Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Have I Ever Mentioned, I'm Not Much of a People Person?

I had an epiphany today. It was a really good one, as epiphanies go, and even more welcome because I haven't had one in a long while.

 An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation, striking appearance") is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. The term is used in either a philosophical or literal sense to signify that the claimant has "found the last piece of the puzzle and now sees the whole picture," (Thank you, Wikipedia)

I am alway envious when someone says they "love" their job, and conversely, have always felt guilty that I DON"T love teaching. Teaching is supposed to be a calling, right? Teachers who don't love their jobs are bad teachers that we don't want in the classroom, working with OUR children, right? And yet, yet, those things are NOT me. Oddly, I am GOOD at teaching. I really am. I know what I'm good at, and what I'm not, and I DO know, I'm a good teacher. I care beyond measure about my students as individuals. I care what kind of a home life they have, and how that impacts my ability to teach them, and their ability to learn, or even care about learning. I am constantly striving to learn new things, teach new lessons, become more creative, to be more centered, reach out and add new things to my plans that I seem to have not been as strong on in the past. I go to relevant conferences, I read professional books and research, blah blah blah.  SO, I know I'm GOOD at what I do, but yet, I don't like it.
     Even that is a conundrum for me, because I LIKE my students, LIKE creating lesson plans, LIKE teaching the material. So, what DON"T I like? What makes me feel like I don't like teaching?  Well, I've always been clear that I hate correcting papers. I HATE having to give up every evening of my life to correct papers, enter grades, plan lessons, etc. THAT part makes me really mad, because there are so many people who get to just come home at 5:00 and have a life from 5-10. I don't, and if I do, it means I'm shirking my work and that leaves more for the weekends. Oh, and did I mention that I HATE having to do school work on weekends? EVERY weekend? I spent from 9 am to 3 pm in my room on Saturday, spent all day Sunday sitting here correcting, and still have a backlog of work to do. I either do school work every single day, OR, I have hours and hours to do when I get around to catching up on it. Either way sucks.
     But my epiphany today led me to understand WHY I hate teaching, and it's so clear I can't believe I haven't realized it in all these years. I've always said it just isn't a job that "fits" me, but never really examined what that meant to me. Today, I GET IT!  I hate people. Really, I do. Well, ok, not really HATE people, but in general, I really am not a "people person."  And every day, I have to leave my quiet, calm, dark, peaceful home to go to a place that is lit very brightly, is noisy, and FULL of people.  My classroom, for the first two periods of my day, has at times, 33 people in it. 29 students, and 4 adults. And four of my students get up and leave my class for the first thirty minutes, and when they come back in, another student leaves for 30 minutes, and the speech teacher is in there trying to work on speech with 4 other students while I am teaching, and the Special Ed teacher is trying to work with her 6 students, and the teacher's aide is trying to help the Special Ed teacher, and oh, then there are the students who leave in the middle or come back in the middle of those two periods for band, piano, guitar or voice lessons.  It's NOISY. It's CHAOS that is beyond my control. It is FULL of people, little and big. And then, the bells ring, and the halls are full of people, noisy people, and can I just say... I don't deal well with noise, with chaos, with having to keep tight control of things that so often feel totally beyond my control, with people.  It stresses me out. And then, omg, throw in a fire drill during my prep period (a period which is not even quiet and calm in an empty classroom because, remember, I SHARE a classroom, so when it COULD be quiet, even for those 32 minutes, it's not because SHE has noisy kids) - I can't even begin to describe the inhuman sound of the fire alarm at school. Sort of like an old air raid drill noise? Or a grating,honking, buzzery noise? It's awful. Truly. AND, it means I have to leave my noisy-ish room to walk through the hall with MANY noisyish children and go stand on the playground with HALF THE SCHOOL. (Did I mention that I'm really not much of a people person?) Having to play the ROLE of a people person is VERY stressful to me.  
     Now, I am NOT complaining, even though I sound like I am. I really am not. Complaining at this stage of the game would be ridiculous, with only a few more years of this to go. Thankfully, the majority of my career years in this misplaced field are under my belt. AND, complaining is not my "thing."  I am seriously and appropriately trying very hard to be positive in all things this year. A good attitude really does pay off, much of the time, and it certainly makes me a better, easier person to be around. Most days I can even stand myself!
     All I am saying is, this epiphany, this realization, that came to me today, makes so much sense. It ISN"T the kids I dislike, it ISN"T the job itself of teaching I dislike, even though there are things about it that seriously annoy me. It is the circumstances, the physical circumstances, that do not mesh with my personality - my need - my craving -  for peace, for quiet, for calm, for low lights and quiet voices and no bells ringing and no alarms cranking in my ears, and my huge, huge, huge desire to be alone, or to at least have limited contact for limited amounts of time with a limited number of people. YES. THOSE are the things that make me watch the clock slowly, torturously slowly, creep it's way to 3:08 every day, as though 3:08 is my time of salvation. It is. And it isn't to be away from kids I don't like, or to be away from a job that is horrible - it is to zip home - to where peace and quiet and a roomful of 4 dogs replaces a roomful of 29 noisy, happy, exuberant children. At home, I can think. And today, when I literally had to roll the stress of school off my shoulders as I left, that's when I realized what it is that actually causes teaching to just be not my thing, to be so stressful for me. How sad, that we come to these life-changing , epiphanies a little too late sometimes, but how lucky I am to finally realize where the issues lie. It eases a lot of the guilt I have felt for many years, and... with some quiet time at home to think about things, I might be able to restructure SOME of the things that SEEM out of my control. Maybe not all of them are, and maybe I CAN fix a few of them to de-stress a little bit of my physical surroundings. 
      I think I might need to take a sick day to sit here quietly and think about it all though. Tomorrow is sounding really, really good for that. Cough, cough. Oh look, I even have a slight tickle in my throat. I MUST be coming down with SOMETHING that will require a sick day...


