Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Miss Working Under Deadline

I think one of the biggest problems with my ineffectiveness as a teacher is that there are no real deadlines. You tend to work largely independently when you teach. There is management oversight, but administrators tend to be very laissez faire when it comes to what goes on inside the classroom unless the teacher requests help or evidence is found of serious shirking of duties by the teacher. Apparently, given the fact that my principal still thinks I'm an awesome teacher, there's no reason for them to be bothering me at the moment. If only she shared my opinion of myself.

I work well under deadline. Instead of stressing me out, deadlines tend to focus me. That paper I had researched and prepared to start writing two weeks before the deadline had stalled and nothing more was coming from me until about 1 a.m. the day it was due when I got home from work with a giant cup of coffee and rattled off 12 pages of scholarly critique of Hedwig and the Angry Inch as a rejection of the American hero myth in just about four hours. That even included breaks from writing to play clips of the movie for quotation purposes. And yes I've mentioned that movie and my paper on it yet again, but only because that paper f'ing rocked and it's entirely germane to my monologue here. I enjoyed that part of working on a newspaper. I wasn't able to put something off. What I could do now I had to do now, so I did it.

As a teacher, it's all too easy put that task off until tomorrow and it often gets put off indefinitely. That frustrates me a little, but I'm too lazy to fix myself, so I remain in a chronic spiral of delayed action. Luckily, in addition to my ease with handling deadlines, I also rock at thinking under the pressure. I can make up some pretty legitimate lessons on the fly, which is good because I haven't written or used a lesson plan in the entire four years that I've been a teacher. And no one has yet noticed that I'm half-assing the whole thing. I've always come in gung-ho to start the year, but my enthusiasm is always burned out by the second or third week of school. In the beginning it was from the overwhelming effects of being underprepared, undersupplied, and underinformed at my first job. After that, it was just from frustration with different aspects of my job, and that mostly being teenagers.

This is why I've set myself a deadline. My deadline is to get out of the classroom permanently within one year. Unless something disastrous happens to ruin my plans, the next academic year will be my last one as a teacher. What happens after that is up in the air, though. K isn't happy at the prospect of moving and if we stay here, my options are almost entirely scholastic. That pretty much means that I'll be working toward getting on nearby as a media specialist or counselor, but obviously, given the events of last week, I've got no guarantee of pulling that off, especially since I couldn't finish the certification for either job (they both require a masters degree) in the time I've allowed myself, although I can be hired on a temporary certificate for both positions until I finish my degree. So to help increase the chances that I achieve my goal by the deadline I've set for myself, I've decided that in addition to working on getting a counseling or media specialist job for myself during that time that I'll work on getting into grad school as a full time student as well.

Even though this is serving as the backup plan, it's not really that. I've planned on going to grad school since I was in high school, but every time the time came to do something about it, I somehow forgot and did something else that made me ever getting around to it less likely. After graduating from college, I wanted to experience the real world so I got a job at an advertising agency and later the newspaper. If you'll look at some of my earlier posts on this blog, you'll notice that I was talking about going even then. I even took the GRE. Then, when I should have been finding a masters program and working toward that while I worked nights at the paper, I spent a year working on an English Education degree I never earned before getting into teaching through a state-run alternative certification program. Then, when I should have realized that teaching wasn't for me, I decided to give it another chance in a real school instead of one intended for future ex-cons and to have a baby. E rocks, but he's perhaps the biggest roadblock to my exciting future as a college professor.

And, yes, I used exciting there a bit tongue in cheek.

I understand that it'll require sacrifices from both K and me. E won't notice any differences. He's clothed almost entirely by gifts as it is and doesn't have any expensive habits or hobbies yet besides eating. K and I will be the ones sacrificing our luxuries like a big cable/satellite package, owning our own home, and maybe things like running water and modern flush toilets. I haven't gone through the finances yet, but I know we'd probably have to sell our house and I know we can't stay where we are. We could switch our mortgage from 15-year to 30-year to lower the mortgage payment, but then what would the point of that be? K's not going to want to stay here by herself while I spend large portions of the next 4-5 years sleeping in another place. When I finished my degree I'd never find work using it anywhere near our current home.

The thing is that I know that now is the time to do this if I do it. E is still young enough that moving won't be a traumatic experience for him. I'm still young enough that the grad school thing won't be too much of a stretch for my age-stiffened brain. K still loves me enough that she won't leave me (I hope) if I go through this. All of those could very well change in the next five years.

The funny thing is that today, one of the front office people was offering kind words about my not getting the job I really wanted for next year, and she said, "I always tell my daughters when things like this happen that when God closes one door, he often opens another." Now I don't think God had anything to do with my not getting that job. Even before I gave up the last shreds of my religious upbringing I didn't think that sort of thing was really important enough for something that created the universe to worry about, but her cliché rang surprisingly true somehow. It got me to thinking that maybe, just maybe, this missed job opening is the stimulus that finally gets me moving on with my life after a string of decisions for the past decade that saw me often taking an easy way out that left me unsatisfied and resentful of myself instead of taking off in the direction that, while more difficult, is where I really wanted to go.


Courtney said...

Good post. I'm trying to take the same attitude since getting rejected from the doctoral program -- maybe it presents a good opportunity instead of just crushing depression.

Anyway, if you want any advice on grad school, I'll be happy to help. You'll probably have to retake the GRE because scores are only good for five years. And I know Kim will support you in whatever you decide to do, as will the rest of us.

JustinS said...

I'm right there with you, sir.

In college, I took a couple of distance English classes through the university. They'd give you the syllabus and all the assignments up front, then set you loose.

In theory, you'd finish that class within the semester you started it. However, as long as you finished and submitted at least one assignment before the end of the term, you were granted an automatic one semester extension.

You could earn yourself a second semester long extension if, at the end of the first extension, you'd a) completed at least 50% of the assignments and b) paid a $100 fee.

Well, guess what Our Hero did? Did he:

a) Whip through those assignments right away, finishing early so he could focus on other things.
b) Work on the assignments at a steady clip, one that evenly spaced them throughout the term.
c) Wait until each of the three aforementioned deadlines, completing just enough to earn another extension at the last moment. Then, at the end of his final extension, hurriedly complete all the work remaining in a day and turn it all in at the 11th hour.

Jacob said...

Courtney: I do have to retake the GRE. When I was applying for the Informational Technology Program I applied for in case of getting the Media Specialist job, I was trying to get my GRE score and couldn't get it. I couldn't remember how long it had been. I'd retake it anyway because I wasn't very happy with my scores last time. I'll actually study for it this time.

Justins: I'm going to pick D.

Julie said...

I agree with the deadline thing, but I also tend to think that it's just in your nature to want and wander (not from Kim, of course. That's not the kind of wandering I mean).

Jacob said...

Julie: I think you're entirely right. It's a damned shame that I wasn't born a few decades earlier so I could have been a classic hobo.

Hank Gay said...

Do NOT start quoting Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Chris said...

I always thought God opened windows when doors closed, but either way...

Good for you. As the risk of spewing yet more trite inspiration (my forte, really), I recently stumbled across a quote from Thoreau that said: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.

I'm glad to see you doing that. Personally, I suck with self-imposed deadlines. But I'd recommend setting yourself smaller deadlines along the way (e.g. taking the GRE by a certain date, getting out your first job apps by a certain date, etc.)

Mickey said...

Courtney already said what I was going to say, more or less. I've been viewing our current (and my ongoing) unsettledness as an opportunity to just mix it up and get on a different track. Now if I could only make myself actually do something to effect that.