Posts Tagged ‘self confidence’


back-to-school

Today would have been the start of my 7th year of teaching. I would have risen early – probably some time between 5:30 and 5:50 am, and sat down to catch up on about fifteen minutes of news before I started getting ready for work. I would have spent the last several days in my classroom, designing bulletin boards, writing lessons, decorating my desk, the windows, etc. in a welcoming design so the new batch of sixth graders wouldn’t feel so intimidated by their first year in middle school.

I would have met them outside on the playground, as I told them where to stand every morning when I walked down to greet them, with a big smile on my face, and most likely a few words of encouragement and a reminder to quiet down as we walked back into the building and up the three flights of stairs to the new, shiny room they’d be occupying for the next eight months of their daily lives.

school suppliesI would ask them to put their class supplies against the back wall, and ask for volunteers to help put the tissue boxes, paper towels and hand sanitizer bottles into the tiny closet. I would let them choose their seats, cubby holes and coat hooks, and hang everything up neatly before they sat down and waited…for the day to begin.

We would wait for the 8:10 bell to ring, signaling the late bell, and then settle down as we wait for the principal to do her regular announcements, prayers and Pledge of Allegiance. Then, the next three days of school would be a series of getting to know each other, getting to know the class rules, routines, procedures, expectations, and everything else they’d need to know to become successful in my classroom. I’d briefly discuss what we’d start to work on in the subjects I taught: religion, language arts, science and, eventually health. I would let them know they have plenty of opportunities to talk to each other, work together and do fun, engaging projects and work really, really hard. I always loved the first few days of school – it was a giant “do-over” for everyone, filled with promise and renewed energy and enthusiasm.

But, this year, I am sitting at my laptop, writing about it instead. I lost my teaching contract last April. They decided they didn’t want me back, so they didn’t renew me. Okay, I will be blunt — I got fired. I’ve mentioned this in other posts, so I won’t rehash it here. This post is less about what happened to me, and more about my feelings about not being back there right now. I am trying to find the perfect emotion to attach to how I feel right now: upset, ambivalent, angry, bitter, resentful. None of those are appropriate or applicable.

What I feel is…relieved. Don’t get me wrong – I will miss the students and the opportunity to influence the lives of a whole new group of sixth graders. I absolutely love teaching and don’t intend to quit now. But, I’m relieved I don’t have to go back there – to that particular school – because I am working on myself right now, and it would be a major hindrance to my emotional progress if I had to go back to the place that caused so much stress, anger, frustration and loneliness in me.

social-outcastI was never an accepted team member there. Colleagues would often be seen in each other’s classrooms, chattering and laughing over funny stories and information I was never privy to hear. They would call each others’ classrooms during the day, just to say hi or do something silly. They would email each other and organize fast food runs, but keep me out of the loop. I was never made to feel welcome, or part of, any team or grade level there. For me, it was a lonely place to work when it came to my peers. My job devolved into nothing more than going in, teaching kids, then leaving at the end of the day, after the kids had left and the paperwork was complete. Even though I had my classroom door open, nobody ever came to visit and chat with me.

I tried, really I did, to fit in. But, just like the “odd girl out” I was in junior high and high school, I was the “odd girl out” in this school again. I didn’t think it would affect me as harshly as it did when I was young, but after six years of being a social outcast, it hurt like hell. And, with the deaths of family members and lack of emotional support from my co-workers, it just came to a roiling boil and the dam finally burst in me. My misery was palpable and, after the announcement that I wouldn’t be returning this year, it seemed to me that I could almost feel a collective “Yay!”  echoing from the rest of the staff.  Only one or two staff members stopped by to say they were sorry to see me go. One staff member told me that it was “probably for the best” because “You just look miserable and angry”. I lost both my parents and a brother during this time – of course I was miserable and angry. Who wouldn’t have been?

But now I look at what happened as a blessing and a relief. I don’t have to return to an uncomfortable setting and pretend to like people who clearly don’t like me back. I don’t have to be a hypocrite anymore, either. I can say, think and feel whatever I want – because I am not bound to some stupid clause that tells  me I’m not allowed to have an opinion or a private life. I don’t have to sit back and watch as adults insult and dehumanize young kids. I don’t have to listen to stories of teachers who can’t figure out how to teach multiplication tables to fourth graders. I don’t have to listen to teachers whine about all the “extra work” they have to do because the new Common Core Standards and Standards Based Grading system are “too time-intensive for me to do”.

I will miss the students, but not the school. And, I won’t let my lack of a teaching job this year wear away at my growing self-confidence and self-esteem, either. I am much more valuable than that.