gpc said...

I have always wished I could find a job where I could be mostly alone, but with regular (limited) contact with people for short (limited) periods. The job I had for the last ten years was one where I was alone in an office and sometimes never saw another person for several days. That was terrible. I have a high need for solitude, but still want and need a certain amount of intimacy and socialization. I hated the job I had, but I could never do your job.

Jennifer Montero said...

I had a similar epiphany one night on yet another train back from London, in rush hour, elbow to elbow with no seat available, for the 2+ hr journey home. I realised that I just couldn't do it anymore. I loved my job but I couldn't face the crushing hoards of people anymore.

It isn't sound per se that weighs on me, it's man-made noise and chaos. I don't mind the lowing of cattle being weaned or the cockerels crowing in the morning, or owls calling at night. But I can't have the TV on AND the computer humming, or the phone ringing. Maybe it's not people, but the noisy by-product of a crowd that creates the stress for you too.

Peruby said...

Good God! Put that way - none of us are "people persons"! Noise is a huge stress inducer. The only thing I can think of is noise-reduction head phones for the "quiet" times? Somebody would probably steal them, anyway. Good luck with your endeavor. Sounds like a sure fire way to burn out quickly in a job.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

That is quite an epiphany--and I do know that some of the things you dislike about teaching are what I enjoy--controlled chaos is my element.

I grew up with a depressed mother, so a dark, silent space is something I really do not care for--I want light and noise and people and laughter. Hence the four children and the teaching career.

Wouldn't it be great if a position in curriculum development came up for you so you could do something you're obviously good at, but have a little more of the peace you crave?

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

YES! It is not just noise, but PEOPLE noise, man-made noise, that is what bothers me SO much. Especially talking. OMG, why do so many people have to talk so much? I almost crawl out of my skin at night when the TV is on, and it seems so loud, and then someone else is using a computer game in the same room and the phone rings and people are talking. When it simply gets to be too much,
I usually slink away to the darkened living room where the dogs are sleeping, and sit in there and listen to them breathe in and out, and regroup. I don't do well with chaos, controlled or otherwise, unless it is animal-based chaos, like walking into the hen house with treats, or listening to 4 dogs barking their welcome home greeting. THOSE noises are music to my ears. Wouldn't you think I would have put this all together years and years ago?

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fawn said...

That's a wonderful and terrible epiphany to have, Laurie! I do hope you find a way to temper things to make the environment more "you".