Birthday Celebration - False - Obsessive Social Focus - Pestilence To Spontaneity And Joy

Describes my unhappiness in having to contend with the various interpersonal stresses present at my workplace. Describes most of my fellow teachers as being un-self-reflective, unhappy people who cater to everyone's needs but their own, and who engage in malicious gossip and depressing holier-than-thou judgmentalism.

Describes my dismay at being presented with a birthday card from my mentor teacher, who had spent much of the year lambasting my teaching efforts, encouraging me to enter the field of forestry rather than education. Describes how the celebration rang hollow and false for me.

Presents comments from my slightly different perspective 20 years later.

Work - February 27, 1991

*1991.2.27. (Date uncertain.)

The obsessive social focus at my workplace entombs me. This whole career thing is a pestilence to my spontaneity and joy. If work were more about honesty and love it would not be half as burdensome. But it's not -- and it totally wears me out. I can't handle the never-ending malicious gossip, the judging of others by standards that the accusing person does not live up to himself. It is really unbearable to be stuck with a crew of such un-self-reflective, unhappy people all day long. My soul feels strangled here.

The mindless, rote nature of our celebrations is an affliction as well. We celebrate every holiday and every life event of all our coworkers -- death, birth, illness, you name it. We underscore everything. But we don't celebrate each other. We don't celebrate spontaneously. We don't celebrate ourselves. We don't celebrate life itself. We celebrate only under specific, well-circumscribed, socially-accepted, predictable conditions -- conditions for which prefabricated Hallmark cards, neutered of all authenticity, come ready-made.

X (edit) and company just gave me a birthday card. It killed me to see all their damn signatures on it. After all she's put me through this year, does she think that everything will be made okay with a card? I would rather she took the time to go to the bathroom during the workday -- that she do anything that demonstrates her meeting some of her personal needs. Everything about her is so externalized and un-selfish. There is no peace, no calmness, no compassion about her actions. I don't care for rote expressions of celebration, especially if pain, self-hate, hostility, what-have-you, simmer beneath them. I'd rather that X do something for herself. I would rather she carried herself calmly and happily, and not in the manic, restless, judgmental manner that is her tortured modus operandi.

In any event, the weight of all that superficial pleasantry, amidst this backdrop of my having an overall really miserable first year in the [x school district], was too much for me to take.

I don't believe X and me even really like each other. It certainly isn't evidenced in her daily conduct toward me. This whole birthday celebration thing feels like such a lie. If she didn't have seniority over me, with her strong ties to the university and my school's administration, I wouldn't feel half so terrorized.

Comment from 2011.6.25.

How do I feel about this 20 years later? The same. My current teaching position is even less about me than it was back in 1991. There are more regulatory and legal requirements; more red tape with everything; and parents of special needs kids are far more litigious than they used to be, seeing their children increasingly as cash cow entitlement vehicles. The kids also serve as emotional lightning rods for the moms to fixate all their anger and unmet needs upon. I wish parents would spend more time focusing their energies upon General Electric, Pfizer, Monsanto, Cingular, Lockheed Martin and the rest of the bastards hell-bent on making our planet a mutagenic wasteland.

Today I am a much more competent teacher, and a lot more effective at navigating the swamps of dysfunction that plague the school system. I've been able to leverage this competency to obtain much more authority and control over what happens in my classroom. I am very selective with who I give time to, husbanding my energy as best I can. Of course, I have to comply with endless concerns, requests, rules, etc., but I do these on my time schedule in a manner that I determine. Consequently, I am in a position now to support (and frequently enforce) a less compulsive, more spontaneous, more people-friendly, and more real classroom environment than when I was partnered with the above teacher.

At some point in the three years I worked with the above described teacher, my principal granted me some autonomy and basically told this other teacher to give me some space to conduct my own program. I still remember some of my meetings with him. He was a heavy smoker, and these were the days before cigarette-free campuses, so his office was in a deep fog, especially later in the day. I would come out of his office teary eyed and clothes reeking. I wouldn't wish the stress of principalship of an intermediate school on anyone.

I think the main thing comes down to balance. I still don't have it. I am on "vacation" right now, which means for the past week I've been able to go into work to organize and complete hundreds of things. I show up at 11:00 am and leave about 4:00 pm. As the campus is virtually empty, I have no distractions. Projects, grants, and other matters that for the life of me I couldn't find the mental clarity to address with the staff and students there, I can complete readily. If it weren't for the 5 cell towers within 1 mile of the school, I could live with a schedule like this. I am making a lot of progress, but it's all on my own unpaid time. During the school year I have kids with me from 8:00-3:00, with a lot of administration-directed work after 3:00. Anything that requires deep, reflective thinking cannot be done on this schedule. Even when I am "free" after 3:00, nine times out of ten my mind and body are too frazzled to accomplish much. All teachers get is 1 half-day of paid time at the end of the school year, and 1 day before the new school year starts to prepare and then finish. We get no time between grading periods or trimesters. To think that a teacher can excel given such a schedule is a joke. Unfortunately I find myself quite resentful of other teachers who work only during their paid hours. I see all the corners they cut in order to do what they do. If you want to do an excellent job, it's all done on your own time. This is especially the case when you work with special needs kids. They demand your guidance pretty much all day long, unlike many of the general education teachers I work with who put on movies the last week as the kids sit and chat, giving them the time and space to complete everything by the last day.

Ten years after I wrote the above I was in the midst of a nine year special education preschool assignment. Of course with 3-4 year olds you would expect families to be hanging out with you helping children play/learn throughout the day. So this is all "other"-focused. Which was more tolerable for this age group because of the extraordinary state of mind they were always in, which was a constant source of inspiration. The main thing, overall, is balance. I've written pieces in the past expressing my desire for a 4-6 hour work day, with maybe 24 hours per week total. I think we could do that as a society if wealth was distributed more equitably, and if technological advances were allowed to improve our condition. But the powers that be want us loaded with debt, physically ill, and just treading water because we're more easily controlled that way. So I don't see much improvement in humanity's lot without a shift in power. Despite being overworked, I would probably tolerate the 9 hour days at school that I have now, if it weren't for the high level of manmade EMF in the area. It literally makes every moment a living hell for me, with my feeling oppressed in every cell in my body every moment I am there. Where I live, though an improvement over work, is not well-protected from cell tower signals. So I get no respite. It's important to feel safe in your home, and to feel refreshed each morning as you approach the new day -- something I haven't experienced now for three years.

I pray for a brighter future for all of us.


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