Grow Up

I have been falsely accused today for the first time in my life, outside of being an older sister. I have been substitute teaching at LaVergne High School (I graduated from there in 2001) in the Special Education department since early January. Today I am at the post office, finally mailing all the crap (see previous post) I got together for my visa. I get a phone call that a teacher at LHS has reported me to Holland, my employer, for being (and I quote) "loud, mean, and making a student cry."
What the hell?
Can I just say, What. The. Hell.

First of all, who in their late 30s to early 40s (all ages of women I work with in this department) knows that a substitute has made a child cry and doesn't go to that person and tell them about it. The woman who reported me said that it had happened on "several" occassions. Who, please tell me, who allows a teacher to continue to make a child cry and NEVER ADDRESSES THE ISSUE? It's freaking child abuse! It's like they're waiting to gather evidence against me.

Okay, now that we've established the idiocy of the procedures taken (i.e. calling Holland and pulling me out of the school instead of just telling me something wasn't working or I was doing something wrong, which is also known as caring for the children 100%), let's go back to the fact that I have never EVER been mean to a student or made them cry. EVER. I'm not stupid. I might not be trained to work with kids in special ed. but I understand that you don't yell at them and you're never mean to them. Perhaps I get frustrated, but then I just repeat my instructions until the kid gets it right. Of course, there are levels of mental ability, as there are in any classroom. A few nonverbals. Because I'm not mentally challenged myself, I do not yell or get angry with kids who cannot understand me. There are a good number who DO understand me and have the ability to follow directions if they so choose. Sometimes they don't choose. And I have to let that go because they're, well, them. I have gotten to know these kids' personalities and I feel that the past month has been incredibly rewarding. I have learned more about teaching at this school (no thanks to my "colleagues" who treat me like I'm worthless because I'm simply a sub) than I ever have in years of actually being in school or even my few experiences teaching. I was ignoring the silly crap, the stupid gossip stuff and bitchy behavior because heck, we're all women, we're all either menstruating or menopausing or whatever and there's bound to be bad moods and stuff. And we're easily stressed. We do have kids that hit and bite and punch and scream really loud. Who's not stressed out? But the idea that someone would pick me out and decide that I'm not doing a good enough job and then MAKE STUFF UP and then call Holland about it to make me look bad- this just makes me angry. I am angry. And again, I say what the hell?

I was not given a chance to defend myself, to clear up any misunderstanding, to confront the person who accused me of irresponsible and inappropriate behavior. I was simply told I would not be needed at this school tomorrow and throughout the evening received call after automated call cancelling all the jobs there I had lined up until the end of February.

I just think that it's ridiculous to treat people like this. I'm the second sub IN A WEEK who has been run off. And ours were not the first complaints (so said some supervisor from some county something). So, I just think that these teachers deserve to be left alone with NO SUBS to help them with all these kids. They want to talk about how they love the kids, but when someone new comes in it turns into a game of favorites and keeping secrets and not giving information about the children or how to take care of them or how they respond best. It becomes about making sure everyone knows that this child likes you the best, that you know the most about this child, that you are an expert in taking care of this child. Well, fine, you be an expert by your freaking self.

I'm done with that. I refuse to be in a hostile environment. They are rude and unwelcoming toward the people who willingly take a PAY CUT in order to sub there and offer what little help we can. Oh, and they're LIARS. Dang.

I was telling my parents today that now I know how those innocent people on Law & Order feel when they get called in for something they seriously did not do. I didn't do anything CLOSE to what I'm being accused of. I have wracked my brain ALL afternoon for anything, any tiny little thing that could even have been misconstrued as mean or making someone cry. I would never hurt anyone on purpose, much less a child, much much less a child in a special education class!

Like I said,
What the hell?
And grow up. It's not middle school. You don't get points with anybody anymore. Be kind to people who are trying to help you. BE KIND.


How to Lose Your Mind (In 5 Complicated Steps)

There are innumerable ways to go crazy, but this afternoon I was presented with a surefire exit plan that takes you the fastest route from sane to grumpy and deranged. If you are tired of living a hum drum life filled with peace of mind and that boring, sometimes pesky good mood, follow these simple steps.

