My muse is an insomniac.

She pokes me while I am sleeping, shakes me conscious, and then refuses to leave until I get out of bed. I suppose I am thankful that she comes around at all.

There are many things I have wanted to tell you, and because I have not known where, or how to begin, I guess, I have said nothing. It was a rough year. The job was a bit tougher than I had thought it would be. It mostly involved a “Writers’ Workshop” course of language arts, which meant that I taught two classes (one 7th grade and one 8th) of 90 minutes each, and then I also had one class of 8th grade Religion. The Writers’ Workshop was pretty time-consuming, because the kids had to turn in portfolios at the end of each term, which had to include four pieces of writing, spanning at least three genres (fiction, non-fiction, persuasive, and then one option), and those pieces had to be edited and discussed throughout the term. Basically, it was a lot of work for all of us. I had some kids who liked to write, and would turn in pieces of 15-plus pages; first drafts, second drafts, third drafts, and beyond. I had one or two who would turn in as many as five drafts of a particular piece, and if they needed my help with it, I read each one.

My colleagues advised me to spend five minutes reading each piece, but I found that when I went to discuss pieces I had spent that little time on with the writers, I couldn’t remember exactly how to guide them. I had to make little notes in the margins. I mean, when you read eight or ten of those pieces in a day, they can start to kind of blend together, you know?

But, it was worth it. It was fun to watch a piece of their work grow from a mess to something readable. A few of them could really write quite well, but I would say it was like panning for gold. Some of it was painful to read. I read enough stories about dogs this year to last me, I can tell you. But, like I said, I really did enjoy it, when it went well, which it often did.

I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t a struggle though. First of all, it was a major adjustment for my family. The Princess went from being home full time, to being in school half-days for about a month before I got the job, at which point she was immersed in the full-day-plus-extended-day program. I know kids do this every day, but it was hard for her, and hard for all of us as she struggled to deal with the change in the way a typical four-year-old deals with any frustration.

Edison started at a new school this year. I had planned to be very involved in that, but with the job, there was no time at all. I missed all of his award ceremonies, school functions, teacher conferences, etc. Even when they were sick, Manfrengensen was most often the one who stayed home with them.

I felt stretched pretty thin, and as I am sure you have noticed, I did a lot less reading this year for pleasure (and no writing to speak of either).

We were all kind of on this grind of get up, go there, get home, order food and go to bed. Clooney did his homework at aftercare, and things were so crazy that Manfrengensen and I rarely got the time to look it over. Luckily, Clooney sailed through first grade, but he can also rush through things, so there were mistakes that we missed.

At work, it was a rough transition for some of the students as well. I had replaced a popular teacher, who had split for another job two weeks before the school year began. The 8th grade was a difficult class to begin with, I was told, and the fact that they resented my replacing Mrs. Castsalongshadow didn’t help either. The Writers’ Workshop program runs for two years, so that the students have the same LA teacher in both 7th and 8th grades. It’s kind of a neat thing, because of the continuity factor. The teacher gets the opportunity to guide a student’s writing over eight semesters rather than four, so there is a potential for profound growth in the student’s abilities. I figured the 8th grade would come around, and they did, but in the end, it took much longer than I had thought it would.

On top of all that, I had political problems. I don’t want to go into details, but you should know that I am not good at playing any kind of games. I have a very low tolerance for bologna, and a big mouth to boot, which is a bad combination. I’m in my mid-forties now, and I can tell you that those qualities have rarely served me well in the employment arena.

I would like to tell you that it was a good year, that it was worth it, and all that. In many ways, it was. I know I am a good teacher who got them ready for high school and beyond, but, it was stressful on so many levels. Even so, I began to look forward to next year, to starting the year out right. Next year, I would know the curriculum and wouldn’t feel like I was always playing catch-up in terms of what I was supposed to be teaching.

And then, on May 24th, I got laid off. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me, though I do not want to rehash that day or go into details. I was not the only one who lost her job that week, at my school or anywhere. I know this is a time when many people experience what I went through, and even though this was not something I made happen, it left me feeling somewhat humiliated.

But, I am trying to focus on the positive. I have turned my attention back to my home and my family. I have stemmed the entropy of our household, and have been reorganizing and purging on a room-by-room basis. I am focusing on what is important and trying to listen closely to my kids. This has been such a year of “hurry up, I have got so much to do”, and now I am trying to just slow down and let it all unfold.

It’s going to be a great summer, and in the Fall, I will go to all the PTA meetings and school functions and teacher conferences, and I will be there for them.

And I will read. And I will write. And I will listen to the muse.

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One Comment on “My muse is an insomniac.”

  1. Dennis says:

    I had a great, long reply to this but I forgot to put the email address in and my whole thing was lost. Better luck next time, I hope, for me. Hang in there. The balance between successful career and successful home life is nearly nirvana. Sacrifice is a part of this formula. But where to sacrifice? Kids? Work? Yourself? Husband? Scrapbook for cats? It’s hard to say.


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