Friday, August 19, 2011

Week 3 - Bucking at the County Fair

This morning driving to work, I felt beat up, like I'd been bronco busting and zigged when I should have zagged.  My whole body hurt.  I didn't realize how much anxiety I would feel being in a public school. It's not because of the kids or the work, but because of the frightening similarities to prison that I feel panic sometimes coming on.  Only I didn't realize it until my friend Elissa pointed it out, and I almost got into some emotional trouble.

It's two week until I can move home, to my own house.  The lease is up on August 31 and then I can get back to my regular life.  I had had a rough day at school, with oppositional girls, and boys who could not for the life of them keep their hands and feet and hormones to themselves.  I had gotten into a stupid argument with my roommate and was driving to the dog park to go for a walk to clear my head when I got pulled over. Expired tags.  Couldn't find my insurance tag either.  Hadn't gotten the notice on my tags because I haven't been anywhere regularly since March.  I got a ticket, and as the officer walked away- after lecturing me- I rolled up my window and heaved great sobs over the sound of the audio version of "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen.  Too strong a reaction, losing it like that.  I was just having a bad day and was going to clear my head with a walk when *wham* a bee sting in the form of Officer Stellar and his magic ticket-writing tablet.

It was a pain, a fresh pain I could identify, something I could point to and say "Life is unfair!" In retrospect, I can probably get that ticket reduced when I take my tag receipt in to pay the fine. But I needed to let off some of that steam that for some inexplicable reason I had been holding in. I had a good cry and felt heartily sorry for myself for about five minutes.  Then I went for my walk and went home.

The next day, I drove in to work by 7:30 a.m., and didn't get out of everything I needed to that was school and teaching related until 8 p.m.  I was dog tired and had been busier than a one-armed paper hanger. I stopped by Walmart and you know, the neatest thing happened.  I was walking into the store and a car stopped to let me pass.  I waved and smiled- it's how we Okie's do things. Courteous like that.  The two girls in the car pulled up alongside me and said "Hey, you look so cute! We like your outfit!" and I really appreciated that.  The greeter flirted with me; cute guy in a wheelchair.  I gave him my ten dollar smile. I love being flirted with by good looking men.  I was in a groove, digging through the produce like a champ.  I saw a big-ass bald and tall police officer in the store and had a passing thought: what if he saw my tags when he went outside?  Nobody is that unlucky. Sure as shit, I get out of the Walmart lot and the flashing blues bent my night backwards.

He walked up and said "License and insurance." I handed him my license and ticket.  I used my teacher voice too, telling him that I'd been working for 12 hours today and I would go to the tag agency just as soon as I could but since I'm a public school teacher this is the best I could do today.  I did not use my nice, sweet Okie smile.  I used my "I have taught in a fucking prison and am in a bad fucking mood. Back off" voice.  It does not have any sweetness or honey in it.  I may have scared him a little bit.  He looked sheepish and a little apologetic. And tears welled up in my eyes again.  He took off.  Didn't even run my license. I might have also come across as a little /crazy/ scary.

I posted this on Google+, and that's when Elissa pointed out that I was probably reacting to the stress of working with an oppressed population and that it would take time to adjust.  She knows this shit. She's a teacher too.

Of course.  I was just feeling a little crazy and stressed out. Recognition is big key to alleviating this kind of stress and thanks to my friend, I'm feeling much better already.

I'm going running more to take care of my body and reading and writing  to take care of my brains.  And tonight at the craft store where I went to buy school supplies, they gave me a 15% teacher discount.  I found some good deals for my classroom and a few crafty things to do myself.  I also got word yesterday that the state department will go ahead and do my Competency Review for my teaching certificate. I might even get paid this month. That would be nice.  I've been engaged working since late July and won't get paid at all until the end of August.  Who knows how that's going to go down? More anxiety, but for now, there is nothing I can do about it but hope it turns out alright.

I think my biggest challenge is taking care of myself emotionally.  I care about the crap that kids in poverty have to deal with and wish fervently that these things weren't happening to them.  I'm limited in the scope of what I can do and need to remember to also give myself a break. Public middle school is a lot like bull riding at the county fair.  You hold on for eight second, the ride is wild and there is a trick to it.  Whether you stay on or get bucked off, you're going to be sore at the end of the day.  If you aren't, you probably aren't doing it right.


  1. Well, I will be able to sleep better tonight knowing that there are dedicated law enforcement officers keeping people like you from driving around with expired tags. It gives us bank robbers and serial killers a good chance to get away!
    Keep your head up! You are a brave woman for taking on middle schoolers.

  2. Not in a way that I am, uhm, well hitting on you, but Mindie, I love you. You are the greatest platonic woman person, I know. And I definitely would like to stay that way. And like Toni said - "Keep your head up!" you will get there, and the people you take with you will love you even more.

    David - The guy who loves you!

  3. David took the words right out of my pen. I love you too and am terribly proud of you for all that you are doing.

  4. BIG hugs, dear -- you rock! And if you need to get mad (instead of depressed), remember that everything that happens to us happens 10-fold to those kids. You are probably the BEST thing in many lives this semester. I mean it, Mindie. :)


  5. Um, I love you as well. We might should start a fan club. You really are awesome. You know you are battling the darkness teaching where you are. You can't fix them, but you can show them a path. A better path. A way out. It is still up to them in the end to take that path. Hang in there. Our door is always open anytime, day or night. I'll be glad when you make it back to your house. <3