimes, but you can’t go to one student about another even though they may be the only ones who would really understand.  They’re not against you, but they’re not on your side either.

Then there’s the parents. Depending where you work, they either see you as a service or as another part of an ugly system.  This is a generalization.  There’s always a parent or two who understand and are willing to work with you, but mostly you have to work to get them on your side.  It’s hard for me to really say much about parents as I am not one.  It must be difficult to hand your child over to strangers for eight hours a day and hope for the best.  The thing is that I believe that most teachers want the best for the students as well, but with so many students and so little time it can be difficult for that to come across.  The point is that dealing with parents is just another part of the job.  They’re not on your side.

Let’s not forget the administration. Hey, they work hard too.  But they are doing a balancing act just like you only you are in their mix.  I was lucky to work for administrators who supported and mentored me until I was ready to lead and then they left me alone.  Still, they weren’t on my side because the administrators are the ones who do the annual assessment on the teachers.  The administrators are the ones that mediate sexual harrassment allegations.  The administrators are the ones that breathe down the necks of the teachers they don’t like.  And you’d better hope that’s not you.  The administrators are not on your side either.

That bring us to the other teachers. They can be a great support.  They can also tear you down because of course there is competition as there is in every job.  The middle school team model seems to work well with the right team leader, but the fact of the matter is that the other teachers are as overworked, underpaid, and stressed out as you.  As teachers we barely have the time and energy to support ourselves much less our coworkers.  The other teachers are on their own side.

So that leaves you to keep yourself going.  It wouldn’t be such a difficult task if you weren’t given 120 students to support as well.  And this brings us to the next reason…

2.  Lack of appreciation.

Teaching is the lowest paying job that requires a college education (at least in Texas).  You want people to feel appreciated?  Pay is part of it, my friend.  When I began teaching fresh out of college in 2000, I made $28,000.  These days teacher salaries should begin at $40,000 (if not $70,000), hands down.  But enough about that.

There are no tangible perks to teaching either.  A guy I know who works tech support for Apple told me  when the iPhones came out, everyone at his work got a free one.  With educational funding being what it is, we were lucky if our principal could afford to get Mr. Gatti’s pizza for the staff meeting after TAKS.

Most people who teach do it because they love it.  It’s the interpersonal relationships that make it worth it, but as I said before, no one is on your side when you’re a teacher.  Everyone you work with has more to do than they can dream of getting done and sometimes the relationships that have flourished with that handful of prepubescent students just doesn’t cut it.

3.  Intellectual stimulation.

If school districts cared about the intellectual validity of their teachers, they would pay you more than a whopping $1,000 extra a year for a having a master’s degree.  Let’s face it, public schools are not an intellectual hub.  And while spending 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in a room with adolescents is stimulating in many ways, intellectually is not one of those ways.

To teach well you have to get down off your adult high horse and get into your students’ minds, find out what makes them tick, and use it to your advantage.  It’s much like sales, really.  As a teacher I found out what radio stations my students listened to and would incorporate their music into what we were doing (I believe at the time the big name was Chingy).  So all your time at work you spend on their level.  Sometimes you want to be on your level.  Sometimes you want a conversation that begins with something other than, “‘Sup, miss?”  You may want to talk foreign affairs, David Foster Wallace, or even sex.  These conversational topics will not go far with adolescents, though I guarantee you will get a rise out of them with the last one.

4.  Life happens.

Oh, you mean teachers have one?  You’ve got to have something outside of teaching to survive.  Sure, teaching is a way of life but it doesn’t have to be your life.  But sometimes your life outside of teaching sucks.  Pets and family members pass on.  Couples break up.  Health issues happen.  I discovered early on that in teaching it’s a lot easier to just go in than call in “sick,” and when life happens in a bad way it can be difficult to go in to work and perform (because we teachers are performers on top of everything else) like nothing is wrong.

5Sometimes it hurts.

Teachers are dealing with people… little people.  And as it goes with any person you see on a daily basis, you develop a relationship.  You get to know these people.  You start to care for these people.  For instance, Carlos.

Carlos had been in my 6th grade English class for a year.  He was hyperactive, impulsive, and got into trouble a lot in other teacher’s classes.  But Carlos was bright and funny.  Super-smart.  His writing was illegible and we won’t even talk about his spelling, but his ideas were advanced beyond his years.  He had imagination.  His parents were drug-dealers and he joined every before- and after-school club we had.  We did what we could.

He asked to go to the restroom one day (one thing about being a teacher is getting used to that) and so I asked to see his agenda, a spiral calender book issued by the school which all students were required to have signed by a teacher to enter the halls.  Of course, he had lost his and it cost $5 for a new one which he didn’t have.  I would have just given him the money, but I wanted to teach him a lesson so I told him, “I need the leaves in my yard raked, so if you come rake my yard I will pay you $5 to buy a new agenda, but you have to use it for that.”

So the next day I took Carlos and his friend back to my house after school, made them hot chocolate, and put them to work.  They did a great job and fast too.  Moved the table and chairs and all the potted plants to get to all the leaves.  I was impressed by their hard work, gave them each $5 (his friend needed a new agenda too), and dropped them off at Carlos’s grandmother’s house.

I put a lot into Carlos that year.  Encouraging his writing, teaching him resposiblity, and just enjoying having him around.  Then he moved on to 7th grade and that was that.

Only it wasn’t just that.

Because toward the end of the next year he broke my heart.

I had known he was having trouble.  His 7th grade teachers had come to me asking me how I dealt with him.  What could I say?  I loved the kid.  It hit me hard the day I was seeing the students off, waiting until the buses had gone, and around the corner comes Carlos in handcuffs being led by the campus SRO officer.  He was strutting like he thought it was cool, playing it up for his buddies.  I just looked him straight in the eye and his little face fell and he stared down the rest of the way inside.  Disappointment and anger hit me hard.  I was mad at him.  I was mad at the officer.  I was mad at the teachers who had forsaken him.  And I was mad at myself for caring.  But he had been selling drugs at school, so there was really no other option.  “I can’t do this anymore,” I thought.  And at the end of the year, I left.

Published in: on May 9, 2009 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What the hell am I thinking?

I’m sitting here at my current job with nothing to do.  I’ve been reading the Brazen Careerist on my downtime and have managed to peruse the whole blog in the span of two days – that’s the downtime at a state job for ya!  The point is: reading the blog has helped me make a decision that I never expected to make.  I am going to return to teaching.  And I’m excited about it.

I want to write about why I quit in the first place.   I want to talk about why I am going to return.  And then I want to have this blog for when I go back to teaching and need somewhere to record the successes, the failures, the do’s, the don’ts, the frustrations, and the inspirations.  Because I know that teaching isn’t just a job… it’s a way of life.

Published in: on May 9, 2009 at 4:18 am  Leave a Comment