Monday, April 25, 2005

A summer Sunday night in April

Right now, I should be in bed asleep, having read myself to sleep. But I'm having a summer Sunday night. This evening, I had a nice dinner with my friend Valerie, then we played a game of Trivial Pursuit (I won :-) while we watched some mindless television. During the game, I got this feeling that today was a summer Sunday and that I didn't have to go to work tomorrow. Of course, I know that I have five more weeks before I can have a summer Sunday, but I'm still feeling that way. I feel like I can stay up late & sleep late. Too bad it's an illusion or a delusion rather. It has been a beautiful weekend in Houston, and I don't want it to end. I will have to face reality when my alarm goes off in the morning. I will be so glad when this school year is over. I just wish it would be my last one.

I finished reading The Russian Debutante's Handbook today. Parts of it were very funny, but it kept the gag going too long. I couldn't suspend disbelief for the duration of the book. I did like the ending however. I'm not sure I would recommend it to any of my reading friends. It was chock full of allusions to literary criticism and academia, so I guess I would recommend it to people who enjoy novels about academia.

I think I will read Truth and Beauty now. I read the first chapter last week after I purchased the book, and I think I will go ahead and read it now. I don't usually read nonfiction, especially not biography, but this one is supposed to be excellent--it's the biography of a friendship between two writers, Ann Patchett & Lucy Grealey.

Okay. CSI is over so my summer Sunday night in April must come to an end now. :-(

Good night.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


I have had a sinus headache all week, so I was very proud of myself today when I didn't allow myself to get angry about this morning's TAKS mess. Our testing coordinator has been organizing tests for at least five years now. Still, each year, there is some kind of disorganization and/or confusion. Today, we had been told to pick up our test booklets & answer sheets between 7:45 & 8:00, but nothing was where it was supposed to be. Some people didn't get their materials until 8:20. We didn't receive certain necessary forms until testing time was almost over. In past years, just the thought of test days made me angry, abnormally angry. Today, though, I just accepted the problems and waited until they were worked out. I've been having such a bad year that I never would have expected myself to be so easygoing about this situation, but I was. I've been so stressed lately, too.

I have been feeling like I'm drowning lately, like something is pushing me underwater. I keep trying to tread water, but I get tired and start sinking. Today, I got to work and discovered that a co-worker had put some thing on my desk, some Shakespeare project that had been printed off the internet. My reaction was completely irrational. I was angry and wanted to scream. I just felt like those three pages were going to smother me. Of course, she meant well--we are preparing to move to a new building in the fall--she found the papers when she was sorting through her materials. I had a similar reaction a couple of weeks ago when I arrived at work to find that the English dept. chair had put some old student projects, related to British poetry, on my desk when she had been sorting the evening before. I have not begun to sort through my materials, but when I do, I promise not to even offer to add to anyone else's load.

This evening, we had the first selection meeting for our district's online literary magazine Cacophony. I was very excited to see all the students taking their job seriously, selecting photos, art, poetry, & prose to be published online in a couple of months. However, dealing with the teacher from the other high school was a headache in the making. When we were getting organized to create the ezine, she had been adamant about certain rules for submission, which she didn't enforce, but we did on our campus. We did get selections made though. On the way home from the meeting, which I left with a huge headache, Valerie & I made a list of issues that have to be resolved when we get back together in the fall. For now though, I can't wait to see our magazine online!

DB update -- She always gives me a headache. Two days ago, I pissed her off by telling her in front of two co-workers that she has low expectations for our students. And she does. She never has anything good to say about her students' abilities. She has made a point of not speaking to me for the past 2 days. Well, I am giving up my English 2 pre-AP classes for next year, and the department chair has assigned those classes to her. This afternoon, she came slinking into my room and said in her fakest sweet voice, "I'm going to be coming to you for help next year." Of course, I knew she had learned about her new assignment. Although neither the department chair or I really wanted her to have the pre-AP classes, I have decided that my sanity is more important than my spitefulness, which is not unwarranted in this case.