1. Decide you'd like to move to another country in which the first language is anything but English (i.e. Korea) and attempt to get your paperwork done in a timely manner. This alone will have you pulling at your hair and talking to yourself while emailing other countries and attempting to decipher humble but urgent messages from your would-be employer. Ooh, also, you must try to set dates for each stage of paperwork to be done. You will go crazier faster if you base these time estimates on the lead times posted on government websites.

2. Try to get to any government office during their business hours. I DARE YOU. Unless you work a job with fabulous hours, many of which you are allowed to work at home or not work at all, you will not be able to make it. The particular divisions of government I am concerned with at this point (The Secretary of State and the County Commissioner) are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. I work from 8:15 to 3:30. So now you are thinking, "Oh puh-leez. Any person with half a brain can make it from LaVergne High School to downtown in an hour!" But you are so wrong. (No offense. But I am the crazy one, so I know.) The second stage of mental health deterioration begins as you attempt to back out of a Visitors Parking Space after school through two lanes of traffic. Good luck doing this in a timely fashion. You could look like you are at stage 4 if you run up and down the line of cars waiting for their kids behind you and ask them if they'll let you out when the line moves. This works better and is more comfortable when it is not 11 degrees outside and the driver of the mini-van does not look like he just got out of jail on parole. So, back out and then get on the interstate and proceed to I-40. You shouldn't run into much traffic if you are lucky. At this point, you are racing the clock, so your buttocks are a little tense in your seat, along with your lower back. But you should have Melanie (or your own brand of trusted road trip companion) still reminding you that you have plenty of time in which to make it to the address on the sheet of paper you've handed to her which has directions, addresses, and phone numbers on it. You're not completely insane yet. But wait for it....

3. Try to use any kind of directions besides a nav system to get you to the James K. Polk building on 8th Avenue. Oh, by this time, you're only mildly annoyed and panicked, since you need to mail all your crap tomorrow in order to get your visa on time so that you can not only relocate your life, but reunite with your boyfriend whom you haven't seen in over 5 months. But add all the one way streets and forks at stoplights and you'll soon be pissed. After you find the James K. Polk building, you must find somewhere to park. Hope you brought $3.00 for half an hour of parking in a lot two blocks away from the building (which you drove around twice in your frenzy). At this point, you think you will not go crazy. You remember your criminal background check and everything. You have your paperwork in your hand and you head to the building, despite the fact that you cannot feel your face and you have to pee so very very badly. Walk to the building. Go in the entrance. Have your license scanned and a name tag printed. Proceed to 6th floor. Go to desk that says Apostilles. Hand the woman your paperwork. Immediately crumple over and lie your head on the desk when she tells you it is not enough to have your things notarized. You must also have the notarized things verified (whatever the hell that means, because I thought that's what a notary did). Try not to cry as the woman at the desk writes the address and phone number of the Davidson County Commissioner on your manilla envelope. At this point, you are cracking up. Exit building as quickly as possible, forgetting you have to pee very very badly, while you wish to kick everyone you see on your way out of this ridiculous building in the shins until they feel as bad as you do.

4. You have reached the "loud" stage of your breakdown at this point, if you have followed all these steps carefully so far. Everything you say to Melanie is about 10 times louder than your "inside voice." It is even louder than your outside voice because you're not laughing and running around on a playground. You are enraged. You had done your research and consulted all the right websites and called all the right people. You were not informed there would be a verification. Attempt to reach the other place by 4:30 (It is 4:17 when you call for directions). This will stress you out considerably. You will begin to repeat things (a definite sign of mental illness) like, "We're not going to be there in time. There's no way. It's impossible. We won't make it in time. We won't. We're not going to be there in time. There's no way. Nope. Can't be done. Impossible. We won't be there in time," and so on. Try to figure out how 8th Avenue turns into Rosa Parks Blvd and then back into 8th Avenue, not by following the same road as you were told by the nice lady giving directions and "doubting you'll make it in time," but by making a left turn and then a sharp right. It is important to note at this time there will be lots of traffic and no one will want to go the way you are going. You must always be in the right hand lane behind a car who is not turning right. You MUST catch every red light. And they must be downtown eternal-like red lights. 5-minutes-and-counting red lights. If you get green lights, the plan will fail and you will return home a little disappointed, but not insane. And not nearly grumpy enough.

