Lucy’s eyes were pricked as if tears were about to leak from them. But she wasn’t emotional. Her eyes weren’t even overly watery. You know that almost burning, sort of sour pressure you get in your sinus cavities when you start to cry? Yeah, that.
When Chaucer wrote, “Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote…” he never knew a place like Florida. Lucy didn’t see sweet showers in April there.
Instead, she saw everything dusted yellow with pollen as if the deranged cousin of Jack Frost took his bottle of yellow, odorless baby powder and sprinkled it all over the place.
Didn’t he know that Lucy had a headache everyday for months now because of it? Didn’t he know that she can’t even have fun singing anymore because her throat is so sore? And WHY does he have to visit when the weather is actually nice?
Why can’t Jack visit more often? Lucy liked Jack, but he only visited Florida every other year or so.
And still there was no rain in the forecast. Nothing to tamp down the incessant pollen.
Florida is backwards in many of it’s seasons. The leaves fall in Spring when the temperature is already rising after a brief burst of chill. The risk of floods happen in summer during the torrential afternoon downpours that line the roads with a hot fog after they’ve baked in the sun all day.
Lucy once went to a home show where a vendor tried to sell saunas to Floridians. Talk about trying to sell ice to an Eskimo.
But now it was bone dry outside with a yellow haze and the five medications Lucy been taking to combat allergies were just not cutting it. Not even when she also consumed a concoction of raw local honey, raw apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and hot water. She got the recipe from a cousin in Ireland, and it was actually rather tasty so she drank it anyway.
She thought of folks in other states who sigh during deep winter and wonder how nice it would be to live in Florida. But she knew first hand that it wasn’t cold enough in the winter to put much of a dent in the monotonous heat or kill off the plants for a season so that you don’t get that huge burst of sinus crushing pollen.
The first time I taught, nine years ago, my colleagues kept warning me, “Stop grading everything. You’ll burn out.”
How are they going to know if they got the answer right or wrong if I don’t tell them? Isn’t that what education should be – learning how to get the right answer? How will they know if it’s right or not if I don’t tell them? I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature so that I could teach – not babysit.
After four months of grading approximately 140 students for accuracy, guess what happened? Yep. I burned out.
I was heartbroken. I love to be in the classroom. Around the time I resigned, my 11th graders had just finished reading The Crucible and watching The Village. I assigned them to write a compare/contrast essay which I never got to read.
Cue a good cry in the car.
At the time, I didn’t know that I should not have been eating gluten, but I knew something was wrong with my body, so my official reason on the resignation was “medical issues.”
Once I identified gluten as the culprit for my bad health, I thought that I’d like to give teaching another try. So I did.
Last month, I accepted a long-term substitute position for an 11th grade English teacher who was on a military assignment. I was excited. The textbook was better, I had a projector which plugged in to my computer, and this time, 3 of the 5 classes would be full of honors students. A breeze, right?
I feel like I spent last month herding cats.
Even the honors students are so spoiled from “completion grading,” half of them didn’t bother to try. They realized I graded for accuracy, but didn’t seem to care. Sure, I had several star students (whom I very much appreciated), but these were HONORS classes. They were ALL supposed to be stars.
Do you know what happens when students don’t care if they have the right answer? They socialize during the lesson. At first, I thought, “Eh, they’re keeping it low. The ones who want to take notes can hear me. They have 4 days to complete the handout – they’ll figure it out.”
Apparently, I’d stumbled into some unicorn dust. It must have given me a false sense of reality. At least it was gluten-free.
Case in point, here is an example of how the students needed to fix an unclear pronoun reference:
“The wind grew stronger and the rain began. This made the campers look for shelter.”
The word “this” does not have a clear antecedent, so the sentence needs to be changed. An example of how to fix it would be, “When the wind grew stronger and the rain began, the campers looked for shelter.”
Instead, I got answers like this:
“The wind and rain make camper look for schedule.”
Seriously. Can you believe that answer came from two honors students? Why should they bother even to copy a correct answer when most teachers don’t have time to read it anyway?
And to be honest, I literally gave up my life for the month to grade for accuracy. I didn’t have time to wash dishes, make meals, or help my own kids with their homework. I barely had time to keep up with laundry.
So yes, again I found myself crying in my car.
But it wasn’t just the piles of half-hearted answers I graded, my burned out feeling came from the attitude. With the two standard English classes, if I asked them to stop the chatter because I was teaching a lesson, I usually got a sheepish smile and a “Sorry, Miss” in response. In the three honors classes, I received all the snark of an 80’s Valley Girl.
Where are the parents?
How dare I ask them to stop socializing so they can learn to analyze an educated argument? And yet, when I asked them if they planned to attend college? Most raised their hands. I doubt any college professor (or workplace boss for that matter) would accept “schedule” for “shelter” as good enough.
I don’t blame teachers who don’t grade for accuracy. It’s an impossible task to grade over 100 papers several times a week on top of all the other teacher duties. Toss in the interruption of standardized tests and retakes, and you’d cry in your car too. If I’d had an 80 student limit, I’d have been stressed, but not crying in my car. I wouldn’t have had to become passive-aggressive about constantly talking over conversations. I wouldn’t have to spend half my teaching time on classroom management.
