Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stepping back into schools and finding a piece of myself

Perhaps it is just the dregs of summer, but I have been feeling a little burnt out of late.  I have been doing this stay-at-home mothering thing for 7-and-a-half years now, and while I don't really want to work full-time or even part-time, I sometimes yearn desperately for an escape for my mind that is more substantial than Facebook.

A friend and former education colleague asked me to help with some editing work, and so this afternoon I was able to visit the school at which he works.  I had the same buzz of excitement there that I get whenever I set foot in N's elementary school.  Being in a school feels empowering and natural to me.  Like a second home.  Like a second skin.

I have to admit, though, that I also felt a little "dumb-ass-ish" because of being out of the education loop for so long.  The lingo escapes me now.  Because I'm not living it daily, I feel like I have little to contribute.  I know that if and when I'm ever back in the trenches, it will all come back to me, but the old noggin feels a little rusty having to think about things that aren't related to mothering someone.  I can talk all day long about duct-taping M's diaper at night to keep him from pulling his johnson out and peeing all over himself, but I am at a loss sometimes when I have to speak about things that don't involve my children's excretory habits.

I feel like I need to make a confession about a habit I have that I find annoying and a little pathetic related to my experience teaching.  Whenever I meet one of N or G's teachers/administrators/etc, I am always quick to let them know that I was a teacher.  Of course, I follow it up immediately with an almost apologetic "but it was only for 4 years because I got my MAT late, and I've been a SAHM since N was born."

On the one hand, I think it is important that the kids' teachers/administrators know this if for no other reason than to explain my perhaps freakish interest in what the kids learn in school (it's not just for their benefit so I can reinforce it at home; it is also because I just like learning and knowing what is going on in the classroom since I don't have my own).  Yes, I am one of those parents who emails teachers and asks lots of questions and gets entirely too excited by letters home explaining what curriculum is being taught.

I also want them to understand that I know where they are coming from and support them.  Lord knows, I think teachers are grossly undervalued and need all the cheerleaders they can get.  I guess it is my "been there, done that" shout out, as it were.

At the same time, I also feel like by mentioning my life as a former teacher, I am trying to "hang with the big dogs" or make myself out to be something more than what I am.  And what I am is a former teacher with limited classroom experience who keeps her certificate up-to-date.  Just in case.

Stepping into this school today also reinforced to me how insulated and isolated so many people I know are in our little suburban enclave.  The school I visited was in a part of town that most everyone I know would have no clue how to get to and would probably hire armed guards if they were forced to drive there.  (I exaggerate but only slightly.)

Because friends know I was a teacher in the district, I am forever being asked which schools are good.  I hate this line of questioning for multiple reasons.  Mainly I think this question is dumb because the people I know who ask it are the types of parents who read to their kids and provide their kids adequate nutrition and take them to regular doctor visits and offer them stable childhoods and are not poor, and because of all of these things, their children will probably do fine no matter where they go to school.

I think we in suburbia are exceptionally good at working ourselves into a veritable tizzy over test scores (that don't usually tell me a hell of a lot of anything worthwhile).

Am I the only person who finds it ironic that we worry so much about test scores and yet we have a tremendously undereducated society?  (And I hope my SAHM brain isn't so addled that I'm using ironic in an incorrect Alanis Morrisette kind of way.)

Secondly, I hate this question because just because a school was good or bad years ago doesn't mean that it is still that way or will be that way by the time your kid goes to school.  I know of schools that have breezed by solely on their good reputation (when it wasn't fully deserved) and schools that have bad reps that are completely unjustified.

I'd like to be able to tie all this rambling up in a neat little bow, but I can't.  It is nice to have these little reminders that aside from parenting my children, my second true passion is teaching others.  I simply feel at home anywhere educating is in play.


Giselle said...

OMG...I am so guilty of this. And I only taught for 1 year and worked as a school librarian for 4. Every time I mention it I cringe at myself, hoping they won't think I'm trying to "hang with the big dogs" as you put it. But I feel the need to say it for the very same reasons as they know where I'm coming from and why I ask so many questions ;)

And I still keep up my certification as well...although it has been 11 years (!?!) since I was actually a classroom teacher, so I can't imagine who would hire me. Well, I guess at a school that requires teachers to where Kevlar. But other than that...

So glad to know I'm not the only one. Although you are certainly more qualified to speak of your resume than I. ;)

Keri said...

I can relate to your feelings here.

I'm in a weird place right now, though, because the more I read/research/experience homeschooling vs institutional schools, the less faith I have in the ability of school systems to do justice to our kids' education. Yet I LOVE LOVE LOVE the school setting in so many ways. I, too, feel like being in a school is like a second skin, a place I was made for. I'll never forget the first time I walked into a school to be a sub -- too long of a story to relate here, but it immediately confirmed my hunch that I was meant to be a teacher.

Which is why I'm in such a weird place now, since I have so many doubts about schools. I'd love to teach again some day when I'm finished homeschooling my own kids, but would it even make sense to do that when I can't completely "get behind" the whole idea of schools as institutions....? Weird.

Kelsey said...

Wow Carrie - I relate to so much of this. A lot of what you write is echoed in the list in the back of my notebook about potential blog topics...

I belong in a school I think, but maybe not right now.