Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Life-Work Balance

From the brief and only slightly regrettable stint in fashion.

Life-Work Balance
You tell me: I left school at midnight last night. Thoughts?
My previous records were 10:30pm and 11:30pm, I just squeezed past the last one for Gold finish in the “not knowing how to balance your life and work” event.
Though I am not entirely sure that it’s me not knowing how to find the balance; it could be that there is simply that much to do for a teacher who keeps growing and developing his methods. So many hours are spent just trying to figure out how to keep track of what I assign to which class and when. May seem trivial, you may say “move on man, just work on planning”, but I say that it is impossible to plan if you don’t know what you did today or yesterday, what you assigned, what you actually covered. The problem is that I have so many classes ! I have 6 regular classes and an advisory. Some veteran high school teachers may say that is nothing, but to that I would reply that each class is so different, that they all require separate planning (preps). I am blessed with being in charge of students that represent the entire spectrum (almost) of behavior, motivation, reading and academic standing levels. Even within each class I have students who have failed the regents, passed with an average score and nailed it - to say nothing of the other factors. These variations lead to each class, even those few that fall under the same prep, to never being on the same page; this effect is accentuated by each class seeing me a different amount of days each week – which is further exacerbated by random days off for snow, holidays, professional development… and so forth. AND, of course, our progress is daily impeded by disruptive behavioral issues which often simply do not allow us to cover all that must be covered in a class, and the gap widens ever more!
But, I am not complaining. I just can’t find the time to plan for each class, figure out how to do the little things that teachers do (like tracking, and other little systems of organization), study and write for grad school AND sleep. Can’t do it… not yet. What I notice though is that I am not angry about the fact that I have to stay so late, exhausted, but not angry. Nobody is making me stay; I actually choose to do this, almost every day. I miss the theater, the ballet, the opera, the philharmonic, the jazz, the dancing, the sports, the travel… but I never dwell on “what I am missing”. I keep telling myself that the first year is supposed to be like this, like hazing at a frat; perhaps my principal is the “Rush Chair” and is testing whether I have the true desire to wear the Iota Tao Alpha Upsilon Alpha (ITAVA High School) letters.
Anyway, every time I think of how much easier it would be to work from 9-5 and not have to do anything for work once I have left, and to have weekends to myself and my family… I am reminded of why I left that sort of work in the first place: because it doesn’t matter to me.

I have not mentioned the blacktop as much as I should and will in the future. But this brief recollection begins on the blacktop and brings me close to the doorstep of where I am now:

Listen!.............. a dull roar……….. growing louder…….Louder……LOuder…….LOUder ….LOUDER…….. silence……. The shaking , the nerves having had havoc wreaked on them are too slowly subsiding from the harsh reality of memories express bypass of realities brief station. The ride, the triumph, the collapse, all fading in and out. A heart too weak, a future too bleak, success and glory but fleeting caresses. I don’t suppose it was all supposed to be this way, some way, I guess it had to be one way and not another, regardless of what I did some way this would come around. The big move was made, New York was to be the land next conquered. A brief goodbye and the valleys and silvered lakes of the northland began to speck the horizon as it fell away behind the truck. A dull roar from this not so ancient Ford, the rambling of the worn down shocks, all served kindly to prepare me for what was to be nothing but the pure absence of smoothness and calm. I thought perhaps the big apple, with its juicy core, shiny, attractive skin, its baiting promise of sweet, sweet nectar, would be just that, a never ending bite of the promised joy and satisfaction that comes with your first sinking into a ripe apple afore the leaves start to fade from their glorious autumn hues and turn to dust shall the harvest of youthful freedom and carefree strolls with apples in mouths, thin, long fingers intertwined with your own, the youthful odor from summers lingering heat on supple, silky, caramel skin, with trembling down on which some beads of sweat hang as a reminder of consequence free love and childish joy at new sensations, at the slight tickle of long hairs as they slick threw your fingers, the breathless breeze of warmth and exhaustion as it reverberated on ears light coat and came to spiral to the innermost and drum up sounds that may or may have not been made, of convulsions that shook the earth coming to ease and subside with gentle flapping of wet hair across your labor beaten brow.

