Tag Archives: teaching

I love a fresh start.

Summertime on the Puget Sound

We’ve had a cold, soggy spring in Tacoma. Most days, the sky and the Puget Sound have been a uniform shade of gray. At long last, the springtime sun flirts with us from behind the clouds, bringing promise of a new beginning.

The other day, I was reading a social media conversation among writers about fear of the blank page. Many find it hard to begin a new project, intimidated by all that white space. Me, I love a clean slate, a fresh start, a wide-open vista of endless possibilities. I love to sit down at my computer, or outdoors with my notebook, and just blather forth. Blah, blah, blah! Natter natter natter! Etc., and so forth, and so on!

I love that part.

Imagining scenes and characters and writing them down is easy and fun—for me, anyway. The hard part is cleaning it up and making sense of it all.

Right now, I’m working my way through the craft book that has my writer friends all a-twitter: Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. My half-finished mystery story needs a good clean-up, afflicted as it is with my usual slow-paced start, over-abundance of characters and side-plots, and protagonistic pontifications. So far, I’m finding Cron’s approach very helpful, like a stern but sympathetic teacher who raps her ruler on my desk every time she sees my attention start to wander.

Another fresh start that’s beckoning is summer break. My giddy anticipation of the end of the school year is more than a bit ridiculous, considering that I teach only five hours per week. But still—the promise of summer glimmers on the horizon: warm, lazy, self-directed days, unimpeded by commuting or lesson plans.

And I’ve decided not to accept any teaching jobs next year, having remembered the hard way how much prep time goes into each lesson taught. I only have so much focus and energy per day, and far too much of it has been spent on finding or creating materials for French instruction. Hats off to elementary and preschool teachers. Having stood briefly in your shoes, I have more respect than ever for the sheer amount of work you do to keep those little ones excited about learning. Y’all must be mainlining caffeine to do that all day long.

This detour back into teaching has sharpened my awareness of how much I enjoy writing. If I ever hope to publish my work, and I do, I need to devote my high-energy time to that pursuit. Lesson learned.

So, here’s to a new season and a fresh start.

An Experiment in Semi-Retirement

retired-teacher

During my last walk through the halls of Bitburg American High School, I tried to predict what I’d miss the most about my job. I suspected it would be the feeling of belonging, of making an important contribution. Or would it be the abundant social contact? That seemed less likely; on the introversion scale, where one is a bubbly cheerleader and ten is a cave-dwelling curmudgeon, I’m about a seven. I enjoy spending time with children and teens, but being with them all day was exhausting. I truly miss laughing over lunch every day with my fellow teachers, and commiserating out in the hallway between classes. But what I miss the very most is…

My paycheck.

OK, go ahead and throw spit wads. We teachers are supposed to subsist on sunshine and kid’s smiles, unconcerned with pedestrian matters like financial compensation. But there you have it—the freedom of retirement comes at the price of having to pay more attention to my pennies.

And so I’ve been exploring options for making a little money on the side—that is, until my books hit the New York Times Bestseller List and I start raking in tall piles of money. (I’ll pause now, until all my writer friends stop laughing…Still waiting…Come on, guys…)

Last year’s foray into substitute teaching was lucrative, but not something I care to repeat. We all have our childhood memories of those poor subs, pelted with spitballs, epithets and disrespect. Actually, the worst thing about subbing was the boredom. There’s seldom any teaching going on, and that’s quite understandable.

If you’re, say, a chemistry teacher, do you really want some stranger with a degree in English mucking about with your expensive supplies? If you’re a P.E. teacher, do you want some former music teacher to be the only thing between forty rambunctious tweens and total mayhem? No way—you prepare a stack of handouts or an education film for those inevitable days when you’re felled by the flu.

Instead of hiring certified teachers as subs, the public schools should recruit moms and dads who’ve raised big broods. They have the skills most needed by subs: eyes on the back of their heads, and that stern mom/dad glare that forces kids to drop the spit wads, stop poking their classmates, and hush.

This year, I’ve stumbled into three different mini-jobs: I’m teaching French to little kids and adults, helping teens to prepare for the SAT/ACT, and editing a writing buddy’s manuscript. This is more or less the kind of patchwork arrangement I imagined when considering retirement: I bring in a few bucks from here, a few from there, trying out jobs that offer less remuneration but more fun. Although I could happily spend most of each day writing, it’s good for me to get out of the house and interact with non-imaginary people every day.

And so I’m working on finding my new rhythm, balancing the demands of these different mini-jobs with my not-yet-paying writing, as well as trips to the gym and time spent with my oh-so-patient spouse. And I’m back to writing lesson plans again. It’s funny, my writing is more consistent now that I must squeeze it in between work sessions. Who’da thunk it? I guess some of us just need more structure to our days.