Why I Should Work With Children

Going on two years of unemployment had me looking for an alternate job opportunity while I waited out this rut in education. I’d been scraping by with a little freelance proofreading and private tutoring, but I needed something a bit more stable so that I could reclaim my self-worth, as well as bring home some decent money to contribute to the life I’m building with Greg. I was beginning to seek out hourly filing jobs in our nearby hospital, when I was called to substitute for a week as a teacher in a child development center (CDC) summer program. One week turned into five weeks, and those weeks turned into landing me an interview for a permanent teaching position within the CDC during the school year. I aced the interview and was offered the position. While it’s only part-time, I figure, it’s better than no-time, and it has a high possibility of becoming a stepping stone to landing a full-time teaching position next Fall. Plus, I’m meant to work with kids; not standing in a back room filing charts.\r\n\r\nThe moment I knew I had to give up looking into menial part-time jobs and continue to pursue my quest to work in the education field, happened a week ago while subbing at the CDC. Working at a school located a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, we would frequently walk the kids to the beach for a free field trip.  I was doing caboose duty on one of the walks back from the beach. This happens to be one of the most tiring positions, as you have to continually encourage the tired, slower children to “use their quick feet” and “take big, dinosaur steps” in order to keep up with the rest of the group.\r\n\r\nWhen we were within sight of the school, I heard a soft shuffling behind me. I didn’t think much of it until I heard it again.  The thought of a person walking right behind us sent chills up and down my back, so I quickly turned around to face the perpetrator and dare him/her to try and steal one of our children. ‘Cause that’s totally what any person walking in a public neighborhood is planning to do.  In any case, when I turned around, no one was there. Instead, I noticed the sound came from dry leaves sliding across the sidewalk due to the gentle ocean breeze.\r\n\r\nThis caused my mind to rationally think, “What would I do if zombies were behind us?” The thought made me physically scared, and as I glanced behind me one more time to make sure there really weren’t zombies, I initially decided that I’d push past the kids and get to the safety of the school. I was at the end of the line with the most fatigued kids, so the zombies would be content with them, giving the larger group, and myself, a chance  to get inside the school and set up a barricade.\r\n\r\nHowever, as I calmed down, I realized I couldn’t do that. I took a good look at the tired kiddos around me, and just knew that I couldn’t let them die. I imagined myself grabbing the tiny 2nd grader, who was dragging his feet next to me, like a sack of potatoes and running him to safety, all the while shuffling the other kids along.  I recognized that I would rather sacrifice myself than let them get eaten.\r\n\r\nI’m not saying all this for praises, or to brag that I’m a saint.  I’m not.  It’s just that this was a moment of clarity for me.  I realized how sincerely I actually care for kids that are of no relation to myself. I love those innocent, albeit sometimes tiresome, little humans. Zombies scare the living crap out of me, and if I would allow myself to get caught by a zombie hoard just to save their little lives, then I need to be working with kids. If I were to be answering phones in an air-conditioned cubicle, who would save the children?