I guess I will take some more sinus medication and go to bed. Maybe I won't have a headache tomorrow, at least not as many.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Looking for a new job

This morning, I emailed my letter of interest and resume for the position of Academic Associate at my campus. As soon as I hit send, I began to come up with reasons why I didn't want the job, why I should stay in the classroom. Later, when I was irritated by stupid coaches who won't program their print jobs while someone else's jobs are printing, I had plenty of reasons why I should never return to Bport HS after this school year is over. At lunch a co-worker stopped me in the hallway and told me good luck & that she thought I would be good at that job because I already do some similar things since I teach Senior English. I don't know why, but her saying that made me feel less doubtful about the possibility of enjoying the job, if I get it. The job is not a sure thing. I know at least one other person is interested, but I don't know who it is.

My friend Clint-Michael suggested that I look into jobs at universities in the areas of student affairs/dean of students/multi-cultural affairs/alcohol & drug resource/residence life/ etc. I had never even thought about jobs like this. I'm not sure that I have an interest in all of these areas, but I did look at UH and UH Clear Lake tonight. There were a couple of possibilities at UH, but the only thing that interested me at UHCL was an assistant/associate librarian position, which I am not at all qualified for.

I keep coming back to the idea of being a librarian. (I've tried not to show it, but I am still so disappointed that I didn't get a chance to apply for that middle school librarian job. Disappointment seems to be my theme this school year.) I think I'm going to have to pursue a Master of Library Science, but I must finish my Masters of Literature first. Well, I say I must; I've been saying that I must for years now. Maybe it's time to let go of that idea. My friends keep encouraging me to not let it go, but maybe it's not the right thing for me anymore. I'm not sure I care enough about the topic anymore to finish it. Of course, I could just be making excuses so I don't have to do the work involved. I used to think I was just a bad procrastinator, but now I think I might just be lazy. Or afraid. Maybe fear is what has trapped me into staying a high school teacher for so long. I've already proven myself as a high school English teacher, and maybe I'm afraid I won't measure up as something else. Fear can be paralyzing--trite, but true.

Enough about my job woes. Last night, I didn't go to bed until 1:30a.m. I read the first chapter of Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty, a biography of her friendship with another writer, Lucy Grealey. And I read the introduction and first essay in Camille Paglia's new book, Break! Blow! Burn!, her analysis of 43 great poems--the good thing about this book is I can read one of her essays here and there. AND I read a chapter of The Russian Debutante's Handbook, which I am over half finished with. I have to finish The Russian Debutante's Handbook by the end of this weekend. I can't wait to read the rest of Truth and Beauty and so many other books on my "To Read" stack--it is tall and getting taller. I really just want a new job with little or no homework so I can read for pleasure all the time and not feel guilty about it. Since I stayed up so late last night, I will go to bed early and read a bit of RDH only. Later.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Saturday Downtown

Yesterday was the kind of day that I live in this city for. It was beautiful here--cool in the morning and warm & windy in the afternoon, no clouds. I went with Valerie to see the matinee of Movin' Out, Twyla Tharp's modern ballet set to Billy Joel songs. We rode the train of course. We went early enough, so we had time to walk around Market Square and looked at all the wares for sale. We each bought an inexpensive little cloth purse that we had seen before and admired for their color and fabric. Then we walked over to the Hobby Center. I've never been to a show there, so I was looking forward to a new theater experience.

Our seats were on the first row of the center Gallery. I was worried about the need to lean over when/if the performers did much at the front of the stage (downstage, I think), but luckily they stayed back enough to prevent the need for leaning over. Movin' Out is not a musical; it is a modern ballet. A singer and a band were placed above the stage, which allows the audience to watch them at times instead of the stage. The singer and band were very good. As for the show itself, for about the first 5 numbers, I was thinking to myself that I had wasted my money on this show. Neither the choreography, the dancers, nor the story impressed me until about halfway through the first act. Once the lead male dancers went off to the Vietnam War, the story and the show picked up. I thought the the last 3 scenes were the best part of Act I--"We Didn't Start the Fire," "She's Got a Way," and "The Stranger" were the songs involved. I especially like the mourning ballet danced by Judy. Act II was so much better than Act I, but I didn't feel any real emotion for the story or the characters until the "Goodnight Saigon" number--I could feel the start of tears there. The emotion stayed high for me from this point until the end. It wasn't until some time in the second act that I became impressed with the dancing of anyone other than Judy. However, by the end of the show, the dancer who played Eddie had done some impressive dancing too. Overall, I enjoyed the show, especially the Billy Joel songs, which I have always liked.