Gone forever it seemed would be those days, and yet once more awake, still mounted on steel I shuddered to think for how long had my repast taken my concentration off the road, the cars, the turns, it seemed as if by its own volition my body chose to make the necessary turns while I drifted away into forgotten valleys of my youth.

The spires of heights the numbers of which cannot be summed in my meager head began to show their grandeur as I came to a clearing from the hills of Jersey. Here it was, here is the unknown, here are the frames that were to enclose my existence for years to come, I felt no fear, I had no clue what they possessed in power and overwhelming draw and drain. I looked on happily if not slightly nervously at what was to be my home. The city of music and theater, of artists and writers, of money and money makers, of the center to world politics, or so it seemed, and its future. Actors working as bartenders, singers as waitresses, writers as messengers, poets as stock boys, hopeful Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Caribbean’s as cab drivers, desperate Latinos as busboys and cooks, fleeing Asians as delivery boys, Mad Russians, Jews of a variety seen nowhere else on this planet, every color, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, temperament, disposition, level of libido, degree of insanity, the faithful to the faithless, the bluebloods to the wretched refuse of far off shores, of wealth and poverty, of lethargy and industry, of gluttony and starvation, from Gucci to Pucci, from he who is to those without, the haves, the have-nots, the smiths and the Robinsons, the insky’s and the sczeski’s, to Wongs the Wangs, the Dangs, the Tangs, from Cruz’s and Ruiz’s to Fellini’s and Marbini’s, from Russo to Washington, from Brown to Said to Bin Mohamed to Virteux to Giraud to Morbier to Orlov to Black and brown and red and white and yellow and tan and pale and burnt rose to marmalade to pink to beige to…. Everything and everyone on a single subway car, going somewhere, in a rush to do something, filled with emotions and thoughts of balance, integration, saturation, acquisition, permutation, irrigation, conservation, condemnation, salivation, masturbation, expression, depression, elation, mortification, colonization, exaltation, happiness, sadness, madness, finesse, distress, fitness, nastiness… all completely unaware of each other, of the mutual purpose we inevitably share, the same goals and desires, we who are thrust thus into this bowl of concrete shit, of diversity and equality and revolution and subjugation, pretend we are the epicenter of existence and yet are fully conscious of our own deficiency to effect any more than the small group of groveling imps at our feet, the few who are less resourceful, more dependent, less opinionated and altogether worthless in their affect, those are upon whom we reveal our strength and courage and wisdom - finding it either satisfying or morbidly empty. Such is the turmoil we share in this brick oven of money and temptation.


  1. I love what you have written about your journey and the way you see NYC. The way your attitude changed within the few paragraphs, you really captured the way a New Yorker feels about their city. As a New Yorker I know that once you feel that you truly own this city your attitude towards it changes, you really begin to understand the whole love hate relationship. well done!
    Pardon me for not being more eloquent in my comment, it's late and i too, often stay up late doing work.
    As a person who once allowed their career to take over their lives, i have to say MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF!!
    I don't know your relationship status, but if you are in a relationship make sure to spend time with your partner, romance is wonderful. I have to say that instituting a weekly date night helped save my marriage. It was tough at first but worth it.You seem devoted to wanting to become the best educator possible, trust me as someone with experience, time will sharpen your skills. time will give you the experience necessary to compare, change and improve.

    lean on those that care for you and make time for yourself.
    And lastly, i cannot say enough how important it is to find a routine when it comes to lesson planning and work in general. (i dont think i mentioned that i am a teacher as well)

    I think your writing is fantastic! Have you ever submitted anything to any magazines? like Time or The New Yorker? you are truly talented.

    keep on truckin! I look forward to future posts.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you so much for your comment!
    My girlfriend would certainly agree with your sentiments!
    I have been looking for a good routine when it comes to planning, but i keep having to change it, because the routines I find are not good - neither as far as routines go and in their actual effectiveness :)
    I am trying something new though: i ditched the paper and am going to try to do everything on the computer. Better for the environment and less weight to carry on my back. I only wish all my students did the same, perhaps then I could make out what they write to me (having said that i should mention that their handwriting is still better than mine).

    I did submit once to the New Yorker, was clearly rejected, but it was but one attempt and it was not even fully edited. I think I know better now. I was hoping that this could become some sort of outlet for my writing, I am not sure how I could otherwise submit to any sort of publication, on-line or print.

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks again!!!

    Mr. T