Monday, January 19, 2015

One More Thing

It seems that at the beginning of every year I return to school after my winter break in a slump. Not just a slump, I'm talking about a gigantic bad attitude.

 I work so hard up to the break, that when the break comes, I crash.

And when I say crash I'm talking about sitting on the couch in a puddle of my own drool and liking it.

This year wasn't any different except that this time I decided over the break, that without a doubt, I was done. This was going to be my last year teaching. In fact, I was so sure that I told anyone that would listen, that I couldn't take it anymore.

Forgive me, but now that Twisted Sister song "We're Not Gonna Take It" is stuck in my head

So what was different about this year that I decided I'd had enough?

Well, this year I started keeping track of all the hours I spend at my job. I always knew that it was a ridiculous number, but I never actually did the math.

Sort of ironic, isn't it? The math teacher that doesn't do the math.

I didn't keep track of any of my summer hours because a lot of that is just my own disease, working in my classroom before I had to be back. I wanted to be fair and reasonable because I knew that this data was going to help me make the decision of whether to stay or go. Just like that Clash song from the 80's.

I started with my hours on my first contract day and I included all the time I've spent planning, preparing, grading, teaching, everything.

And do you know what I found? I was averaging 58.6 hours per week doing my job. The job that the average citizen nauseatingly likes to remind me, although very much in error, allows me to have my summers off and leave everyday at 2:30. Never mind that I'm teaching until 3:34, my contract time doesn't end until 4:00, and I never have the luxury of walking away at 4:00. Pesky details.

Do I sound bitter? I won't deny it, I'll just smile and fake it until I make it.

Back to the actual hours, I figured out that if I continued at this pace I would have put in 2,168 hours in 37 weeks.

I compared this to a 40-hour/week job working 50 weeks a year with 2 weeks of vacation, working 2,000 hours per year.

That's right, I'm working 168 more hours in a year, but in less time.

Somehow having summers off isn't as attractive as it once was.

What I'm talking about here is balance.

I have zero balance in my life. I don't do fun things during the week. I don't exercise. I rarely cook for my family. I fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day and I'm killing myself.

Since I'm full on into my Pity Party, I also calculated my hourly rate. As a teacher in my ninth year of experience teaching in Idaho I make $36,096 a year (which I might add is less than I made when I taught in California 15 years ago with less experience). If I divide that by my 2,168 hours I'm making $16.65 an hour.

Granted, these hours aren't true for all teachers, but I can guarantee you that it's an alarming number.

And to be fair, my crazy hours are partially my fault. If I were to work just my contract hours I would be making $24.39 an hour for my 37 weeks of contract time.

That's not horrible I guess, but remember, I'm working all that overtime and I don't get paid time and a half.

Do I think it's going to change and teachers will be paid more? Not for a minute. That's not really the problem I have with my job anyway. It's the sheer number of hours I put in that I can't deal with.

Honestly, there are so many things that I love about my job. Every single day is an organizational challenge and a juggling act. I dig that because I never get bored.

And the kids? They crack. me. up. Every single day. I can't imagine not being around them.

And the math! Can I just tell you how much I love doing homework which I then assign to my students? They complain about the homework and I tell them I assign it because I care. "It hurts me more than it hurts you because I have to grade it," I tell them. It does not make them feel better.

My dilemma is that I love my job, but my job is killing me. Or maybe I am killing me because I can't do my job in a reasonable number of hours?

I've had to take a step back and really look at what I'm choosing to spend my time on. I had my evaluation meeting with my principal about a week after returning from break, and he confronted me right off the bat about hearing that I was telling everyone I was leaving.

The thing is that he didn't ask me about it in an accusatory way. He was truly concerned and wanted to help. He sat and talked with me for at least 45 minutes, trying to help me figure out what I could do to work less and play more. He shared his experiences with me and he talked about the frustrations he feels about the job and the demands that are placed on us.

