Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stop and Smell the Dumpsters

This semester I have first block planning. It is my preferred planning period... if my preferences were of concern about such a manner. This morning I wanted coffee. It was last year, I believe, that our school board gifted us with Keurigs for the staff. Then, this year, a local coffee maker - Green Mountain - also began donating the K-cups. It means a much less diverse choice... Breakfast Blend... whether breakfast or not... but it is a donation and with the strangled educational system finances being what they are (pandemic-wise), it's a pretty nice gift. (Although the teacher with the mug of coffee is just a wee bit of a stereo-type, don't ya think?)

Anyway, I headed to the office Keurig, which was turned off... and being too lazy to figure out how to turn it on... I headed to the larger Keurig in the Teacher Lunch Room. To get there I passed through a corridor that had the cafeteria on one side and the janitor's offices on other (maybe a little too close now that I think about it). The bay doors, which lead to the dumpsters but we are going to forget that detail for the purpose of this story, were open and I felt... Spring. The weather was beautiful. There was a breeze - not warm but not cool. It even smelled like a nice day (thus the reason for overlooking the dumpsters in the story).

Anyway... (again!), it stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to be outside. This is a rarity for me, R-A-R-I-T-Y. We bought a house with no backyard because I had to confess I would never go out there anyway. As I stalled for a few minutes on my journey, I began to reflect on the fact today is Wednesday. Three days into the week, and it has been nice all week... or so it seems because my life has been too much school-work-school-work-school-work for me to even notice, let less "enjoy" it. On Sunday is when the weather turned nice (in typical Virginia fashion after weeks of cancelled school for snow). I kept the window open all day... as I was chained to my desk working on grading and lesson plans... all, day, long.

At some point I promised myself this would be the year I figured out how to say no, how to step away. I haven't quite truly figured out how to do that though... obviously. I am having a #mchenrychaos week right now with starting off the school Relay season, getting ready for Key Club Convention next week, and coordinating "Kick the R" activities all this week. Oh, and then there's the job I actually get paid for... teaching.

I don't make flippant jokes about having OCD because I know it is a true psychological stress... and not honestly my issue. I have always said I was a "failed perfectionist," which seems pretty accurate, much MUCH more now than even back in the "unbusy" years when I said it. Recently, I have started defining it (to myself) as a "hyper focus." It is difficult, downright impossible, for me to rush through a task, or to do "just enough" - either I lock in my focus into the extreme detail of a task or I disregard it completely. This is the reason it can take me 4 or 6 hours to do a lesson plan, or why I can spend the entire afternoon at a desk bleeding red ink on Sophomore English assignments, while I bubble in resentment at Facebook "friends" posting pictures of enjoying the weather... with their children.

These concerns, this dialogue, are often the whispers in the back of my mind but it seemed like one thing after another kept happening today to make me question being one of the last persons to leave school and still bringing home work. Question my school bag growing bigger and bigger until it is replaced with a little red wagon for weekend loads sometime. Ultimately, I guess it's a time management issue. I need to try harder to look more inwardly and determine why I make my j-o-b my top priority. I put it before family, and everything else- certainly before myself. Hell, I don't even know what that cliché means. I need to find balance... and that is trite... and I hate living a cliché, but I don't know how else to look at the whole situation right now. I need to take all that are my professional responsibilities, those I'm tasked with and those I volunteer for, and throw them back on that giant scale measuring satisfaction versus stress, and find a way to work a little more balance between the two. I can tell you a good place, the obvious place, to start - figuring out how to leave more work... at work. Not doing less, because I do not devalue the opportunities that I have as a teacher, but figuring out how to get more done when I am supposed to be working and how bring less of that into the time when I'm not "supposed" to be working.

It's not the first time I have thought about this in the past eleven years of teaching, obviously. I know that I am far, far from unique in feeling this conflict. It's just something that has been pulling at the strings of my soul lately, especially today.