Redemption in Teaching…on a personal level

Now that I’ve had a few months teaching in a public school, I’ve found my ‘teaching voice’ again, and re-strengthened a lot of the professional muscles that had atrophied.  I’m exhausted but enduring, and my days frequently go at about 120 mph.

Amazingly, I quickly encountered all the bullshit issues that drove me absolutely bonkers last year.  I say that’s amazing, because I’m astounded at how I ever forgot some of these issues.  It’s like I developed a selective amnesia during the July heat.  My pet peeve issues with my job are not unique- I would encounter them at almost any job.  Meetings that I don’t need to be at (but am required to attend) are a staple of many jobs.  Bosses that like to use their position to bully you or work out some of their Alpha-dominating-piss-on-your- lamppost-just-because-I-can-Issues.  Immediate superiors that think the superiority of their position extends to their existence as humans.  Paperwork that exists solely as a CYA measure and serves to keep paper companies in business.   Add to that the Protestant Work Ethic Gone Wild that has developed in this country (no video for this one yet),  and you have all the standard pains-in-the-working-woman’s-ass.

But in teaching, these issues are exaggerated by truly ridiculous expectations, time constraints that would be outlawed by any developed country as inhumane, and the inherent inequalities that come from having an industry primarily composed of the world’s single most undervalued resource- women.  Seriously, most men I know would not do all the extra work required in teaching on their own time, without insisting on additional compensation.  My take is that women, being used to picking up slack (as a generalization) and doing what it necessary to get a job done, are exploited to a magnitude in the industry of teaching that no administrator would consciously be comfortable admitting.  If teachers suddenly insisted on being paid what they are worth to society and being paid for the acutal time that they spend doing work-related activities, the system would break wide open.  The continuation of the current educational system is completely dependent on the actuality of this realization (by women teachers) and subsequent revolution (of women teachers) never developing to fruition.

SHE STEPS BACK AND DOWN OFF THE BOX.  AAAANNNND….SCENE.

And then there’s the reason teachers put up with so much shit- our students.  The portion of the population that can say, by turns, the most kind and unkind things to you with the exact same expression, intention and impunity.   The category of humans that can reflect your worst and best parts back at you so clearly.  Teaching kids definitely reveals all the best and worst in your personality.  Your imperfections are burned up to the surface, usually alongside your temper and every ounce of patience.  A glaring portrait of my inconsistencies is weaved each day on the loom of my interactions.  (Hmm…not sure about that last metaphor.)

To even survive teaching, I’ve been forced to develop this thick shell that I’ve never had before. I don’t know any other way to describe it except to say that it breaks you.  Down. Completely.  At least, that’s what it has done to me.  A very close friend has pointed out that maybe my job shouldn’t do that to me.  Maybe the panic attacks and days of self-recrimination, the fatigue, the scattered thoughts, the overstimulation…maybe that ‘normal’ should not be MY ‘normal.’  But if I’m fully submerged in the flow of Life, fully participating, then shouldn’t some part of the adjustment hurt like hell?  Isn’t it normal to expect that a trial by fire will burn, by virtue of the fact that it is supposed to temper steel, to burn out impurities and force you to let go of all that no longer serves you in your survival?  Isn’t redemtion supposed to hurt?  Be difficult?  Shouldn’t there be a danger that I’ll fail?  If there is not, then where is my Challenge?  Where is my Hero’s Journey?   These questions keep popping up on the days when I absolutely hate my job.  I wonder if I’m just being masochistic or if I’m being faithful to my Journey.  Hell of a line to try to walk.

But maybe at the end of the day I’ll get to keep that thick shell and that experience, to prepare me for the next part of The Challenge.  I don’t know yet if that would be worth it, but I hope so.

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