Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dr. Overworked or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stress

I'm so busy.  Too busy.  I know we all feel that way, so I'm not trying to generate any pity.  In the past week, I've seen two young teachers in tears over stress at work.  I don't know why anyone would want to go into the profession anymore.  There are no incentives.  We have no support.  We're often vilified, even when we make decisions in the best interests of our students (like alerting authorities about a possible bomb threat).

This post is for me.  I need to write out everything I'm doing so when my head catches fire, I'll have an explanation.  Be warned; it's going to be very long.  If you don't make it all the way through, I'll understand and still love you.

Before I start my list; did you know that my school district wants to set up a page that defines the acronyms for all the initiatives they've implemented in recent years?  Do you realize how fucking scary that is?  There are so many initiatives that we now need a glossary.  When we've reached that point, I think we call can agree that the world has gone to ice (sorry Snow Miser - I've always been your brother's biggest fan).

By the way, I don't need any initiatives.  Not a single one.  This is the start of my 25th year as an educator.  Nothing the administration has provided me at any level wherever I've worked has ever helped me in any way be a better school teacher.  All I need are students and a classroom.  Why is that so hard for folks to figure out?  It's not always about the lack of funding.

I teach eight sections of theatre at the high school (four acting; four tech theatre classes) and creative writing.  These are fun.  I love being with the kids.  Their energy still inspires me after all these years.  But I hate that I now have to write lesson plans for every class using a district-mandated template.  The state is also implementing a merit pay program.  Fuck you.  That's all I can say to that.  What makes anyone think putting teachers in competition with one another will improve standardized test scores?   Do you see the smoke rising from my ears?   You want the scores to increase?  Teach parents how to parent.  Make them go through professional development.  Then maybe their kids will learn to read and write before they start school like mine did.  And there's the newly modified evaluation instrument for art teachers.  I now need to record and upload student performances as proof that they're learning what I'm teaching.  Wonderful.  We can't even get a strong enough wi-fi signal for gmail in our building.  Not to mention we've been given no assessment tool and have no evaluation process in place.  They're making it up as they go along.  What else should we expect from politicians?

Let me stop being so fucking negative.  This isn't supposed to be a rant.  I'm just making a list of everything I do so I can prioritize.

Deep breaths, Tommy.  Ease the burn.  A slow roast will cook you just the same.  Even better, perhaps.

I teach two sections of expository writing at the college.  I love this job.  I'll do anything my department chair asks.  She's wonderful.  I taught her daughter (who is now a high school drama teacher and also wonderful).

I produce the after-school drama program at the high school.  We are running four plays in repertory over consecutive weekends starting in early November.  We will produce a spring musical.  This tires me out but engages my creative desire.

I sponsor the drama club and Improv team.  Minimal work here.  The students run things, as well they should.  Both highly entertaining.

I supervise a study hall.  Always a solid, quiet place to work for my students and me; although, I'd rather have them in my theatre classes.  But I've given up that fight.

Choose your battles, Drago.  Choose them wisely.

I'm the Arts Department Chair.  I work with an amazing department.  They make this job very easy.

I've been selected as the Theatre PLC Leader (that's Professional Learning Community Leader - your first acronym; aren't you thrilled?) for our district.  I'm trying to get out of this.  I was volunteered.

I'm organizing my drama program's participation in the North Carolina Theatre Festival this fall.  We've won awards in the past.  I think this group has the potential to give us more.

I'm organizing a New York City trip for my advanced acting classes in the spring.  What's not to like here?  New York is my hometown.  I'd live there if I could afford to.  At least, I'll squeeze in John's Pizzeria and Rocco's Pastry Shop a couple of times, both on Bleecker Street.

I'm covering for the vacant theatre manager position at our high school.  Not fun.  Lots of stress.  This deserves a post all on its own, but I won't go there.  Hopefully will be resolved soon.

I'm revising my third novel and writing two short stories for submission into a local magazine.  Keeps my brain sharp.  And as Stephen King once wrote, "Keeps the gators fed."  Fellow horror writers should get that reference.

I'm adjudicating two separate categories for a professional writing competition.  So cool.  But I won't pick titles just because everyone says they're good.  I take Poe's stance on criticism.  I'm a bitch.

I'm performing in a musical production for a local community theatre this fall.  This is a blast.  I have a small part but love the work.  My son is in the show.  He sings and dances.  His dancing is hilarious (not on purpose).  He makes me smile.

I'm the Board Pesident for (a currently inactive) local community theatre.  This makes me sad.  My wife and I worked so hard to build this program, but we're defunct now because we couldn't generate consistent support from the locals.  A shame, really.

In addition to all those jobs, I try my best to be a loving husband, responsible father, respectful son, and supportive brother.  Still no friends, though.  I keep telling myself I don't have the time.

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