Why Free Clinics Are Free

I should have known I was in for a ride when the medical assistant standing in front of me mumbled incoherently, and the only reasonable response that I could come up with was a scrunching of my nose and a quizzical, “Huh?”\r\n\r\nShe seemed very unsure of herself, but I answered her questions confidently, and did as I was told. I was made to stand way too long on the digital scale for her to record my weight, but being pleasantly surprised that I had lost some pounds, I wasn’t as embarrassed nor feeling as impatient to step off as I usually am. I didn’t become fully concerned until it came time for the testing of my blood pressure.\r\n\r\nShe delicately wrapped the black band around my arm, making sure all the pressure tubes were lying parallel and not crossing over each other. As she put on her stethoscope, she seemed to have trouble placing in her ear buds, as if she was discovering her ears for the first time. She placed the cool round end of the stethoscope on my inner elbow, adjusting it into the perfect position, and listened for a good ten seconds without pumping the cuff. Eventually, she realized she would need to pump it, and boy did she pump it! Every now and again, I’ll get an attendant who pumps the band way too much, to the point of almost crying, but within seconds, they give a twist of the valve and save me from unbearable discomfort.  Not this time.\r\n\r\nShe pumped it the fullest I’ve EVER had it, and kept on trying to listen without releasing any of the pressure. She finally decided that maybe she should change the position of the stethoscope. Of course, that didn’t work.  By this time, my tingling fingers began going numb. She adjusted her ear buds, and placed the scope down again.  My arm, now having lost all feeling to it, remained perfectly still. The crushing pain in my bicep was the only way I knew that I still had an arm. That, and I could see my lifeless fingers dangling out in front of me. I willed them to move, but to no avail. Just when I thought I might pass out from the mix of pain and numbness, she released the valve the teensiest of bits. I thought, “Finally! My blood is sure to come rushing back in, and she’ll surely hear a pulse!” But no, she merely wanted to reposition the scope, and within nanoseconds, it was pumped to the brim once again.\r\n\r\nAt this point, my entire arm hurt and tingled, as it was briefly given life, and then cruelly taken away. Fortunately (unfortunately?) it took her forever and a half this second time, and my arm soon returned to a numb state. After, at least, a minute and a half from when she began, she released the valve for good, and gently removed the armband. I immediately clutched my hand to my chest, massaging and moving my fingers. I looked down at my upper arm: It was so red that it looked like a horrific sunburn, not to mention that the indentations of the cuff remained on my arm for the rest of my visit.\r\n\r\nShe then wrote my name on a sterile urination cup, handed it over to me, and informed me that she needed to take my weight before I went and did my business. I questioned, “Again?” “Oh, I mean, your height,” she responded.  I followed her to the height rod affixed to the wall. I stood straight and felt the soft pressure of the bar resting against my head. She started uttering, “uhhs” and “umms,” so assuming she was trying to find a polite way to tell me to take off my sandals, I offered, “Should I take off my chanclas?” She said yes, and we resumed with the measuring. Again, I heard “uhhs” and “umms” emanating from her lips.  Then she asked me, “How tall are you?  This is saying 65.”  She lifted the bar from my measured position, and I stepped out from under it. She pointed to the 65 and said, “This is where I think you measured. I don’t get it. It says 65, and the other side says 165.  How tall are you?”  This was when I went into teacher mode, pointing out the inches side and the centimeters side, and letting her know that I usually measure 5’4 3/4″, and that the 65 she is looking at is part of the inches, which is the equivalent to 5’5″, which is essentially my height.  I even took the time to show her that 60″ is five feet, so she could just count up from there for future height measurements.  I guess all that went over her head, ’cause instead of acknowledging that she understood any part of what I said, she mentioned, “This is a new measuring tool, so I’m not used to it. I don’t understand the 165. So how tall are you? Five-five?” To that, I just nodded and conceded, “Yes, five-five.”\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n

close-up-height-rod

I can see how this could be so confusing…NOT!

\r\n\r\nStill clutching my empty, sterile urination cup, she led me to a line to take a vision test. As I began, a nurse walked by, and politely placed me on the correct line, about ten feet further back. The medical assistant resumed my test by telling me to start on the chart wherever I wanted. So, I chose a line, covered one eye, and began reading, with no guidance from her at all. I got to a line where I knew I was screwing up horribly, and missed more than the allotted amount, so I removed my hand and told her it was too fuzzy. Instead of moving on to the next eye, she urged me to continue squinting and guessing for the remainder of that line and the following line. I just went with it. After each individual eye was done, she started to walk away, and I inquired, “Don’t you want me to read them with both eyes now?” To which she responded with a shake of her head, and a leading of me to a nearby restroom to give them a urine sample.\r\n\r\nAs I walked into the bathroom and looked down at the cup, this is what I saw:\r\n\r\n
“Schatz” is easy. It’s the “Erica” that throws people off.

“Schatz” is easy. It’s the “Erica” that throws people off.

This Teacher’s Lesson

I’ve been feeling in a rut over my chosen profession. Two school years have gone by, and I have yet to be employed as a full-time teacher; not for lack of trying. At each summer’s end, I’ve gone to at least two interviews. It’s always the same scenario: 30+ candidates vying for that one open position. When I began this process, I was exuding self-confidence, sure that I would be among the top candidates.  However, as each subsequent apologetic denial came, my confidence weaned exponentially. Maybe my reserved, awkward demeanor overpowered my smiling kindness and turned the hiring committees off to me?  Or maybe I wasn’t as great a teacher as I thought?\r\n\r\nAnd that, my friends, is where my mind has been for the last year. I’ve been subbing sporadically, and whenever I get handed a troublesome classroom, my confidence in teaching wanes a little bit more.  I pride myself on my classroom management skills in my own class, but taking on another teacher’s group is a whole other beast. Not being familiar with their routines, and not developing the respect and rapport that comes with having a group of children from Day 1, brings upon a challenge that I don’t particularly care for. At the end of the day, I usually end up feeling defeated and sure that I’m losing my skills as a teacher. Stung with the hurt of denial, and yearning for steady financial independence, I’ve begun searching out alternative, rewarding careers for my skill-set. I’ve got nothing, so if you’ve got some ideas, shoot ’em over!\r\n\r\n The nice thing about not being employed full-time is my freedom of making plans at any time, on any day. So last Friday, I drove two hours to Adelanto to watch the 8th grade promotion ceremony at my last school of employment.  When I left Bradach School, I had just finished a year of teaching a 5th/6th grade combo class. I also taught Writing to the other full 6th grade class every morning, so I was able to develop a relationship with all 55 6th graders in our little Middle School Academy. The students and parents had my personal cell phone number for school-related questions, and while it was rarely used during the school year, I was surprised with texts from two of my former girls at the start of their new 7th grade year.  They wanted to share with me their progress and worries, and I kept in appropriate touch with them; always allowing them to text me first, and replying fittingly.\r\n\r\nWhen they began 8th grade, they immediately asked me to attend their graduation at the end of the year, and checked in with me periodically throughout the year to make sure I wouldn’t revoke my promise.  So last week, I made the trek out to see them graduate.\r\n\r\nInterestingly enough, my best friend from college, Chris, worked at Bradach for the end of this school year, so I was able to travel up with him and establish a “home base” in his classroom during my visit there. Seeing all my old students so grown up and ready to embark on a new adventure struck an emotional chord in me, and made me tear up upon sight of them. I basically lost all my composure when my ex-principal invited me to come up to be a part of the receiving line as the students received their diplomas. It was an incredibly special moment for me to be a part of their final minutes at Bradach. Their graduation seemed to serve as the end to a chapter in my life as well.\r\n\r\nThat said; it was so great being back! All my old colleagues warmly welcomed me, and throughout the day, they continued to speak highly of me; expressing how much they missed me, and what a shame it was that today’s kids were missing out on such a great teacher. I left Adelanto with a renewed sense of self-worth. I no longer feel as though I don’t deserve to be in the classroom. It’s where I belong, and I know that once this economy gets back on its feet, some school is going to be lucky to have me! Take that, depression!\r\n\r\n