Sometimes, a loss is really a gain. That’s truly how I feel.

stress-relief

denialbirdearthI just finished reading the book First Person Plural, an autobiography written by Cameron West, Ph.D. It is about his life and struggle with coming to accept his Dissociative Identity Disorder. Personally, I prefer to call it by its old term: multiple personality disorder.

I am fascinated by how the brain works. More fascinating to me is the way the brain deals with trauma, worry, stress, and lastly, denial. I chose the title of this post because of the metaphor I read in the book: denial comes to me in the metaphorical form of a gardener’s rake. It is used to push and pull the memories, thoughts, opinions, and feelings floating around in our head deep into our minds, so we can bury them — sometimes forever.

Denial occurs across a broad spectrum of issues: Addiction, Abuse, Behavior, Relationships. It can be wielded as a way to survive or continue existing as part of the status quo. But the problem with denial’s rake is that, eventually it becomes a useless tool because all the dirt underneath rises again to the surface. This can occur in a sudden earthquake of enlightenment, or slowly resurface like silty layers of earth, weathered away by a constant tide of destructive, self-defeating patterns.

tilth-rakeI used my rake over and over again, across a series of decades, to bury my feelings and reject my true self. My denial was planted and fertilized over the years through a plentiful supply of Catholic doctrine. I was told to act a certain way, believe a certain way and move through life a certain way. What wasn’t planted in me was the self-confidence to make my own decisions, my own choices, and forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made along the way.

Now that the earth inside my brain has shifted, and new, fresh layers of consciousness are rising to the surface, I feel like I am finally moving out from under the power of denial’s rake.  I am tilling my own soil and removing all polluted  traces that came from living a life according to others, who lived their lives based on outdated religious doctrine and beliefs.

I can already begin to see the shoots of new flowers rising slowly to the surface, waiting to burst through and bloom into a field of colorful wildflowers ready to dance and sway in the breeze; unfettered by the rake of denial that held me in its grip for so long. And, I am becoming the butterfly that joins them in the dance.

butterfly on wildflowers

I have a dirty little secret. I love tabloid news. I love to read Star Magazine, catch up on all the latest docu-drama on Tori Spelling’s life, Abby Lee Miller’s Dance Moms and, most recently, the new show Raising Asia

Raising Asia is a new show that revolves around the life of an 8-year old girl’s desire for fame, fortune, and world domination. Closely monitored and managed by her evil sidekick Mom, we watch as Asia complains, whines, pleads and demands her way through life. In the first episode, little Asia says some of the “cutest little sayings” that every parent loves to hear:

“Mom thinks she’s in control in this house, but really, it is me.”

“Pop stars don’t go to playgrounds. Their playground is the red carpet.” complete with a sassy eye roll and exasperated sigh.

Charming, huh? Makes me want to go out and pull an Angelina Jolie on her – offer to adopt her right up.

Asia is a symptom of a much greater epidemic in this country: a growing population of humans with an overblown sense of self entitlement.

Somewhere in recent history — perhaps within the last decade, parents of small children began the systematic and methodical process of coddling their children far too much. Parents, guided by psychologists and schools, were growing increasingly concerned about their childrens’ well being. It was critical that little Johnny or Suzy developed a healthy sense of self awareness, self esteem and confidence. This was accomplished by minimizing as many potential threats to their fragile egos as possible: every child gets a trophy for participating, there are no winners or losers and nobody keeps score. In school, teachers were told to get rid of red pens because red is such a critical color.

And that’s when I have to throw out the bullshit flag.

Let’s face it – life is not fair. Not everybody can be first, not everybody can always win and excel at whatever they do. Jobs are lost, accidents happen, people die way too early. And most importantly, life does not “hand you” everything you want, when you want it. Which is exactly what some of these reality TV shows continue to model to the world with shows like Bridezillas, Toddlers & Tiaras, I Want to Marry a Millionaire, and most recently, Raising Asia.

I understand that I have control over what I watch on TV. I can just as easily turn the channel. But, like a slow motion car wreck, it is hard for me not to watch. Not because I want what others have (but I don’t), but because I feel it’s important to remind myself not to become, or to raise my own kids, with such a grandiose sense of entitlement. 

The seven deadly sins are listed as such:

  • wrath
  • sloth
  • avarice
  • pride
  • lust
  • greed
  • envy

If I were to name an 8th sin, all I would have to do is take each of the seven sins above, combine them all into a ball and rename it “self entitlement”. 

In fact, I demand that be done right now.