Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A List of "Thanks."

On this cold Thanksgiving Eve, I thought I would take a moment to post what I'm thankful for this year. Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite holidays, and not just because of the delicious food. I love taking the time to reflect on how fortunate I truly am. It is easy to be caught up in daily unhappiness and frustrations, so a time just to think about what I do have is always much appreciated. :)

  • My husband: He has been a part of my life since I was 15. And while I don't see him nearly often enough (our work schedules are opposite for a chunk of the week-it sucks), when I do see him, we always spend meaningful time together.
  • My family: The past year has been incredibly trying for me as I dealt with finding the right medication for my Lupus and my struggles with balancing work and home life. I can always count on my mom to pick up her phone and lend an ear when I have a problem, my sister to make me laugh, my brothers to give me advice and remind me of funny moments from when we were kids, my dad  to be a strong source of support, and little Zoey, my newest niece and only Goddaughter for bringing a smile to my face when we play and a feeling of comfort when we cuddle and watch Mickey. I'm also extremely grateful for Matt's family. His parents treat me like another daughter and support me in anything we wish to do. 
  • My kitties: The three of them cuddle with me on cold nights, offer a head nudge and the "honor" of petting them when I'm stressed, and lay on my piles of grading when I need to take a break. On days when I am feeling particularly unwell, I can always count on them to be right near me. They are very much my kids.
  • My students: I am truly blessed to be working in the school I am, in the district I am. Our kids are great and my students bring me daily joy-all 160 of them. I can always count on laughing each and every day while I'm at work-who else can say that? And as our teachers union has struggled to negotiate a new contract (we've been working without one, which is another story for another day), my students have been more than supportive of the stress it brings me.
  • My bosses and coworkers: Not only are my students fabulous, but so are the people I work with. My administrators are amazing. They are continually supportive of whatever I wish to take on and try, they offer their ears and knowledge to listen to my ideas, and encourage me to grow as a teacher. And my coworkers? Also amazing. I have to mention my "work wife" Colleen, who is a new teacher in our building this year. We share a classroom and I could not ask for a better friend. She's amazing.
  • Books: While I don't read nearly as much as I did a year or two ago, I can always count on a good book to bring me back to reality, and to get in touch with my human side. My quote for the yearbook this year for the English department is: "Every time I read a book, I learn something new about myself." I think that says it all.
  • The blogging community: While I was on hiatus, I still kept in touch with a few of you-on facebook, on instagram, on twitter, and through e-mail. It's amazing that even though I wasn't blogging, we were still connected in that way. And the comments on the last post have given me further drive to continue posting and to continue writing. 
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends, family, and good food. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On Change and Growth.

This is a post I've been meaning to write for quite some time. However, I don't think I ever felt comfortable enough with the words to sit down and attempt writing it. And while I'm not certain if I have the right words tonight, I feel a pull back to an old home to give myself peace of mind and a new start.

In the beginning of this space, I was a very different person. Younger, most definitely, but also still living at home, engaged to be married, and woefully unemployed. I had just been through my first year of "unemployment." While I didn't land a full-time right after graduation like many of my classmates did, I did get a phone call a couple of days before the start of school offering me a long-term subbing position (in a district quite far away from where I live and work now). I took the job, even though it was only in social studies, in hopes that it would lead to something permanent.

Instead, I spent six months working, living, breathing my life at that school. I poured my all into the job and when, just a few weeks before they had to "let me go" (I was nearing the maximum number of sub days allotted by the district), a job opened up. There happened to be another long-term sub in the building and in the same department. The two of us had worked closely together, had spent long hours creating lessons, drafting tests, and committing ourselves to a school in hopes we would get a job. Like myself, he was a recent graduate. We were the only two candidates selected for the interview and we knew it was going to be a tough decision.

At the time, I remember being incredibly nervous and excited about the prospect of finding a teaching home. I ignored a lot of warning signs at the time that should have clued me in to what was going to happen (I blissfully pushed aside the fact that I was notified of the interview barely a day before it took place whereas the other candidate knew for days). I also let myself believe a lot of the talk from other teachers-that the principal would hire me over the other candidate since I had no ties to the school and would be snatched up over the summer (the other candidate was coaching).

I'm sure you know where this winding story leads us...only hours after I interviewed, one of the assistant principals, who wasn't even in attendance at the interview, pulled me into a classroom that wasn't my own and told me they hadn't picked me.

To say I was crushed is an understatement. I lost it after he left the room. It became very real to me in that moment, standing in another teacher's room, that I didn't have "it." In many ways, I felt like a failure. Worthless.

I left that school only a couple of weeks later. A few of the other teachers told me to leave my belongings in the storage room, as they believed the other position would open up over the summer and that I would definitely be back. I didn't listen to them, and for that I am grateful.

It was in early July of that year when I received a phone call from one of those teachers telling me that they had a position open and already filled it. I wasn't called in for an interview. When I asked if she knew why, all she said was that the principal wanted to go "in another direction."