5. Make your way to the place you needed to be 10 minutes ago even though you cannot accomplish any of your tasks by doing so. At this point the futility of your entire day's goals becomes apparent, and you realize you no longer need your sanity. It simply hinders you from understanding and being at one with the chaos and bureaucracy that rule the government processes and the roadways in downtown Nashville. You shed your mental health willfully and arrive home with chocolate pie in hand and a grumble as you walk in the door and realize that nothing has been done to fix the draft that comes in under the front door and you still have to fight a towel that has been placed there to staunch the flow of freezing air just to get inside. Your mother will greet you with, "Aren't you grumpy?" And you shall look at her with the eyes of a mad person and smile and calmly say, "Yes. Yes I am."

And you will be crazy. The time frame for this particular strain of insanity is not known, but similar results can be guaranteed if you follow the steps above.



So, I have news. Kind of big news.

I had gotten this job offer from this school in Korea and I was seriously considering it, going so far as to fill out the employment contract. But lucky for me, I didn't fax it or sign it or send it to anyone. The day I was about to fax the contract to the school, my friend Claire (oh Godsend Claire!) emailed me a link to about 50 posts criticizing this school and basically telling everyone considering applying there to run for her life. Had the evidence not been so overwhelmingly abundant, I may have brushed it off as spoiled Americans expecting Korea to be America, only cheaper and without English. But the complaints were plentiful. And some of the posts were directed against the exact school I was going to be teaching at. In light of this information, I informed the school that I would have to think it over and sent them the link so that they could see what was being said about their school.

So, that night, I spent about 3 hours applying for other jobs and searching the internet (Dave's ESL Cafe to be specific) for better opportunities. Well, all that paid off. I have now accepted a job at Haba Playschool in Seocho, Seoul. The hours are so much better than at the other school and I'm getting paid the exact same amount. I have spoken with the principal and she is extremely cooperative and kind. She is communicating regularly with Kenny, who took the liberty of calling her and asking her all sorts of questions to make sure I wasn't getting into any sort of mess! The job is kindergarten from 9:20 am to 4:00 pm. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, gets off work at 4:00 pm in Korea. Kenny's day "officially" ends at 6, but you don't leave until your work is done, so he's there until 7:30 or later some nights. And it takes him 2 hours to get home. See? In Korea you work until your work is done. Then you go home. So I got extremely lucky teaching younger kids because their schooling ends earlier in the day. Ages 2-5 at the school! I have 10 children in each class and I'm so excited. The first day of school is March 3rd, so I am trying to leave the beginning of the last week in February in order to get there and get used to the 15 hour time difference and adjust to life in a new country. And maybe I'll have a bit more time with Kenny before I start working.

It is all happening so fast and in a whirlwind sort of way. But that's how my life usually is. Time creeps by where nothing much is happening and then BOOM! It's time to go. Like when I decided I'd move to England to get my Master's, all of a sudden the day before I was supposed to leave was upon me and I realized I needed to pack! This time, since I'm going a bit further, I think I'll pack a few days in advance, but I'm not making any promises. Anyway, I only have a small bit of time left. I hope to spend that working (I got a new substitute job that is kind of steady. I'm working at LaVergne High in the Special Ed classes. It's a wonderful experience that is so incredibly rewarding) and spending time with my family and friends. I need to make a lot of phone calls and see a lot of people and give and get a lot of hugs.

I never feel I'm participating in my life when things like this are happening. I feel that I haven't orchestrated a bit of it, that the decision to go to Korea was chosen for me in some way and now it's just happening to me. Some may think that this feeling of "otherness" pushing me into new countries and new experiences might feel funny, but it's really the most comfortable way for me to deal with big changes. I simply let it happen. So, I've been watching tons of things happen to me in the past week and that's my news. I'm leaving for Korea soon! Woot.


March of the Penguins meets Boston Legal

Okay, I tried to get photos to explain, but I couldn't find any good ones.