Every meeting we go to, teachers leave saying "One more thing I have to do now." It's awful. Expectations are constantly changing and this new idea is replaced with that new idea, and we are just supposed to embrace it, invest a gajillion hours to implement it, and then change it again at the next meeting.

Teachers know what I'm talking about.

I came away from the meeting with my principal waffling on my position. He really made me think about how I spend my time.  The bottom line is that I just have to hold firm and walk away at 5:00. Whatever it is, it can wait until tomorrow.

And do you know what? It works. And okay, I can't do 5:00, but I totally walk away at 5:30 and I don't bring it home. I do still have to plan on the weekends, and I hate that, but I'm managing the day-to-day and I don't feel overwhelmed. Before this new mindset, I felt overwhelmed every single day.

I've been to the gym a few times--not enough but it's something. I've been cooking a few nights a week and I often have leftovers to take in my lunch instead of prepackaged frozen meals. Some nights I come home and just sit on the couch and read. I waste time.

So maybe I'm not leaving. I'm not making any decisions right now, but I am going to give my job another chance. I'm going to take it one year at a time. That's all I can promise right now.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas 2014

Yes, I'm just popping in after two months to say hello and Merry Christmas. I'm flighty like that. I really don't know what has gotten into me blog-wise, but I can say that my job is sucking the life out of me and that affects my motivation. Wah, wah, let's get on with this.

The picture above was taken by my friend, Glitter Man. I find that having pictures taken of yourself as you age is always an alarming endeavor. I can't tell you how many times I've exclaimed "What's wrong with my eyes?!!!" Youth really is wasted on the young.

Anyway, I really tried to get my ducks in a row this year and scheduled the picture taking ordeal for the day after Thanksgiving. Then, because Glitter Man is so nice, I had the digital pics in my hands several hours later and was able to order my Christmas cards that night. The letter was written a couple weeks later and I actually got my cards out last week. I don't think that's happened since I went back to work.

I logged on today to post my Christmas letter. I thought I'd put it up so it appears that I am still alive. I really do think about this blog and I feel much guilt about not posting. I don't have a lot of time to dwell on it though, but just know that I really do want to post.

So the letter, here it goes.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I look at the date in disbelief. I might actually get this Christmas letter out in a timely fashion this year. As usual, I'm in panic mode trying to get everything done before the big day. Of course that means that this is the perfect time to get sick and check, did that. I'm sure I was stupid enough to say something like "the last thing I need right now is to get sick" and WHAM! Lightning bolt of Ebola on its way. Not really Ebola though. I could totally hop on a plane right now and be good to travel.

I'm always tempted to say "Whew, what a whirlwind this year was!" but then aren't they all? Let's just say time flies and leave it at that. Our girls keep growing and neither one of them is in any better of a mood than they were last year. Seriously, how long does this teenager stuff last? They are not amused by any of our jokes and they even spew sarcasm at us. They must be learning that at school. Facebook tells me I can blame Common Core for that.

Zoe Bug is 13 now and getting very curvy. Don't tell her I said that because she would kill me. She is pretty dang cute, although she insists I'm the only one that thinks so. That's fine with me. I just remind her that boys are icky and eventually some of them mature. She's very conscientious about her responsibilities, but also extremely disorganized. It's a strange combination. I keep threatening to offer up her room for an episode of "Hoarders," but in reality I think they want a whole house and I simply cannot allow that.

Stinkerbell is 11 and still scaring us on a regular basis. She definitely marches to the beat of her own drummer, although Peanut Head insists it's an entire percussion section. Thankfully she has graduated out of what she calls the Crazy Kids Club lunch group that she was part of last year. Now she has Facebook. This scares me because now our friends have a direct pipeline into the dysfunction in our household, with no opportunity for me to edit the copy. One of her first posts was a hand drawn picture of an anonymous parent chasing two kids with their hair streaming out behind them (because they were running very fast, no doubt) and the caption "Who Needs Anger Management When You Have Kids?" When I first saw her post I had a flashback to the little note she wrote when she was five that informed me that Happy Moms Don't Scream.

