Excavation 2012 – Day 51 – School’s Out Forever

So, you may have noticed that I took a serious hiatus from the Excavation Project. I couldn’t help it. Temperatures have been in the mid-sixties and climbing since February and the world here is abloom. Between trying to clear away last fall’s debris from our yard and just trying to soak up some of the beautiful sunshine, I haven’t had much time (or motivation) to descend to the basement and empty more boxes.

But they’re still sitting there.




Time to stop making excuses and get back to it. Well, maybe a post a week or something, and only when it’s crappy or raining. Otherwise, all bets are off and Cadence, Electra and I will be exploring the great outdoors.

So, to jump back into the Excavation today, I thought I’d get a huge weight (in books) off my shoulders.

Yes, more books. I’m on a roll people.

But first, a little backstory…

I’m not one of those people who always wanted to be a teacher. Let’s face it, teaching is just in some people’s blood. And the best teachers are a complex mixture of counselor, humanitarian, and performer. For someone like me, who is a bit of an introvert and hates being the center of attention, a teaching career was never really something I imagined for myself. In fact, other than a writer and photographer, I only ever had a short stint wanting to be a marine biologist and dophin trainer, none of which involved an overabundance of social interaction.

If you want the truth, I sort of fell into teaching, not really by accident, but definitely by a strange set of circumstances. After graduating college with a degree in English and creative writing and spending two years working as a college Admission Counselor, I was ready for a change.

I actually seriously considered joining the NYPD and becoming a police officer. After passing the initial exams, all that stood between me and the academy was scheduling and passing the physical exam and completing the final pre-hire interview. Instead, I decided to join the NYC Teaching Fellows program and start teaching high school English in the Bronx while completing my Masters degree. In the end, I think I made the right decision.

That being said, I have a pretty volitile love/hate relationship with being a teacher. I love opening students’ eyes to new concepts and ideas, and seeing them get excited when they learn something new, but I hate the apathy and the laziness and the laundry list of excuses they come up with when they just don’t feel like completing an assignment. I love analyzing texts with a class full of eager student. I love hearing their ideas and helping them unleash the writer they never imagined was cooped up inside them.  I love watching my students smile with pride when they finally see a big A at the top of the paper that they spent hours and days and weeks writing and rewriting and editing and revising until they got it just right. But I hate dealing with adminstrative red tape and lazy parents and kids who have a seriously overdeveloped sense of entitlement that is in no way reflective of their work ethic.

And did I mention I hate being in the spotlight?

Being a teacher means being in the spotlight from the minute the first bell rings until long after the last student has gone home for the day. You’re up on the “stage” performing your educational routine for eight hours a day. Then, there’s the planning and the grading and the researching and the mentoring. After that, there’s professional development and the meetings and paperwork and catching up on correspondence with parents, so you can explain for the thousandth time that the reason young Tommy isn’t passing your class is because he spends his time etching his initials into the desktop and pressing his chewing gum into the pages of his texbook instead of reading or studying or actually completing any of his assignments. And that’s a good day when he actually shows up for class.

So, even though there are things I loved about being a teacher, and even though I can’t say for certain that I will never find myself back in the classroom again, it’s time to get rid of some of the books that have been collecting dust on my shelf for too long.

First, there are a few teaching guides, everything from Shakespeare to writing to creating your own classroom newspaper.

Then, there are several vocabulary and literacy books.

I have a stack of teacher resource books, and several books on classroom management. And I gotta admit, I never even opened most of the classroom management books, because there was nothing in those books that was going to teach me how to handle it when two boys started fighting and throwing desks at each other across the room or what to do when a kid who has gotten kicked out of half-a-dozen schools finds his way into your classroom and starts threatening to stab his fellow students and “snuff that bitch teacher”. Nope, at that point, it’s better to just let the adrenaline take over and trust your gut instincts to shield the rest of the students from the danger and call security.

I’ll leave the classroom managment books to someone else.

And last but not least, a few of the college “textbooks” from my English 101 and 102 classes. I gotta admit, I think I opened these books a total of twice in the 2 1/2 years I taught at CAC. They are, quite possibly, the worst college-level books I have ever seen. Luckily, the adminstration didn’t force professors to actually use the books. Intead they just provided a list of skills that students would be expected to master before passing the class, and allowed the professors to create a curriculum to get them there. Thank God. Otherwise, I may not have been able to handle it. I mean, since when does a college-level textbook have more pictures than words? Enough said.

Excavation 2012 – Day #28 – School’s Out For Summer

I don’t know that I ever fit completely into any of the high school cliques. I played a few sports, played drums in the band, took a few Honors classes and earned above average grades, wrote for the newspaper, rounded out my schedule with art and photography classes, and was inducted into both the National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society, all while holding down part-time jobs as a cashier at the local Hinky Dinky supermarket and an assistant teacher at Bethel’s Tutoring Tots Preschool. I hung out with the kids that partied, but never partied myself. I spent my freshman and sophomore years in a long-term relationship and my junior and senior years running from relationships. I guess you could say I was something of a contradiction.

But, if I was really going to be classified, you could say I was a bit of a nerd. Yeah, I admit it, and I’m proud. I’ve always been a bookworm, and if I could have it my way, I would spend the rest of my life as a student. I love school and, with the exception of math classes, I love learning. I love sitting in class, listening to lectures, reading books and taking notes. I love having debates and philosophical conversations. I love hearing other people’s points of view and asking questions to learn more. Truth be told, I tend to go a little stir crazy when I haven’t attended a class in awhile.

Yeah, I know I’m weird. Don’t judge me.

Unfortunately, my addiction to all things knowledge-related has significantly increased the amount of clutter in my life. I have file cabinet drawers full of notes and writings and class assignments from high school and, until the math book purge earlier this week, I have been schlepping around every book and textbook I ever used in college. For every story or article or assignment I write, I have at least 5-10 drafts tucked away in a folder.

Here is just a small sampling from my Concordia College New York years…

Tucked away in these binders is every syllabus, every page of notes, every quiz, every exam, and every writing assignment for every class I took in my four years as an undergraduate.

What can I say? It’s a sickness.

I’ve got research papers…

And pages of notes…

A syllabus for every class…

And even quizzes.

I know. I’m crazy. But even with my recent commitment to decluttering my life, I still can’t bring myself to get rid of any of it. I figure as long as it is all organized in binders that can be neatly placed on a shelf in my office, it’s not really clutter. Hell, I’ve even pulled out some of my old notes and assignments to help me in grad school and planning a few of the courses I ended up teaching. So, until the weight of my old schoolwork falls off the shelf and buries me beneath a mountain of paper, or begins to cause structural damage to my home, I’m not giving it up.

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