Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Work: Final Assessment

A co-worker has a cutesy wooden plaque in her classroom that is decorated with the red apples and proclaims the three best things about teaching to be June, July, and August. I hate its sorority-style dot letters and the sentiment feels crass, but I cannot deny that it's mostly true. Of all the great rewards of teaching, one of the greatest is that every year has a distinct end and plenty of time to reflect and prepare for the next beginning.

Usually at year's end I have a long list of things I feel I must accomplish before the next school year begins.  The list is usually daunting enough to paralytic and I rarely accomplish more than a few of the things that seem so important when school is still in.  This year feels different, probably because I spent 40 percent less time at work.

It is really hard to find fault with the part-time schedule that allows me to find myself enjoying this at 1:00 on a Wednesday during the school year:

And, yet, naturally I can find some fault with it.  For one thing, this is where I've been relegated as a trade-off for my choice to spend my afternoons on the beach: 

My desk is located not in a classroom decorated with the witty plaque of my choice but in a glorified supply closet surrounded by castoff overhead projectors and the toilet plungers that stood in as javelins at the freshman class Greek Day a few years ago. Every year in June, strange bugs breed in the fluorescent light fixtures in my little closet and then fall from the ceiling to the floor where they inevitably get turned on their backs and spin pathetically as they noisily beat their wings in vain attempts to right themselves.

There's probably a metaphor there, but I don't like to think about it.  I do know that much as I loved this year and hope that next year measures up, I did find myself frustrated at times.  Recently, I had a huge fight with my husband about fudgesicles, more specifically his lack of wonder and appreciation at the homemade fudgesicles I had dreamt up and prepared for the girls.  You see, when he walked in at the end of his workday to see me in the middle of a giant kitchen project he looked to me more wary than impressed or fascinated.  I took this to mean that he was either annoyed by my mess, bothered by my spending money that I wasn't earning on high end fudgesicle ingredients, disdainful of the level of idleness that would even prompt someone to undertake such an inconsequential project, or some combination of all of those. I now realize with some embarassment that I may have read a little too deeply into this.

After I had stewed in my anger at his response for a night and then railed at my baffled husband about it for several hours the next day, it occurred to me that my ghost-like status at work just might make me a little attention-hungry and praise-needy.  I also realized that not earning a full-time salary has caused me to feel unsteady in the balance of power in our household and in my relationship with my husband.

I'm working part-time again next year, and I'm still happy about that,but I recognize that in shedding the burdens and stresses of full-time work I also lose some of the sense of worth and purpose that I didn't even realize I was getting from it at the time. Right now I'm just focusing on June, July and August, but finding a way to avoid strife over frozen treats --even if they are homemade-- is definitely on the list for next year.

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