I was at the park then, and after hanging up, I jumped into a truck, ignoring my employees in the office, and sped into the park to hide. There, I called Matt sobbing and asked him to come to the park. I curled into a ball on the bench seat of the truck and cried until he got there. Once he saw me, he climbed into the truck beside me and held me until I was done.

Those moments in the truck, that anger and hopelessness that sank into my heart, were possibly the lowest in my life. I had counted on something too much. I had poured my heart into a school, into students, into a fantasy life that was out of reach. It became the moment that freaked me out before every interview and every phone call from an administrator telling me that I didn't make the cut. Even right now, it brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.

I wanted to tell this story, not to evoke any kind of emotion or sympathy from you, but so that you understand the very dark state I was in when I began blogging. As you know, I began writing in September 2009 with a goal in mind-to read a list of classics and write about them. It was also my goal to give myself some purpose, some focus to take away from the heartache of not getting what I wanted, and what I think I deserved. And so, A Literary Odyssey was born, and with it, my identity as a blogger.

The years since have changed me. In December 2009, I married Matt and moved out of my parents house. In the months after our wedding, I was completely unemployed, unable to find sub jobs, and waiting for the summer season to start at the park so I could work. I spent days upon days holed up in our apartment with no one to talk to when Matt was working. I occupied myself by watching TV, reading, and writing for my blog. And while the reading and writing were fulfilling for me intellectually, it left me a shattered mess in real life. I was aimless and frustrated.

That summer I worked, kept blogging and interviewed at countless schools. Each time I was passed over, I remembered my ultimate moments of rejection the year before and wondered more and more about why I was continually picked over, why I wasn't wanted by anyone when I had so much passion and energy for teaching.

It was in the fall of 2010 when I received a phone call that changed my life. It was from an assistant principal looking for an English/Social Studies teacher for a long-term sub job. I landed the interview and went in to speak with the AP and the teacher. The teacher, 7 months pregnant at the time, was loud, in charge, and ready to find someone with a passion for her subjects. Somehow, in that interview, we landed on the topic of reading and my favorite books. We ended up sharing some recommendations with each other before getting back on topic. Later that afternoon, that teacher called me and told me she wanted me to be her sub. As a side note, I want to point out something...that teacher is the same teacher I now co-teach AP U.S. History with. SHE is the reason I am blessed enough to work where I do.

Once I had that position, things slowly fell into place. While it took me two more years to find a permanent place, I that same school. There were other interviews in charter schools, other schools in the district, schools were old friends were working, and places all over the state. I never made it to the second round. But I did find a home in the place that accepted me for my passion...and the place that continues to allow me to explore that passion in my classroom.

This is a very long story to tell you what I need to say, and what I've been wanting to say for months...maybe even a year.

I no longer need this space as an escape from rejection and feeling unworthy. I turned to blogging as a way to find a place to many ways, I was a teacher without a classroom and being able to write and share my experiences with literature was a way for me to have that experience in the years it took me to find a physical classroom.

I know it to be true that I have changed and grown from who I was over four years ago. I no longer stay at home for days at a time, consumed by words and posts and numbers of pages. Instead, I am consumed by doing a good job in my classroom, teaching my students grammar, writing, history, and the bits of literature that have so inspired me. A student commented a few weeks ago, while I was reading "The Raven" to them, that I "really get into this literature stuff, huh?"

Yes, yes I do.

I think anyone who knows me even a little knows about my passion for language and the emotions it can evoke. I have always been inspired by the words of those who came before me...and in some way, hope that I, too, can make such an impact on the life of another. Where the blog filled that void and need for me previously, teaching does that now. It allows me the freedom to express the power of words and how words can change your life.

I think back to the words that were spoken to me in that first teaching job out of college. I think about the words I don't even remember...the hints that I wasn't the right fit for the job. I also think about those hurtful words that summer, when I was rejected without even a phone call from an administrator to tell me why. Those words hurt me, but they also inspired me. They gave me the courage and motivation to DO something with my life instead of wait. They gave me the inspiration to write about my passion, to grow as a person and a teacher, and to become who I am today.

This has all been a revelation to me over the course of the last few months as I battled what to do about this place on the internet. I needed this place once, for what it was and what I made it. I don't need it anymore.

But I do want it.

And acknowledging what it was and what it once stood for is important. But I need to move on. And in the next few weeks, I am going to transform my little corner of the online world to something I need now. There will still be book discussion (because that, most of all, is what I miss the most-writing about books), but there will also be life discussion.

I hope, that for those of you who read me before, to those of you who read this whole post, and to those of you who find me in the future, know that I am grateful for your eyes, ears, and minds-for letting me in and letting me explore the deepest parts of myself. I hope, that as the days and months and years pass, that I can continue to grow and change into a person I can be proud of.