The Longest Interlude

The semester has begun for most, which has meant relatively little change to me. I’m entering 98 days without work right now, not counting the couple of days where I helped my mom rake a yard old school style. I’m signed up to take yet another AEPA test in two weeks, but I don’t entirely know why. The GRE is scheduled for October, and I’m wondering how exactly to prepare for that. In between, I have no idea what I’ll do. With school starting, I’ve found some reprieve in seeing a few friends between classes, and I have a few chores around the house that have yet to be done despite the longest summer ever.

I’ve taken up a hobby that really isn’t all that new. I’ve decided that I’m going to submit whole new writing samples with my graduate school applications, so I’m doing research on a new paper. I’m two pages of writing and several books and articles in and I’m starting to wonder if it’s really worth it. It’s not like my writing has improved that much. The paper only maybe passes the “so what?” test that my history professor always said to use. Looking at my list of hopeful grad schools, I wonder if this would make any difference, or if I’d get into any of these places at all.

Most of the time I teeter between being absolutely bored out of my mind and being daunted by the lamest to-do list. I’ve found myself missing the little things and plotting faraway things and living off a useless sleep schedule, all while checking off things like “go to the store” and “sweep the patio.” I’m weighing a menial job versus volunteer work as far as finding something to do. Bottom line is that I don’t know what I’m doing. I was unemployed for the first five months of this year and it was one of the greatest (most stressful) things I’ve done. The more recent three months have been a bit less eventful. I guess going to the White House beats having a student try to take pills in my class, though.

I’m thinking of setting up a routine. That way I should get my research done in a timely manner, get in some studying for the GRE, and maybe get this kitchen re-vamp underway. And there’s always the task of finding something to blog about. What ever happened to that?


And Summer Turns to Autumn…

A year ago, I was returning from 10 weeks of adventurous interning in Uganda, ready to get back to my job, busy myself wedding planning, and getting back in the overloaded schedule of classes. This August, I’m in a slightly different situation. I began the year by getting married (awesome!) and teaching up a storm, but the reality of my circumstance is that – except a two-week stint as a long-term sub – I’ve been unemployed for virtually all of 2011.

I had high hopes for starting a new school year tomorrow, but my hopes have so far been dashed. As school districts across the East Valley begin with their respective staffs, I’ve been getting pretty down about the prospects. During this summer I’ve applied for six positions (every single one I found) and have had no luck so far. I’m leaning on substituting, but don’t really know the reliability of that either.

I’ll be spending most of this week in Washington, DC – because unemployment is the most opportune time for vacations – and when I get back I think I’ll be hunkering down for any sort of income I can get my hands on. In the meantime I’m also trying to find ways to build up my academic resume for next year’s prospects when my wife is done with school. I have relatively no idea where I’m headed right now, so it’s been a grueling road so far. I’ll continue to jump on every teaching opportunity I can, but in the meantime I’ll be on the old-fashioned job-hunt. Hopefully things will look upwards at some point. I can’t really go a whole year without a job.

The One with the End of the Year

In an episode of “Friends,” Rachel and Monica deal with the “end of an era” after years of living together. While my situation is decidedly different, I am at a bit of a crossroads. The past week of school has been a mix of review and advice with a healthy dose of conversation and fun. Friday I said farewell to my seniors (although several came back to visit), and finals and Tuesday and Wednesday made up my last days with students. Graduation was last night, and today I had three students make up tests and three more swing by to say hello. My classroom is devoid of, well, anything. It’s an odd feeling.

I have only been in 508 (my room) for four and a half months, but it has been a pretty momentous time period – even if it isn’t an era. In the last week of January I began a slow process of decorating my empty room with maps, activist flags, and drawings. Today I took all of that down. Over the last few months I’ve accrued an odd assortment of student artwork and notes, and today I fit them all in a pile – with two additions today! I also signed off my laptop and returned all of my books. I had a few random moments of “WHY?!” as I trashed old posters and packed away notes, but I also got to see some of my favorite students and hang out with some of the best colleagues – and friends – I could have asked for.

But, where to now? I have absolutely no idea. I applied at the only high school history opening in the East Valley today, and I’ve also applied for some sort of obscure mentorship-in-American-Government thing. Other than that, I’m looking for just about anything. In the meantime I’m also perusing grad school websites and planning out what to do next in regards to redecorating. Hopefully, things will be coming together. Either way, I’m on my way into the next epoch or whatever.

Going Through the Steps

So, my last official day of student teaching was this past Tuesday. It’s the proverbial end of the road. But I’m looking for ways to make that road a little longer, maybe even into a bridge.

