Dear Julia, did you get my package? I’m so excited to hear! The guy at the post office was a little horrified at the price of posting it but I said “My sister only turns 25 once in a foreign country!” and pushed my credit card toward him.
These past few weeks have been crazy busy and overwhelming. The first overwhelming thing was teaching seniors, who I have learned, are the pains people said they would be. Well, not all of them, of course, but enough that I’m questioning my will to survive as a high school English teacher. There are the classes at the end of the day that make me spend a few minutes with my door closed fighting back angry tears, and there are the days when I discover someone wrote “F**K Ms. Byrd” on the edge of my textbook or other things like that, when I wonder what exactly I did to make this kid dislike me so much. And what’s worse, is I don’t know who did it, so I can only assume the worst of a handful who may have done it.
But then, there are a few bright moments that shimmer and fade away, leaving me with just the hint of hope that this year will get better before it is over. My mentor really encourages me, and says I’m an innovative teacher. She says she’s confident that I will get there, even when I feel like those two years of teaching college composition were like boot camp compared to war. Or something else not quite as violent.
Yesterday, one of my football players approached me and asked if I’d wear his jersey. This is a tradition the teachers and football players have. Friday before a game they ask a teacher to essentially wear their number. Some teachers have set in stone understandings that they will only wear one student’s jersey ever, until that student graduates. Some, like me, are just happy to be asked, even though they are hot, tight and scratchy. I’ve been asked every week except the first, and this week, the student who asked me is this sweet, quiet, blonde boy who sits in my class and never says a word. Last week was their homecoming and they got demolished, but he played a pretty good game (as far as I could tell) and so I told him that. And then he asked me yesterday to wear his jersey and I almost teared up.
One of the cheerleaders who is cute and blonde and has an attitude that makes her look bored and pissed off (not just in my class I learned! Thank god!) just revealed that she really knows her stuff from what we’ve been reading of Canterbury Tales. When one of her classmates was confused I said “ask your classmates, or ask M—-, she’s really on top of it” and I think I might have seen a visible perking up. Another football player is quietly helping his struggling classmate after I told him I sat them together so he could help. Another student deflects the fact that he’s behind by making distracting comments but when I worked with him I could see some changes and I hope it will be the end of his inappropriateness (he pretends to hit on me and it makes me really uncomfortable but I am struggling to figure out the best approach. So far, ignoring him pointedly unless he’s on task seems to help) . And then, there’s the student who asked me to write her a recommendation. I’m writing down all these little victories so that they help white out the obnoxious stuff. And this was just this week, I’ve forgotten anything from earlier.
My swim team is going strong. We have about 18 swimmers and a lot of newbies. It’s so rewarding to actually coach them, and see results almost instantly. I wish I could see that in my English students. But, the paperwork involved with being a coach is sending me toward the brink of a breakdown. Oh, my god! It is never ending and full of red tape that I can’t seem to get a grasp on. It feels a bit like Kafka’s The Trial. I have to get a commercial driver’s license so I can drive a bus to our meets but first I had to get my Texas Driver’s License, which was a hassle and involved me locking myself out of my car at the DMV. Then I have to take a series of driving tests, behind the wheel, 20 hours of a driving course and a practical test where I drive for an inspector. Meanwhile, I can only drive suburbans that the school owns and then there are only seven swimmers per suburban. If I want to take more I have to beg another employee to drive the other suburban. I’m not sure if the athletic director dislikes me or can’t modify his tone because that’s how he talks to his football team and everyone else. Imagine a younger Verne in tone and demeanor and you’re close (though they look nothing alike). It makes me feel like a counterfeit. He’s so Texan football and I’m so… not.
All of this leaves me with a dream that is as hopeful and sustaining as your Lesotho dream (which sounds great!) but a lot further in the future, which makes it more nebulous and not quite as good at lifting me up daily. (The daily uplifting thought for me right now is January. In January the swim team will be winding down and I’ll be able to focus on teaching more, but also having a life again. And all I have to do is get through each day and then I’ll get a winter break and see friends and family and you and then it will be January!)
No, the hopeful, sustaining dream is that at the end of this year (or the next, depending on the final results of the year and our decisions) I can start thinking about teaching abroad! Anywhere we want and anywhere I can get a job! Someday in the future I will be teaching for an embassy or DODEA school and will have significantly less students. I will be able to actually teach literature and writing instead of disciplining and coddling! I will get paid but not have to pay rent! Ian can relax and figure out what he wants to do and we can have a family! Life will be amazing! I will love my job and get to write in my (copious) spare time!
Please don’t burst this bubble. Otherwise I might sink into Hutto mud like their mascot of yore, the escaped circus hippo.