After the show, we walked over to City Hall and looked at an outdoor art exhibit called Coexistence. You can see some of the pieces at this site I thought the exhibit was really cool and had a lot to say about the world today. Each piece is accompanied by a quote from a famous intellectual. I would have liked to have read all of the quotes, but it was quite warm in the April Houston sun yesterday. I did enjoy looking at all the pieces though, even the ones that I couldn't quite understand. I'm not sure how long the exhibit will be in Houston, but I may have to go back and look at them again.

From City Hall, we walked back up to Main St. and had a wonderful dinner at Bossa, specializing in Latin cuisine. Then we wanted to have a drink at our favorite Irish pub on Main St., but all the sidewalk tables were full. We wandered around, searching for some place else to sit, but we wanted to stay on Main so our options were limited. We settled for a table at the Irish pub on the other side of Main, but we didn't like sitting there so we left after only one drink. Even though we didn't stay downtown and people watch as long as we wanted, we still have a lovely afternoon and evening in downtown Houston.

Being downtown on a beautiful Saturday afternoon & evening, life really doesn't get much better.

Monday, April 11, 2005

A Good Ending to a Bad Day

At work, I spent all day depressed and brooding about my unhappiness. Whenever someone asked me how I was doing, I was doing so bad that I couldn't even say the requisite, "Fine." I was literally on the verge of tears all morning. One bright spot in the day: before school, a student overheard me telling another teacher about my unhappiness & dissatisfaction with work. When this student came to my class later in the day, she gave me the sweetest note, expressing her sympathy for my feelings and her appreciation of me as a teacher. It made me cry, but it also made me feel better.

Tonight, Valerie & I went to a reading by Johnathan Franzen, author of The Corrections. His was one of the best readings that I have ever experienced--so funny, satirical, and insightful. He read from a nonfiction piece that he is working on, something that hasn't even been seen by his editor (I think that's what he said). The piece was called "My Bird Problem." It was amazing how he merged his politics, his marriage, which has since ended, and his views on the environment to tell a very entertaining story. I really liked the reading, and I don't usually like nonfiction. I have The Corrections and will likely read it as soon as I finish The Russian Debutante's Handbook. This weekend or very soon after, I plan to purchase his book of essays, How to be Alone. After the reading, a local author Justin Cronin did an on-stage interview with Franzen, and Cronin read a part of one or two of the essays in the book, which made me want to read the essays too. (I will write later about some specific things that Franzen said about reading and writing.)

***A note for the future, it was announced tonight that John Irving will be the first author for next year's reading series. I can't wait to see him. (If you live in the Houston area and love literature, you should definitely go to some of the Inprint-Margarett Root Brown Reading Series.)

Between Franzen's reading and the announcement about Irving, my day has been redeemed somewhat. Of course, I still have grading hanging over my head, but for now, I will go to bed and read, something that almost always makes me feel better.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Not a good feeling

Today as I was grading papers, I became angry and depressed. I became so angry & depressed that I almost started crying and had to stop grading. I really do HATE my job. I just can't bear the thought of continuing in it. I would like to never go back, never set foot in the place again, starting tomorrow. I have to sign my contract for next year & turn it in by Friday, but I would love to be able to not sign it. However, I have no prospects so no choice but to sign.

I have been saying that I hate my job since last spring, and I'm not sure how seriously my friends and co-workers take me. I am serious though. Today, I had the idea that it would be better to be dead than have to continue in this job for one more minute. Of course, I am not going to kill myself, but I may commit professional suicide if I don't find a way out of teaching before next school year begins. I am seriously considering resigning from every committee that I am on & not teaching even the 2 tech workshops I am supposed to teach this summer. I am supposed to go to Nashville to a Model Schools Conference, and I will likely tell the principal by the end of the month to find someone else.

The problem with quitting teaching is that I really have nothing else to do. I really don't even know where to start looking for a different kind of job. The only other thing that I think I would like to do is be a librarian. Of course, I need a degree for that. I would love to be able to stop working & go back to school, but financially, I don't think that will ever be possible. So what kind of job can I get? All the jobs involving writing want people with experience & aren't likely to take a chance on a 41-year-old woman with no experience, no matter how good her skills might be. Even if I finish my thesis, I really don't think I will find any other opportunities besides teaching. I would like something with less stress, but I'm not naive. I know all jobs have stress of some kind. I just don't know where to even begin looking.

