Monday, January 26, 2009

Third Unemployed Monday

Grace for today:
1. Being free to stay up until 5am, just because.

2. Snuggling asleep in my bed until 2pm, because I can.

3. An invite to Ravelry. (Boy, do I feel out of my element there.)

4. A former student IMing me to say she misses me and wants to visit me.

5. A college friend sending a sweet card out of the blue.

One of the first things I noticed after being unemployed was my energy and fatigue level. Every single day since August, I was exhausted. Could not get enough sleep. It was almost impossible for me to get to bed 'on time' to get a full eight hours, and even when I did, or close, I still felt like a zombie.

This editorial in the NYTimes was so spot on.

How and why teachers drink is a topic that rarely receives the discussion it deserves.. For the average drinker, alcohol provides mental escape, but for teachers that escape is physical, too – after spending entire days surrounded by children or teenagers, we are retreating to the one place that will be – ideally – certifiably child-free.

These days, my colleagues and I like to occupy the darkest corner of our newly anointed after-school bar, hoping not to frighten off other customers, who usually filter in as we’re deep into our second round. At first I sought to institute a no-talking-about-school policy, figuring that alcohol would help us return to our normal selves. Then I realized that we no longer had normal selves. Unlike most other professions, this one drains you completely, refilling you with its own insular, infinite concerns. The intensity may ebb and flow, but it never disappears.

Drinking together allows us to reclaim an experience that is too often defined by politicians, bureaucrats and reformers who have not spent nearly enough time in the trenches.

One of the commenters was like, You must not have had any other job before, because my job is really intense too.

That commenter has obviously never been a teacher. I haven't had a ton of full-time jobs, but I've never ever experienced an intensity like teaching. Teachers are on All.The.Time. Keeping an eye on thirty people in one room is not easy. You cannot relax for a moment! You can't duck out for a break whenever you want. You can't chill out on the internet when there's a lull. There aren't any lulls, and there is always a huge pile of work to be done. You don't get to hang out by the copier mindlesslychatting, you can't run to the break room for sponsor snacks, you can't go out to lunch with your work friends. You are always on the clock. My brain felt completely fried at the end of each day.

I tended to isolate myself in my classroom to get more done and also to avoid gossipy nonsense, so it was rare that I got to socialize with adults at all, let alone my own co-workers. The stress would weigh on me without me noticing. Going out for a drink, on the rare occasions I was able to do, really was relaxing and fun. It took a weight off my shoulders to be with other young teachers in a social situation, talking and laughing and being our non-teacher selves. No matter if I had any alcohol or not, I felt lighter and happier and just better after going out with colleagues.

And then, two weeks ago, suddenly I wasn't a teacher any more, and instantly, all that stress and intensity and anxiety were gone. Vanished completely. Even last week, getting six or seven hours of sleep, I wasn't tired. And at night, I don't feel sleepy. It's the strangest thing. But oh, it feels wonderul. The zombie is gone!


Ms. George said...

True. So true.
I'm sorry that your last school experience was such a disappointment. Teaching is a job like no other and the only ones who really understand are the ones who are doing it and who, in most cases, care the most about the results. Teaching is tough, but I wouldn't see myself as happy in any other job. I hope that someday soon, you'll be able to say the same thing (about a job--in or out of the classroom).

X said...

OMG Ravelry is the best timesuck ever. I freakin love love love it!