My Bradach Girls

My Bradach Girls

Unemployment Benefits

When my school district first laid me off, my initial thought was that a Director of Education position at Sylvan would be a suitable alternative, so you can imagine my excitement, last week, upon finding a similar opening at a center nearby. The day before I left for camp, I sent them my resume, and on Monday, I had a phone interview with the Sylvan franchise owner that went extremely well. I was told that the next step would be another Sylvan employee contacting me within 24 hours to schedule a one-on-one meeting/interview. I was never contacted. After the first day passed without a call, I initially felt myself sinking into my worthless funk, but now that a few days have passed, I’m actually starting to feel relieved.\r\n\r\nI understand that if I really want the job, I should call the franchise owner again to follow up, but honestly, I’m not sure that I want to. While that job will bring me around $100 less per month than my unemployment gives me, it comes with benefits and the potential to turn into a salaried position as the economy improves. And yet, I don’t feel the need to fight for this job. This could be due to my passive nature, but I really feel that it is due to the fact that I want to teach. Period.\r\n\r\nI’m fairly certain I could excel at Sylvan; even with the managerial demands the position entails. I might even find some happiness working there; especially once the afternoon hits and the kids arrive. But ultimately, I know my heart will be longing for that teaching void that this job would not fill.\r\n\r\nAnd honestly? Besides the waves of worthlessness that wash over me every now and again, I’m actually kind of enjoying my unemployment. Due to all this free time, I was able to start this blog last June. For as long as I can remember, writing has been gratifying to me. I have volumes upon volumes of journals that span from 5th grade to my college years. I used to write 13 page letters to my best friend on a regular basis before snail mail became outdated. Writing calms me, and fills me with a sense of accomplishment. If I hadn’t lost my job, I don’t think I would have found the time to start this blog, and I think that’s what worries me. I don’t mind putting my writing on a backburner for teaching. Working with children is my number one passion, and I look forward to the time when I can be back in the classroom. But to give up my love of writing, for a job that is not where I ultimately want to end up in life, does not sound like an enjoyable alternative.\r\n\r\nMany may look at this decision as selfish, or even idiotic. Believe me, I wrestle with feelings of guilt and laziness over being unemployed on a daily basis, and not aggressively going after this Sylvan job is taking it’s toll on me (the chewed, pink, raw skin around my thumbs are physical proof of that). And while my intentions do have a dash of selfishness thrown in, I know I have to make happiness my number one priority. If I start working a job that ultimately, does not leave me happy, and prevents me from continuing to write, I think I will only live to regret it.\r\n\r\nI’ve always strived to look for the positive in things, and I truly feel that my unemployment was a blessing. Besides the fact that it gave me the opportunity to write and express myself, it allowed me to move in with Greg, and realize that, despite always being around each other, we still have the most amazing, rock-solid relationship. It is a love and respect that I’ve never experienced before, and I’m so grateful to live with him and experience what a loving relationship is supposed to feel like. Moving back to my hometown after twelve years away also strengthened and renewed my relationships with my immediate and extended family. I’ve always been close with my family, but this proximity has been pleasant and uplifting for me. I’m thankful for the chance to pop in and visit my grandma in the early afternoon hours, or to meet up on Saturdays at the park for a game of Ultimate Frisbee with my siblings, cousins, and friends. If I were still teaching in Adelanto, none of this would be possible.\r\n\r\nJudge my decisions if you want, but until I’m teaching again, I’m going to make the most of my unemployment and push my guilty feelings aside.