Valerie told me to just keep thinking that it's almost summer and that I could take off every now and then. The problem is that I'm beginning to truly not be able to even pretend at work anymore. Friday I was in the worst mood. I hated all my students & many of my co-workers. I couldn't get out of the building fast enough. I really feel like I'm going to curse someone out before the school year is over or do something equally as detrimental to my future.

I feel hopeless and sad. I feel forever trapped.

The Devil's Bitch

After writing this post, I will have to do something good to combat the bad karma that I'm creating here, but some things must be said.

The Devil's Bitch is nickname given to one of my co-workers by another co-worker, when we were watching The Crucible at the Alley Theatre a while back. I had this encounter with DB on Friday. Thursday during my 3rd period class, DB called my room and told me that there were some printer problems in the multi-media lab (as the instructional tech rep for our campus, I am the one most teachers call for these problems). I told her that I was busy at the moment but I would try to get to the lab later in the period. To be honest, I could have left my class & gone to assist her; however, I got busy with my students and completely forgot about her. Of course, if she wasn't the DB, maybe I would have gone immediately. Friday, I ran into her in the hall and tried to apologize for forgetting about her. She was really pissy about it, and I reminder her that I had a class when she called. She said something like, "Well, we ARE working on the RESEARCH PAPER" as if her curriculum is more important than whatever I might be teaching my students. I turned to walk away and said something like, "Well, I DO teach and I can't be expected to abandon my students for yours." I swear if she had said one more word to me at that moment, I probably would have been very ugly to her. She thinks she is the queen of teachers, but really she is just a selfish bitch. She has this idea that she is a great teacher because she gives "great lectures"--her words. The funniest thing is that when she tells of giving these great lectures, she usually includes the complaint that her students are sleeping while she gives them. She's so egotistical that she doesn't understand that if she can't hold your audiences attention, then her lectures can't be all that great. She is the DB. She gives teachers a bad name and that makes me sick.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Idea for a new job

I've been thinking of what I can do instead of teaching, which I have grown to hate--sad, but true. I think complete burnout is the cause of my hatred, but, whatever the cause, I can't ignore the hatred anymore. Not that I've been ignoring it--all my friends at work know I have come to abhor teaching--my whining has been loud and long this year, but I have to do something real about it. For the past few days, I have been thinking that I would like to go to work for some kind of humanitarian organization. Due to my deplorable financial situation, I cannot volunteer for any organization, but I could work for one for pay. I'm sure most don't pay well, but I think I might find this kind of work fulfilling anyway. As we all know, teaching doesn't really pay well either. I found a site calle d, that I'm going to use to search for jobs. Who knows, maybe I will find something that I can afford to do. I'll keep you posted on the results.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Pope

Pope John Paul II passed away today, a very sad moment for his followers. Of course, he had lived a very long life & deserved a respite from the suffering he has experienced the last few years. I am completely torn by how I feel about him. I agreed with his stance on the war in Iraq and on the death penalty, but as a liberal and a woman, I am in complete disagreement with him in his stance on women priests, abortion, birth control, etc.

As I was watching the coverage on tv this afternoon & tonight, I remembered being home sick from school on the day he was shot. Also, I remembered eagerly following the news when Lech Walesa was leading the Solidarity movement in Poland. As a teenager, I was fascinated by the courage of the workers in standing up against the power of their Communist gov't. I wondered if I could ever have the courage to do what those people were doing, standing up for my rights/beliefs. I remember how the pope spoke out in support of the workers and against communism.

I am completely fascinated by the rituals involved in burying this pope and electing, or selecting, a new one. I do remember when John Paul II was elected. Although my family was not Catholic, we did pay attention to the news and watched the reports, waiting for the white smoke to appear. Actually, I'm fascinated by all the rituals of the Catholic Church. When my mom passed away, I wanted some kind of ritual, like lighting candles or last rites. I couldn't understand why, after all I am not Catholic and have never had any desire to be. Perhaps I thought rituals would have kept my mind occupied, & I wouldn't have to think about the loss of my mom.

I know I will be watching the news a lot in the next several weeks.