About four months ago, I walked into a seemingly innocent history classroom in an East Valley school. I started semi-teaching right away, and a week later I was full-time: five hours, two classes, one prep, and about one hundred ninety-two students. I went from mentor teacher to substitute teacher to mentor substitute. And it’s been very up-and-down, very back-and-forth. It’s been one of the most stressful, frustrating, and difficult situations I’ve ever been in, but at the same time one of the most fun, most rewarding, and most exciting.

And I want to finish off the year. Virtually everyone has been telling me to bail at the end. It’s too tough of a job to be working for free, it’s too thankless of a job to be volunteering. But my annoyingly bleeding heart wanted to stay just to see the year through with my students. So, I convinced myself to stay the week and work things out. The past week has been full of scrambling, and I have spent a lot of time on my phone and writing e-mails. But, Friday came and went and I’m not going to be teaching until I’m working.

So, Operation Teach Again is already crawling forwards. As of the beginning of the week I was on the cusp of getting emergency certification to teach the rest of the year. But, as the week got started I swung by the district office and with a bit of a hop in my step. My hopes were dashed when I found out that my efforts were in vain: no emergency certification for me. But, before the day was over I was charting course for a substitute certification. For the rest of the week I was making calls to ASU’s Teacher’s College and the Arizona Department of Education, and I’ve drafted a to-do list.

  1. Get my grades to post on my DARS at ASU and contact my academic advisor
  2. Get an institutional recommendation (IR) from the Teacher’s College
  3. Take the IR down to ADE in Phoenix and fill out a substitute certification application. Supposedly I’ll walk out with it the same day.
  4. Take the certification down my the school district office and meet with HR and the sub coordinator.
  5. Start subbing!

Step one is done, and hopefully I’ll be getting my IR on Monday. We’ll see. As soon as I get it I should be able to burn through this list and move forwards. Meanwhile, my mentor/sub is going home to Kentucky this week, so there will be a substitute in the classroom anyways. It’s possible that the sub will be guaranteed the job for the week, so I might have to wait in the wings. Either way, I’m hopeful that I’ll be wheedling my way back into my classroom.

Moving Forwards

With recent days being really tough, I’m getting sick of all of the stress. I’m going on almost 20 days of alternating insomnia and exhaustion with lots of stress, so I’m trying to somehow resolve to get rid of it. This weekend my mounting to-do list is, well, continuing to mount. That said, I’m try to nix a couple important things, like lessons for the next couple of days and presentations for this week’s class. I’m going to try to get rid of distractions, be more methodical, whatever gets the job done.

On Friday, the day of my observation, I balked a really crappy activity into my classroom. One of my colleagues was able to help me shape it better, and it turned out passable. I have a lot of work to do between my two preps and class/club at ASU, but I’m trying to blaze a trail here. I’m going to keep a log, of lots of stuff, and we’ll see how the week looks when I’m done.

Today, I resolve to get more done while being less stressed. Let’s see how I fare with resolutions.

On Needing a Stress Ball

I’m stressed. I’m on approximately day fifteen of being incredibly lost. I thought the last half of Spring Break was a stressful fluke, but oh my goodness. I’ve been an insomniac while simultaneously being completely exhausted. I’ve been seeking shelter from my stresses all of the time. It’s been interesting.

And it’s not one aspect of life that’s stressing me out (like I thought). I’m falling behind or completely out of the game in virtually everything.

The bedroom that was being painted is still incredibly bare. The rooms that need to be cleaned have only been cleaned because of Kim. The groceries… oh, wait. I haven’t gone to the store in forever. My lesson plans continue to not come into fruition until the last minute. I had a terrible walkthrough in my class last week. I came within two seconds of doling out detentions and referrals on Monday. I have an observation on Friday. I apparently need to make and edit a video of myself teaching by Thursday – and we’re tomorrow so I don’t know when that will happen. I procrastinated the AEPA until it was too late and decided to wait until June, and now I’m pretty sure I screwed myself out of a substituting job.

But, when I think about it, things aren’t that much worse. I’ve been on an insanely high stress level for the passed ten months. At what point do I start making up for it all? Between moving to Uganda and planning a wedding, quitting my job and realizing I don’t know what I’ll be doing in two months, I haven’t been able to keep steady. I usually take this kind of thing in stride, but I think the last two weeks are throwing all that stress back at me. I need to find solace somewhere. So I’ll stay optimistic.

Today, I had a short afternoon snack with my wife at the kitchen table. I also chatted with my colleagues at lunch for a few minutes. One of my students and I had a candid conversation that was genuinely uplifting.

Last Thursday I wrote “I wish I could stop and smell the roses” on a piece of paper as a part of an art project. Supposedly that, and two other wishes, came true today.