Zoe is still playing the violin and Stinkerbell started playing the trumpet this year. Can I just tell you about the noise in our house? Imagine this--the intensity of The Charlie Daniels Band playing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (but played at quarter speed) acted out by siblings dueling with non-complimentary instruments. Cacophony is the only word that comes to mind. I know it's helping them to become well-rounded adults. We just keep telling ourselves that.

I am still teaching middle school math, although I know my days are numbered. I'm trying to stay until Stinkerbell gets through middle school, but I don't know if I'm going to make it. It's not a good time to be in education on so many levels and it is not the job it once was.

Peanut Head is still at the lab and doing his thing. His job seems to be always changing as he branches out in different directions. He's doing more office work than he's happy with, and he longs to be out in the field more. He has had a couple opportunities to travel to Washington, D.C., and he has some upcoming trips to New Mexico in the New Year, so hopefully that will spice things up for him.

On the animal front we still have two fish that refuse to die, which is sort of ironic because for a while there, Zoe was having so many fish die that we considered opening a seafood restaurant. In addition, the girls now have gerbils. We have always said we would never have caged animals, but the girls put together a very convincing Power Point presentation and we caved. I will say that they are pretty cute for rodents. Lucy the cat is super interested in them, and she would very much like to lick one. She does that little quivery thing with her mouth and drools excessively when she's watching them.

We lost our sweet cat Jo Jo in October, and we still miss her very much. She was like no cat we've ever had before--very social and cuddly. She liked to stretch out on Gunny's bed and leave him with just a small corner to curl up on. I don't think he loved that, but what was he going to say? Cats rule and dogs drool is how the saying goes, I believe.

Gunny is very much Zoe's dog, and he worships the ground she walks on. He's also super naughty and he likes to run amok in the neighborhood when given the chance. Zoe is the only one who will chase him and bring him home because the rest of us like to stand on the porch and practice our threatening "Come home now, YOU BAD DOG!" voices. Well, okay, Peanut Head and I do that. Stinkerbell chases him, but I'm pretty sure that just makes him run faster because she scares the snot out of him. Welcome to our world, Gunny Man.

On that note, I think I'll end this letter with the visual of Gunny's caterpillar eyebrows raised as he looks behind him, calculating how much gas he needs to pour on to elude Stinkerbell's capture and the long walk of shame home.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year.

The Scott Family

As I write this I am on a much needed break from school. I know I will go back well-rested and ready to face the long stretch leading up to the dreaded testing. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this school year is nearly half over.

I'm looking to the New Year with excitement and hope. Not because this has been a bad year. It hasn't. I just love the fresh start a New Year brings. Although I'm not one to go on a New Year's Resolution diet, I do need to take better care of myself. My life lacks balance and it shows. I have never felt so out of shape before in my life, and I look forward to working on that. Baby steps are better than no steps, so that's where I'm going to start.

Years ago I started another blog called "Controlling My Thighs," but have yet to muster the guts to actually publish it. Content has been written and deleted so many times because, ugh, embarrassing. Maybe this year I'll have the guts to hit that publish button. There really is a lot to laugh about in the quest for health and fitness. I'm sure I'll never run out of content.

For example, one day last spring I was out running, and I use that word in the loosest sense because many people walk faster than I run. Anyway, I was running and a man stops his truck, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, to get out and tell me that he's in the fitness industry and he just wants to tell me that I'm doing so good and keeping up a nice little pace, and keep it up. I was taken aback and part of me was all "Puh-leese, I can pep talk myself," but then I reminded myself that he meant well and he was trying to be encouraging, not condescending. You gotta give people credit for trying, you know. 

Anyway, I think God sent him to me special because I really was in the process of talking myself into stopping at two miles, and because of him, I HAD TO KEEP GOING. I was all "Damn you, Fitness Man!" but outwardly smiling and trying to appear Iron Man Strong.

To look at the bright side, it had been a dang long time since I had stopped traffic like that.

So yeah, health and fitness can be funny. 

This post has gone on too long, so here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Peace out.
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