Today at LaVergne, I subbed for a biology class and they were watching March of the Penguins (of which I saw the last half FOUR times). When the baby penguins hatch and then begin to walk, they huddle close to the ground with their little furry flippers down by their sides. And they waddle. And they're so cute you have to go, "Awwwww." So, I'm watching this tiny chick hobble on down to the furry group huddle and I think, this reminds me of someone. And then I think, I'm insane! Who could this penguin possibly remind me of? And then all of a sudden it comes to me! Jerry "Hands" Espenson from Boston Legal (the best lawyer show EVER). Yes, the way he holds his hands down in front of him, plastered to his thighs as he walks, this is what a baby penguin looks like when they first begin to walk. I mean, adults waddle in this same way, teetering back and forth with the flippers down by their sides, but it's not the same. It's only the furry little fluffies that remind of him.

And that's it. And yes, Boston Legal trumps Law & Order (the original with Jack McCoy). I know it's hard to believe. But it's true.


The Friend Disclaimer

I've been thinking about and particularly appreciating my friendships lately. Especially the one I have with Melanie. She's always around, she usually gets my big news announcements first, and she's practically part of our family anyhow. And something she said the other day hit me as a little funny. We were talking about meeting for dinner and she said, "Okay, just so you know, I'm dirty." And I replied, "Oh, that's cool. I haven't showered today." "Well," Mel said, "I'm clean, it's just my hair is dirty." This is a typical conversation for us because of course, I rarely bathe (ha) and Melanie's hair is only washed once a year. But it's funny to me because we KNOW that the other person doesn't care. She CAN'T care! I have full confidence that if my sister, the aesthetician, made a terrible mistake and I had to meet her for coffee with one eyebrow and my legs not shaved for months (funny, because that bit is true now) in a holiday turtleneck and capri pants, she wouldn't think twice. And if Melanie woke up one morning and found that she had slept funny and her nose would be directing us all southeast for a few days, I'd run right over, take her picture and post it on Facebook and then proudly walk arm in arm with her down a red carpet. (That is, if Tennessee ever had red carpets. Okay, let's say I'd walk arm in arm with her down the aisle of a bookstore. That's more realistic.)

The thing is, we find ourselves constantly making what I define as The Friend Disclaimer. You warn your friend that you may smell a bit, your skin is flakey from the last chemical peel, your toenails are a bit long, or your hair is a bit poofy and you do this in a way that gives them an out. You say, "Okay, well as long as you know I'm not [insert whatever hygiene issue you've recently neglected because you're not Julia Roberts]." You say it like they might back out on you. But in a way, you know they won't. And that's funny to me. Although, perhaps the reason we make these disclaimers is to show that at least we KNOW, we are AWARE of our coffee breath, our post-workout scent, or our wacky nose hairs. It's not that we think anyone will care, it's just that we want them to know we don't care. (But we do. In the tiniest corner of ourselves. Or else we wouldn't mention it.)

We walk around making all these disclaimers about ourselves, knowing full well the other person would never deem to care a bit. I mean, she might not sit as close to you on the couch, but it doesn't mean she loves you any less or is embarrassed by you. (Although maybe sometimes Mel is, in fact, embarrassed by me and just doesn't have the heart to let me know.) Anyway, it's just something I was thinking about. It must be a silly girl thing. I never hear boys calling each other and saying, [read in deep, gruff, manly voice] " Man, I don't think you wanna come over dude- I've scratched my crotch all afternoon and, uh, dude, I didn't shave this morning." Nope. Nobody cares. And of course, that's the beauty of friendship. Your friend has seen you dressed up and she knows you hate it and are completely uncomfortable. So she welcomes your comfy clothes, even if they're big and unflattering, because then she doesn't have to listen to you complain about how crappy dress clothes are. A good friend will do this anyway. They will accept you on your unshorn days and your down days and the days you just couldn't make it to the shower.
Thanks Mel, for loving me, long leg-hair and all. Mwah!


