It’s 8:56 PM as I write these words. At this time next week, I will be tired after having gone to work for the first time since mid-June. I’m depressed. Now before you give me the Well, I work all year round, get two vacations, and have to work on weekends speech, please rest assured, I know this. I used to, too. My wife has to work like this, and she reminds me of this whenever I kvetch too much or too loudly.* As she should. But here’s the thing about teaching, the 7:30-3:00 day (which is really more like 7:15-3:15, or 4) isn’t the only thing required.
If I can, I try to get all my grading (I hate the term correcting, but I’m not a math teacher, either, so…) done during the school day so I don’t have to take anything home. Luckily, with what I teach, I can do this more often than not. It’s about time management and finding opportunities when they arise. Kind of like writing when you have a full-time job and a family. Still, I do occasionally have to bring work home. Hours of work.
Then there’s the planning. I haven’t been back to work since June. I will go in this week to get my room prepared and to get some supplies I need for my first day. Because I teach freshman, there is more stuff I have to do on Monday than many of my colleagues, who will be setting up their classrooms that day. I haven’t actually even opened any files that are work-related. To the untrained civilian eye, I have done nothing for my job since mid-June.
I’ve been thinking. See, teaching is an art, or a craft, like writing. My life as a writer as helped me be a teacher as much as being a parent has helped me be a teacher (maybe someday I’ll tell you how being a teacher has helped me be a parent). So when I’m sitting at my desk, or on the couch, or at the table, or in the car, and it looks like I’m doing nothing, my mind is going. Racing, really. Sometimes it’s in Writer Mode, thinking about the current draft of the novel (almost done! Ayiiiiii!) but more and more frequently I’m thinking about work. Lesson plans. Ideas. Ways to present the information. Ways to present myself. Two weeks ago, my two-mile walks were mainly me thinking about the book or stories I want to write between drafts 2 and 3. Last week, my two-mile walks were split between writing and teaching, with teaching taking up more and more of my thoughts.
I’m about to start my 8th year as a teacher, and I’m revising in my mind. By the end of the weekend, I’ll begin writing notes. By Wednesday, my third day (and the school’s 2nd day), I’ll have a bunch of handwritten lesson plan notes that will eventually be typed up and submitted to my boss when the time comes. Some may tsk-tsk. You should have your lesson plans before you step foot in the classroom, they say. I do. I have last year’s. My springboard. It’s how I work and it works for me, so back off.
I love teaching, no doubt about it. But I love writing more, and I worry that my writing might stall as the Day Job takes up the mental and physical energy required to do it. I’ve known teachers who didn’t give it their all, who made their jobs easy. I sat in with an English teacher once who actually sat at their desk the entire class, every class. The kids were bored. Sure they learned something, maybe, but they didn’t have to think. Everything was fed to them. Everything. I knew a different teacher who taught straight from books and slept at their desk. Can you imagine that? Neither are in the profession anymore and I’m glad, because their students were at a disadvantage with them. I can’t do what they did. I can’t go the easier route so that I have more energy, more time. So I give it my all, teach my lessons like Robin Williams did stand-up comedy, or like Bruce Springsteen puts on a rock concert, and come home to be Daddy, and then Honeybun, and then…Bill Gauthier, writer of such books as Alice on the Shelf and stories such as “The Growth of Alan Ashley.”
And that’s the thing. This summer, I was a stay-at-home dad. From the time I woke up until the time G went to bed, I was Daddy. When Pamela got home from work, I was Daddy and Honeybun. When she went to bed, I allotted two hours for myself. From 9-10, I was Bill Gauthier, writer. From 10-11, I read. Sometimes I fuck around online, but more often than not, I read. I’m a slow reader and need all the help I can get.
About a month ago I wrote about not breaking the chain. I haven’t. This blog can be my X for tonight, though I still fully intend on working on the novel, too. Here is what the chain looks like now:
I’ve been busy, and the goal wasn’t just to not break the chain but to also get myself into the habit of using 9-10 for writing. I still have to get my Master’s degree, so this is going to be especially important. I know that once school starts back up, the chain will break. My goal is to postpone that from happening as long as I can (that said, my money is on next Monday night, Tuesday maybe). I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but by now, even when I don’t want to write, I find I’m able to manage something.