But there aren’t enough teachers for an 80 student limit because it doesn’t pay enough for most people to justify crying in the car.
Hillsborough County once had a 1 cent sales tax to pay for a new football stadium. But I suppose education isn’t as important as football. You get what you pay for. I refuse to be miserable for so little pay.
It isn’t fair to my family.
I’d Love to Hear from You!
Are you a burned out teacher? How would you fix the system? Do you have a job where you are regularly compelled to cry in your car?
The boys were having a discussion about something that happened the night before and it turned into an argument (a surprisingly quiet one). They kept asking me about it saying “Do you believe me Mommy?”
I said, “I can’t take sides because I wasn’t there.”
Charlie said, as if it settled the matter, “Well, I believe myself.”
Charlie – Age 5
We took the boys on a road trip to see snow. Because we live in Florida, we had to drive ten hours to get to Maggie Valley, NC. At the time, the only snow was at the commercial locations. Nevertheless, we had a blast watching the skiers, throwing snowballs, building snowmen, and William and I got to go tubing down a snowy hill. At the end of the day, we asked the boys if they enjoyed the snow. William’s response?
“I didn’t like it because it wasn’t real snow from the sky.”
William – Age 6
Kids will say random things. They will also pick up random things from the ground. Sometimes this happens at the same time. I have no idea what this is or what it’s used for, but Charlie found this little gem on the sidewalk:
Ooookay! Let’s go look for the faerie who lost it! 😉
Charlie – Age 5
Going with the theme of random, my boys also fight over random things. Yesterday, when leaving for school, we were ready to head out the door, when they had a shoving match. What were they fighting over? Who got to OPEN THE DOOR! Because there are only so many doors that we’ll open in our lifetime…
William – Age 6, Charlie – Age 5
I’d love to hear from you!
What are some of the random things that your kids do? Are they ridiculously picky? Do you look back at the weird things they fight over and laugh?
In the moment my family suggests that we go to the beach, we have all transformed. Hubby has become Gandalf, the one who organizes and has all the answers to succeed in such a quest. The boys become Fili and Kili, ready for fun not caring a fig for the inconveniences. I have become Bilbo Baggins, and am entirely too reluctant to give up my creature comforts at home to brave the perils of a beach adventure.
But I know they love the beach, so for their benefit, I tag along, hoping I don’t dampen their experience.
So we pack everything up, all the towels, blankets, toys, sunblock, hats… you get the picture. In my case, we stop somewhere along the way so that I can pick up a satisfying gluten-free meal, because the boys haven’t yet figured out that they shouldn’t cross mommy when she’s hungry.
Because it’s a holiday weekend, we wait for an hour before getting up to the gate to pay, but at least we’re in the air-conditioned car. I have it on as full a blast as my family can stand, relishing the cool as much as possible, because I know what’s coming.
All too soon, I’m huddled under my beach umbrella, greasy from sunblock cream, trying to read my Kindle and thinking that I ought to be writing instead. The intense sensations however, will probably get in the way. My legs are blotchy and stinging from the salty air, my rings threaten to cut the circulation in my swollen fingers, and the sand sticks to my greasy, sweaty skin.
Note: Trying to brush sand off cream coated skin is as pointless as trying to brush crumbs off a sugar cookie.
But, I look at my boys.
They are having such a great time playing in the water with Daddy. They’re so cute and so small against the expansiveness of the Gulf of Mexico. Charlie, who’s three, wanders over to a group of girls and flirts with them. It makes me giggle.
But then William, who’s four, has grown tired of the water and wants to join me under the shade of the umbrella. So now I’ve got a dripping sandy kid getting my blanket wet. And, being a kid, he is not content to sit in the shade and enjoy the view. Nope, he has brought his bucket of water and is busy scooping clumps of sand (“sand rocks”) into it to make his “soup.” Every other handful results in him shaking his hands, effectively flinging it all over me. I’m relieved that I thought to put my Kindle in its clear plastic sleeve.
After a few hours, they have finally decided that they have had enough. So we put shoes on gritty feet because the sand might as well be hot coals. As we are trudging through the sand, I’m wondering if any Florida sports shops sell snow shoes. But I suppose that wouldn’t be attractive beach attire. Why must people insist on suffering for beauty?
All in all, it wasn’t a horrendous day. I was able to bite my tongue against my complaints and got some reading in. But by the time we get home, I have a headache so intense, I think a blood vessel might burst. At 9:30 pm on a Saturday night, I’ve fallen asleep on the couch before the pain reliever even kicks in.
Now I’m feeling guilty. It’s Sunday afternoon as I write this, and I’ve had a breakdown. I’m so tired and drained from the Florida sun every little annoyance pushes me to tears. I feel like a toddler in need of a nap. Charlie won’t take one, but I think I will anyway. After having spent the morning in church service, my behavior this afternoon is especially abhorrent. So, night-night!
Update: Charlie did end up napping, which was fortunate, because I ended up running a fever… lol
What “vacation” spot annoys you most? Why? Where would you rather be? (Give me the mountains any day!)