Category Archives: Teaching

Writer’s Cascade

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I have been struggling to keep this blog.  It’s not from a lack of desire–I really want to commit to writing again and have found great joy in crafting the posts I have.  And it’s not even a case of writer’s block.  It’s actually quite the opposite– I am plagued by verbosity and thought scatter.  Too many ideas to share, too many genres.  My words spray out in countless directions like a firework starburst, each spark emanating from the same combustible source: my brain.  I want this single blog to fulfill many purposes at once:

1.  A reflective journal to harbor my spiritual, philosophical, and mental health

2.  A yearbook of pictures and stories for Everett

3.  A more personal “status update” to share with family and friends

4.  A forum to jumpstart my writing craft

And being the English teacher I am, I criticize this lack of cohesiveness and focus each time I sit down to write.  I visualize the red ink I have so often scrawled across high school students’ margins:  There must be a thesis statement.  Know your audience.  Persuade me.  Choose artful words.  Be concise.

This self-aware teacher voice in my head has stifled my ability to write.  Most of the entries I have written have revolved around a single “thesis” and have taken me at least an hour or more to construct–because I am not just candidly “musing” as my blog title so ironically suggests–I am layering an argument, deliberating over each word, unfolding a theme.  While I have really enjoyed this process, it is not sustainable.  Each time I think about writing, I sigh and click open a mindless site intend (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.), telling myself that I don’t have the time, wakefulness, or patience to write a “quality” post worth reading.

Needless to say, it’s time to let go and let flow.  I am telling my perfectionist/English teacher/aspiring writer/tired stay-at-home mom self to commit to just one goal on this blog: Just write.

So I set out these past couple weeks to find a way to conquer this writer’s cascade I face, a way to channel the outpour of thoughts, emotions, and purposes I want this blog to reflect.  But since this simple task of “Just Write” is much harder for me than it should be, I needed training wheels.  I needed structure, routine, commitment, accountability–all of those “Type A” markers that prevent me from writing in the first place.  But all of those support rails sounded stifling too.  So I found inspiration from my friend Mandy’s blog “Music City Mama.”

She keeps a “Daybook” once a week that is driven by a framework that provides cohesiveness to the variety and unexpectedness that pervades daily life.  I loved it.  And felt that it was just the kind of template I needed to give myself permission to record the scattered but beautiful mess that characterizes my days.  So with great thanks to Mandy, I am stealing her form and starting “Snippets & Quips,” a (what-I-hope-will-be )regular post blurting out my not-so-literary reflections and preserving both the marvelous and mundane that make my life so rich.

Being “Part-Time” and Other Excuses

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Confession: I just tried to log in to my own blog and failed, because I had forgotten the password. Sad story–with a moral that calls for reclaiming priorities and balance.

I have a million excuses for why I haven’t written since November, but I vow not to launch into a cathartic rant detailing the strata of stressors that have kept me away from this reflection post.  However, I do feel the need to play a quick game of “catch-up”, so that I can bring this blog back to good standing.  And if I’m honest- this post probably will be cathartic for me, but I will try not to rant as I write about just one layer of my life these past five months: my part-time job–the primary conflict this protagonist has faced in the story of new roles and new pursuits in Nashville.

“Part-Time”–as difficult for me as parting the Red Sea!

In early November, I began working as a part-time Reading Specialist at a brand new charter school in South Nashville.  The opportunity more or less fell in my lap and the perceived flexibility of the job tempted me on to the slippery precipice of part-time teaching.  The deal seemed even sweeter when I was able to hire a wonderful babysitter for Everett–a college freshman with a class schedule that allowed her to come watch Everett in our home the two mornings that I would work each week.  It seemed perfect–I got to get out of my sweatpants and use my academic brain for a few hours each week and Everett could still maintain the regimented nap schedule that he (umm-I mean I) was so addicted to.  I felt a little nervous taking this step at first…after all–I had very deliberately made the decision that I wanted to take a “break” after 9 years of teaching to be a stay-at-home mom and that’s what I truly wanted to do when we moved to Nashville…wasn’t it?  By accepting this part-time job, I was also accepting that I was not 1oo% sure about my goals, my roles, my desires.  Was being a stay-at-home mom enough for me?  Did I need to teach in order to preserve the “self” I knew?  So to answer these questions, I began working from 9 to noon on Mondays and Wednesdays.  I don’t have the energy now to bore you with the details of how this job pursuit has turned out, so I will just gloss the experience with some lessons that I have learned along the way.  And like any good meditative musing on self, these lessons come in pairs and often in paradox:

Lesson #1.  It was therapeutic to be forced to get out of my workout clothes, take a shower, and don professional attire at least two days a week.

AND….

Lesson #2.  Many days, it was very stressful to make myself and my house presentable.

After many a long sleepless night due to teething, snot, or God only knows…all I wanted to do was stay in a sports bra and boycott anyone–especially the young, sweet 18-year old I’ve entrusted with my child–from entering the squalor of dirty dishes and laundry that mounted.  Because to do so would let out my secret: I am not the perfect mom, but I expect you to be the perfect babysitter for my perfect son while I am away.  (OK- so I don’t really place these kinds of expectations on my nanny nor do I think Everett is the Messiah, but it was really really hard at first to hand over control when it came to caring for Ev- even if it was only for 8 hours a week.)

Lesson #3.  It was rewarding to work in a high-need school, to re-claim my Teach For America roots and fight the Achievement Gap, to put my Master’s degree to the test diagnosing and remediating reading deficiencies…

AND….

Lesson #4.  It was incredibly frustrating to be a marginal presence both in the building and in the lives of these struggling 5th grade readers.  I was only willing to sacrifice two mornings a week away from Everett…and these kids needed and deserved so much more than I could give.

Lesson #5.  Working for a new start-up charter school was inspiring and important work…and this different school structure lent itself well to the creation of flexible part-time positions for stay-at-home moms that wanted to dip their toes back in the water.

AND….

Lesson #6.  Working for a brand new school led to many frustrations that I won’t detail here…and at this point in my life, there are compromises and sacrifices I’m just not willing to make.

While I have certainly endured many aggravations and stressors throughout my career, I found myself taking it so much more personally when I felt my time was wasted or that I wasn’t valued.  This wasn’t “just a job” anymore.  It was precious time spent away from my son.  And when I looked at it this way, the headaches just weren’t worth it.

Lesson #7.  Part-time teaching is probably not something I can do…at least the “part-time” part.

Surprise, surprise–I still don’t know how to set limits.  While I was only working 2 mornings a week, I still found myself planning, analyzing data, scouring resources, etc. for countless more hours each day such that I was spending the little time I had with Ben in the evenings burdened with “homework”.

AND….

Lesson #8.  Being a Part-time mom left me wishing and seeking…

Ultimately, I wanted those hours back.  I wanted the time with Everett, but also with myself.  I wanted more time for the little but important things that I had embraced since becoming a mom…updating Everett’s baby book, cooking and baking and finding new healthy meals for both Ben and Everett to try, using the jogging stroller for what it was intended for…(umm-RUNNING), reading, playgroups, and of course….THIS BLOG.

The Conclusion: I am seeing this job through until the end of the school year (May 24th, but who’s counting?)  After that, I will resume my full-time work as a stay-at-home mom while also keeping an open mind and eye for other opportunities and ways to give and be my best self.  These may include other career endeavors or may not…I am looking forward to whatever unfolds.  I do not regret the last five months or that I tried on part-time work for size.  This get-up just didn’t fit…and in the process of pulling at the seams and adjusting the hemlines, I learned an awful lot about myself.

Who wants to write lesson plans when you can hang out with these silly guys?