So if you know a teacher who’s about to go back to school, or has already gone back to school, don’t give them a hard time about going back when they complain about it. There’s no need to remind them about their vacations or holidays. Remember, I didn’t even mention how the kids’ lives seep into ours as we grow concerned because this one has that issue and that one needed to be brought down to guidance and that other one is failing even though they’re brilliant. I didn’t mention the silly politics or the things that don’t work that should work, or….
You get the idea.
I’ve inadvertently written 1,152 words. My intent was to write 500 or so. Oops.
* I love my wife more than anything else in the world, and am not trying to make her sound like a nagging wife. She puts up with my shit but she does not take it, if you get what I mean. Her reminders when I start complaining about having to go back to work aren’t meant to belittle my feelings, but rather to remind me that it could be worse. Just so you know.
Whoa-ho-ho! What a day, friends! But I’ll get to that in a minute or so.
I’ve decided to attempt to schedule my creative time. I actually decided this months ago, and began really thinking about it a couple of weeks back. Tonight I put pen to calendar and I thought I’d share.
I read this article more than a year ago and thought, I should try something like that. I decided instantly that using an Excel spreadsheet wasn’t an option because I can’t figure out how to use that program (Excel’s templates are what I use, if I use it at all). It took me awhile to figure out what to do. For now, I’m using my desk calendar. I’d already decided that Thursday would be a Must Blog Day, which is when I was putting the Nightmare on Elm Street and Superman essays up. But since July, I’ve been bad about that. So now that I’m back at work/school and have been doing real well working on the novel, I’ve decided to really try out a schedule. I know it will change as I get used to it, but that’s fine. Two weeks are mapped out. We’ll see how this works. If you’re interested, I can give you updates.
This is a nice feeling of accomplishment and, dare I say?, maturity on my part since I had a bit of a meltdown today. I won’t go into it because I know They‘re watching and I don’t want to say the wrong thing or for that thing (right or wrong) to be taken the wrong way (which, in my experience, tends to be how things work), but suffice it to say, ineptitude turned me into my arrogant, prima donna self.
Which makes me think of Dunkin Donuts. I have basically stopped going to Dunkin Donuts in favor of their competitor Honey Dew Donuts. I was sick of the window people (and the counter people) getting things wrong every time I went there. My order is simple: Large hot coffee, extra light, four sugars. Many times, I emphasize extra light. Dunkin Donuts gave it to me light, at best, dark most often. Or without sugar. Or they’d fuck up my sandwich, or my wife’s sandwich (she doesn’t want cheese on her breakfast sandwiches–or any sandwiches for that matter…I know, it’s a major personality flaw but I still love her even though she eats breakfast sandwiches wrong), or her drink.
The final straw was when I went to get a toasted bagel with cream cheese for the teenager. I’d already gotten my coffee elsewhere before I picked her up for school and she asked if I’d get her a bagel. So there was a Dunkin Donuts and I went through the drive-thru.
“Hi. I’ll have a toasted bagel with cream cheese, please.”
I drive up, pay, get the bag, and am pulling around to leave when Courtney says, “Look.”
She pulls out a small package of butter. And there’s no knife to spread it.
So I park, and bring the butter in. The girl at the counter ignores me for a few moments before, “Can I help you?”
“Yes,” I say, putting on a smile and faking a pleasant disposition. “I just ordered a bagel and cream cheese at the window and was given butter.” I held up the butter. “I wondered if I could have cream cheese.”
The girl sighs and walks away. A few moments pass. I wait. And wait. And wait. Finally she returns and thrusts the cream cheese at me and turns around to walk away.
She turns and rolls her eyes. “Yes?”
“Could I have a knife to spread this?”
She sucks her teeth and procures a plastic knife that would have a hard time spreading air. She walks away before I can thank her. I’m left with cream cheese and a knife in one hand, butter in the other. I placed the butter in the rack of gift cards.
It’s been months since I’ve gone to a Dunkin Donuts. I’ve been happy.
Except, recently, Honey Dew has been giving me light coffee. I order it extra light.
I’m not asking for much, just aptitude at your job.
Speaking of which, I made these cheeseburgers (hamburgers for Pamela) tonight. Her’s was medium, mine well-done. Cheee-rist! I made a mean burger! Well-done but juicy, two slices of cheese (one on top, one on the bottom), lightly toasted buns.
Yeah. Tonight helped today.