Unemployed while Employed

I still don't have a job for tomorrow. And although I have gone to bed before with no job and woken at 5am to the ring of the cellphone letting me know another teacher is sick, tired, or heading to a conference, or homicidal and so must stay away from all persons under the age of 18, I'm not feeling hopeful. I thought it would be hard to get something the first day back. Nope. Easy peasy, as Kenny would say. But now, it seems that all the teachers in Rutherford County have recovered from their sickness and had enough of a holiday. I did not have a job today. I went to bed without a job. I woke up at 7:30 this morning thinking that it was really weird NO ONE needed a substitute. My phone finally rang at 7:38 and they wanted me to be there at 7:45, which even if I had skipped getting dressed, looking in the mirror, brushing my teeth or doing ANYTHING except standing up and walking to my car, would have been a physical impossibility.
So, my plan tomorrow is to get up at 6 am (EEWWW, but it has to be done) and go ahead and get ready for my day so that no matter what time they call, I should be able to be there on time. Unless it's ridiculously out of my way. In which case, I will accept the job and then simply call the school to let them know what time I shall be there. This is not what I need. I need the MONEY HONEY! I am missing an entire week and 2 days in order to fly to Korea to see my true love and I am now paying my grandfather monthly for all the money he loaned me in order to make my Exeter degree possible. So, now is not the time to perk up, gear up, or even wake up! It is the time to take that personal day. For you, my friend, deserve it. It is time to take that sick day and head to the beach on a Friday with your girlfriends because your head hurts when you think about 30 screaming 2nd graders with kool-aid moustaches and crumpled papers in their backpacks. Tired teachers unite and give the subs a job!


If I Was Billy Collins

I was going to write about literary stuff again- has been my habit on Facebook for the past few days - but I'm finding myself short on time, since I just got a job for tomorrow and it's already almost midnight and I'll probably have trouble falling asleep, considering I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to my cat. Allergic in the sense that my throat itches and I have to cough or I feel like I'm choking kind of allergic. And breathing through my nose aggravates the itch; it's like the air hits it in just the right spot. Anyhow, I consider Billy Collins quite literary. I mean he was the Poet Laureate and all. I've been thinking about him for a few days and I was riding in my car pondering some of his poems and the similarity between them. And I parked somewhere and fished my pen from out of my purse and my little moleskin notebook from the pocket in the driver's side door and wrote down my own poem about Billy Collins' poetry. Sort of a poem- more of a list of the things that hit me as being peculiarly Collins-y. So, to meet my goal of writing daily, I present to you a poem.

If I Was Billy Collins

If I Was (or Were) Billy Collins
sitting down at the desk
just across from the piano
and the glass of melting ice on top of it
from the recent whiskey warming the lower part of my gut,
I would first mention the jazz album I am listening to
followed closely by what ordinary thing I happen to spy
out the window (a thrush perhaps),
while remembering the burn of the last cigarette I smoked.
Then, to wind it all up, I would address the ever-present and anonymous 'you' -
I would compare your nocturnal winter's cough
to the persistent beat of the bass line in whatever song was playing
when I took the last sip and crunched the last cube of ice,
leaving a wet ring on the black surface of the baby grand.



2008- The Year of Korea

So, with less than 44 minutes until the New Year, I figured I would go ahead and tell you that 2008 will have to be absolutely mind blowing in order to top 2007. But it's already well on its way. For today, I confirmed my travel plans to the fabulous destination of South Korea on January 31st. I'm only staying until the 10th of February, but it will be a wonderful break and I can't wait to see Kenny again. It will be nice to see him and to get a look around Seoul before I make the big move in April after Holly's wedding. The last time I saw him was on August 28th, 2007 at Heathrow in London. So, like I said, 2008 is already looking up.

However, it still has to beat 2007 and that is a large task. 2007 was the year of the Masters degree, the year of living with Tariq, the year of having Fiona for my best girlfriend in Exeter, the year of The Gang and our day trips, the year of the Scotland excursion, the year of writing a dissertation, the year of eating new things, the year Kerri and Buck had Lily, the year Holly and Matt got engaged,and the year of coming home and falling in love with the South all over again. In retrospect, this year has been one of the fullest and most blessed of my life. I celebrated another birthday, a one year anniversary with the man I love, and a Christmas at home instead of in the Middle East. (See? 2007 had a tough record to break too. In 2006 I moved to England, met my boyfriend, and spent the holidays in Israel and with friends from all over the world.) So, farewell lovely 2007, farewell. You were so good to me. I am looking over my shoulder with surprise and wonder at all that I was able to experience and all the people I met and loved and who made my life richer. Now, I'm looking forward to whatever the next 365 rotations of the earth have in store for me.

So, bring it on 2008. I'm ready!
As for New Year's Resolutions, I have only one:
Get to Korea. And so far, it looks like I'll make it.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin