Today was my last day of part time, stack my hours according to need and whim, work. I’m grateful that my employer was able to accommodate me with a gentle slope to full time work over the last six weeks. I am also grateful that we are still mostly remote and that we don’t have to hew exactly to a 9 to 5 schedule.
I see the benefits of business hours. It’s good to be accessible at predictable times and many folks do best with routines and boundaries.
Other folks do best alternating long and short days. I’d rather work 12 hours straight one day and 4 hours the next than 8 on both. Or early morning or late at night. I recently realized I’d do well with a nurse’s schedule ( 3 days of 12 hour shifts) but I am not going back to school for that (though I imagine the demand is high….)
I think about neurodiverdity in the workplace. What accommodations, such as flexible scheduling, are reasonable? Legal? I still have imposter syndrome related to ADHD but whether my symptoms are related to my brain or my past, I check plenty of the diagnostic boxes and many of those boxes needed to be unchecked for me to thrive as a teacher, the profession I have left. At least in my case. (I know there are plenty of thriving teachers with ADHD!)
At first I used successful and great as the adjectives. I changed to thriving because you can be successful, you can be amazing, while still drowning. Thriving doesn’t quite hit the note I’m looking for either. But it at least moves the assessment from outcomes (how well students do) to how well we are doing (incomes… and now there’s a whole lot of language curiosity sending up distracting alarms but I will resist).
Bottom line. I left teaching not bc I wasn’t “good” at it or that it was too hard and time consuming. It was simply incompatible with my brain and rhythms. At least teaching writing was. I actually might have thrived as a math teacher.
I can explain and demonstrate things in different ways. I can anticipate people’s confusion. I can be engaging. I am present. Plus I love math.
And there are text books. A sequence. You still need to breathe life into the lessons. Pivot to each day’s pedagogical needs. But you are not reinventing the wheel every day. And I imagine assessment is slightly less crushing. I know it’s not all about checking off correct answers. You are looking at process to see where kids have strayed (minor calculation error or faltering understanding of the deeper concepts?) and looking for trends (hmmm half the class is faltering in this way)… but egads I hope assessment is not as time and emotion consuming as writing is. At least the way it was for me.
I brought my own trauma and rage to the desk. I could not, would not respond to my students’ writing in the way mine was when I was a kid. And so reading and responding to student work took me so much longer than it should have.
I could not, would not teach from a canned writing curriculum because well, ugh that’s too complicated to get into. I just said two paragraphs ago that I might have done better with a textbook to guide me with a sequence. Why is writing different? It’s not like there aren’t frameworks and curricula and textbooks and all of the things writing teachers can use. So maybe it was just too damn personal.
Here’s a thing about writing. People write at their level. With reading we need to think about content, vocab, syntactic complexity. Is this text in reach? Similar with math. Do you have the foundational skills and understanding to do these kinds of problems?
With writing, you don’t go above or below your “level.” Sure, you can dial it in or go above and beyond and some tasks stymie more than others for reasons that are not always predictable, but… what. What am I getting at? Tonight is not the night for me to write the anti-textbook on writing. I am going to be ok with muddled, unresolved content. It’s clear in my head but writing it down is different. Yeah yeah meta.
And why am I tearing up? I do grieve that I did not thrive as a writing teacher because, humility be damned, I am exactly the writing teacher some, maybe many, folks need. Which is why I didn’t become a math teacher though, now that I think about it, people have as many issues with writing as with math which makes me think about education in general and how I worship the folks who are breaking through somehow.
Blah blah blah. I do hope to write a book about education some day. But not tonight.
I’ve always had two “do gooder” paths. Teach or make trouble, er I mean try to influence folks to take actions that will lead to some kind of “good.” And tonight is def not when I want to explore how “good” is not self evident and can actually cause harm.
Point is I can grieve not teaching and still be hella excited to be back to working in advocay. But, so long as I am doing work that aligns with my values, what I really want is to thrive. I am confident (arrogant?) enough to know that I *can* do many kinds of jobs. Whether I *should* do them is a different question. Which goes back to gratitude for joining an organization that seems to understand that folks show up in different ways. So maybe tomorrow I will work 10 hours and maybe Friday 6. Or vice versa. I just know that I can talk to my boss about these things and that’s pretty awesome.