Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back to School

When I was a kid and saw the back-to-school commercials, I looked forward to buying new notebooks and pens.

Now that I'm an adult and a teacher, when I see those commercials, I buy antacids and aspirin.

I also buy coffee, because I know I won't get much sleep until Thanksgiving break.

For the first time in years, I actually let myself relax during these past couple summer months. I still had to do work for my website job, but it was a relief to be free from grading papers, teaching, and e-mails from students that said stuff like, "Is there a movie version of the book? I was just wondering."

Since I had a car, I was able to leave Small Town for the first time in months (I hadn't left the town at all since January, except for a brief trip to Chicago during spring break, because I was so busy with my full-time job and part-time job.). I drove to some of the big cities nearby to go sight-seeing, try new restaurants, and browse in independent boutiques that I hadn't been to. It felt good to have days that were truly mine, without worrying about a stack of work waiting for me at home.

I've been dreading the first day of school. It's not that I'm unwilling to work. I am a workaholic after all, and if I go too long without working I start getting antsy and trying to climb the walls, shrieking, "I just can't LIVE like this!"

But last year was incredibly stressful, and there were times when I didn't even like teaching anymore. No teacher that I know loves teaching all the time, but it got to the point where I felt so frustrated that I actually contemplated giving up the career I'd devoted my life to for so many years and trying something less stressful, like bullfighting.

The school where I currently teach is a good school, and I've grown fond of many of the students. The faculty has been very kind and welcoming to me, for the most part. But there are several things about the department's rules and methods that I don't agree with, though that would've been true of any department. Although I'm a full-time faculty member, I'm also untenured, so I have no voting power in the decisions that are made, which is why I haven't expressed my true feelings about how things are done here.

It's also frustrating to have to keep saying over and over, "It's not okay to miss so many classes," or "No, you can't turn in your work several weeks after the deadline," or "For the love of God, PUT DOWN that cell phone!"

I've had to say those things at other schools where I've taught, but last year it just got to the point where I'd look in the mirror and see that my hair was turning white again; my face looked tired, sad, and exasperated.

There's also the fact that after spending all those years in a big city, small town life has been difficult to adjust to. I've made some good friends here, and I socialize with them regularly. But I'd like to be able to live somewhere that doesn't require me to spend hours driving just to shop somewhere OTHER than Walmart or a place where most businesses and restaurants in town don't close by 9 P.M. or earlier. I'd also like to be able to walk into a place that doesn't make me want to wring my hands and shriek, "Can we listen to something other than banjo music, PLEASE? The HUMANITY of it all!"

That's why this year I will work harder on my academic research, because I'll never be able to find a better job if I don't publish more articles that hardly anyone but other professors and scholars read (but I digress). I'll also actively pursue job leads at other schools, and hopefully by the end of the school year, I'll find a place that is a better fit for me.

What about you? How has your summer been? Have you ever felt burned out or frustrated with your job or living situation?


  1. That's good that you've taken some time for yourself. It's always important to get away from it all for a bit. Have you ever considered teaching high school and doing adjunct work part time? HS teaching jobs are easier to get, especially in large cities, although they come with their own set of problems. Hubby teaches HS history and adjuncts part time at a junior college. He's next in line for a full time job at the college when a position becomes available but he wants to stick with HS for precisely the reasons you mentioned - less teaching and more research and writing.

    1. Hi nomdeplume,
      Actually, I used to teach high school; it was very interesting. I'm not sure I could go back to that, though; for one thing, a lot of high school teachers are weighed down by the pressures of testing, as well as parents who throw fits if the teachers dare to discipline the kids for breaking the rules. But I did consider going back; last year, I even applied for a job at a boarding school for high school students on the East Coast. I didn't get the job, though.

  2. It sounds like you need to go stationery shopping :-)

    Seriously, though, I hope the new year goes well for you and isn't as stressful as you imagine. The right jobs and opportunities will come your way when the time's right - unfortunately, your time and the RIGHT time may be a little askew!

    1. Hi Annalisa,
      I love stationery shopping; that's one reason I miss writing letters, because I can't use my stationery as often anymore.
      And thanks for your encouraging words! I hope that I do find good opportunities for next year; a few schools have already started posting job ads, so fingers crossed...

  3. LOL! YES. Life is like that, eh? I'm actually feeling incredibly relieved...and simultaneously stressed this school year. My 9 year old who is a purely kinesthetic learner, has a severe case of ADD, and struggles with dysgraphia was accepted into a Montessori school. Now I just have to deal with the commute. I tell you what though, my educational stress has been sliced down to almost nothing, and that's with 3 other kids in the house who are doing full time home school.

    Keep at it. I know something will come up, and until then, you're a hard enough worker that I know you can survive this.

    1. Hi Crystal,
      Wow, it sounds like you have a lot on your plate, and kudos to you for handling it all! :) I hope that your son likes his new school.
      I think that being such a hard worker is one of the reasons I feel burned out; I think I pushed myself too hard sometimes. But on the other hand, hopefully being a hard worker will get me to where I want to go.

  4. Maybe it's because I'm not a parent or teacher, but I love back-to-school time because I move the kids aside to stock up on those school supplies. ;)

    Good luck with the new school year!

    1. Hi Chrys,
      Thanks! I actually went to the store to check out the school supplies, even though I didn't really need much; there were a lot of good sales. I almost wished that the Lisa Frank trapper keepers were on sale, so that I could have bought one like I did in junior high. :)

  5. I never looked forward to going back to school or college;) Maybe there's just something wrong with me. Teaching is definitely a calling and I respect teachers like you so much, that still like/ love what they do, despite all the crap that goes with it. Good-luck with publishing more of your academic articles. My brother hates writing them:) But his job demands that he publishes a certain amount a year.

    I've hated all my other jobs to date (aside for writing;) It got so bad I got ill after a few months and then I knew it was time to move on to something else. Though, changing jobs that often doesn't look good on the CV;( But I just couldn't do jobs I didn't like and that made me sick.

    Wishing you well. I hope you find something new, soon.

    1. Hi Murees,
      There's nothing wrong with you! A lot of people don't like going back to school; even though it's my job, I must admit that I wish summer vacation lasted a lot longer. I'll definitely need luck publishing those articles; it's hard to get published, but it's even harder to get a good, secure college teaching job without publications.
      I can relate to disliking certain jobs too; it's hard to be invested in a job like that. I'm sorry you got sick, though; I hope that you find something you like better.

  6. I grew up in small towns and seriously do not like them for so many reasons, #1 being I dislike running into people I know or who know me everywhere I go. My husband's the opposite and that's exactly what he likes about small towns. I'm sure that when the time is right, you'll find a job more suited to what you're looking for.

    1. Hi Karen,
      Oh, I know! Sometimes I feel like I have to dress up all the time, because I often run into people I know at the local coffee shop or at the grocery store. It makes me feel more conspicuous. One of the things I miss about Chicago is walking in crowds of people that I didn't know; I liked the anonymity of it.