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When I Was a Girl | 2009 | Between Sobriety and Oblivion

10.08.09 10:49 a.m.

What the world really needs is more love and less paperwork.  

-Pearl Bailey


More Love and Less Paperwork

I'm employable!

I am substitute teaching not because I am bored of being jobless - though I am, despite my best efforts and my personal productivity at writing - or even for the simple reason that I need income. Even were I to manage a full week at the only school district that comes close to making it worth my while, my take home pay would only be $40 more than I make on unemployment. I am also not substitute teaching to spite the busybodies who are willing to overlook our slowly recovering economy if it allows them to be snide to a near stranger (and I deal with them whenever I mention in passing that I didn't immediately take the first part-time, weekend, minimum wage job I happened across). I am doing it for Melanie and myself. I am doing it because I never want to see in her eyes that second generation disappointment and so I don't have to indulge sleepless hours wondering why I am not worthy of employment. Given that I have again fielded potential employers telling me I am overqualified and thus cannot be hired, I know I am not the main issue. I've applied to more than one hundred positions this summer. (I have amazing skills in my field: a Master's degree, work with the gifted, work with the learning disabled, work in a residential setting, work making the standardized assessments.) I am marketable, but further understand that there are more important things in life than being "marketed" and that I am considerably-more than who is signing my paychecks.

I love teaching, though I didn't know how much I would when I was seeking my degree. I may bitch about it on occasion, but it is fun and meaningful. At my last school, I help a learning disabled girl to read and respond 4.2 grade levels higher in a single year. I know how much good I could and will do the moment some school district looks past their fetish for cronyism or fixation on dollars over students, and gives me a shot.

Last night, I expressed anxiety to Melanie because it had been so long since I had been in a classroom, let along the unique stressor of being in someone else's class. I'd come leagues since last I subbed, having spent a year and a half managing most every aspect of the lives of thirty hormonal kids with varying intellectual and learning impairments. I have discipline refined now and have dealt with the gamut of potential teen issues with aplomb. Still, it had been long enough that I feared having grown rusty.

The room the first day smells of kindergarten, of crayons and new clothes, slightly of the lapsed hygiene of very young children. It has been over a year since I've worked with kids and, while I prefer my students with the curiosity and impudence of teenagers, helping them spell "wrestling" and "Hannah Montana" comfortably hearkens back to my boarding school for learning disabled students. This feels much closer to where I should be.

The night before I started my editing job, I dreamt of teaching and realized how much I would miss my students. This inclusion class of first graders is not mine, but it is a start. I immediately find my level with these kids, students at an inner-city school, too young to realize that this provides them an excuse for the surliness that comes with a perceived lack of options. This elementary school feed into the high school where a student once explained to me what it felt like when he was shot, his descriptions muted with authenticity rather than the Hollywood exaggeration that would have blessedly meant he was simply a liar rather than a victimizer and victim. Their lives will not be easy, will not be cushioned by the implicit privilege found only a district away, but I like them a little better for it. Underdogs have more character.

I return home genuinely happy.

Within days, I get a call informing me that, though the district had been the ones asking me to sub, they would rather I stop until I can endure an orientation at the end of the month. I pointed out that, not only had I subbed for them before, but I am a certified teacher with a Master's in education. This does not matter, no prior experience supplants having attended their orientation. I asked the woman if I would still get paid for the days I worked and she assured me I would once I sent them a letter telling them where I live (I can't simply tell them over the phone or email, in case I am not me). I asked her to clarify that this meant I would not be getting a dozen automated calls a day, begging me to take over for teachers. Those would not abate, I was told, but I was to decline them. I have to now refuse to work for them for a few weeks to keep them happy enough to continue to call me as relentlessly as they already do. Such is it with bureaucracies and it is the game I have to play to get back in front of a classroom.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job.

last watched: Singin' in the Rain
reading: Skinny Legs and All
listening: Garfunkel and Oates

When I Was a Girl | 2009 | Between Sobriety and Oblivion

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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