Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Self-induced misery and the gurus who got me here

I recently had a discussion with my sister about the nearly predictable lull in teaching careers. Usually somewhere around year 5 most teachers second-guess their career choice.
Now I am no where near year 5, nor am I second-guessing my career.

I should probably rephrase myself and clarify that I feel myself entering a plateau. And not the picturesque plateaus... Let me explain this metaphorically. Here you see a beautiful plateau, an area that reminds me a lot of my years in the Mojave. It isn't perfect, but there is a sense of awe and an omnipresent sense of peace. I've been in that world, nothing was perfect... but it has felt just right to be teaching were I am.

What you don't see is that this plateau is in an area called Hamm, Ethiopia. More popularly known for this type of image. I am starting to notice what is behind the serene...

Now, before anyone gets all up in this metaphor. NO I do not live in a war zone and haven't since I left the San Bernardino area. But the thrill of each day is wearing a little to comfortable. It's feeling more like a routine and less like a dream come true.

Some of my sense of mediocrity has come from the lack of spice. We've been doing the same gosh darn things for a while now. I remember many times as a band student when I swore if I had to play X again someone was going to get a lead pipe jabbed in their face. I'm feeling that as a director. I keep finding things to fix and stuff but I'm kind of in the zone in a bad way.
Another part of this comes from personal struggles. I don't know if my emotional or financial life is worse right now. Neither one is particularly stable. This week started on a downer. A 7th grade student of mine OD'd on methanphetamines and was life-flighted our over the weekend. The kid is still not doing well. I wish I could say I didn't see it coming. The kids parents are worse.  One of my seniors is pregnant and got kicked out of her house and is still MIA. It is amazing how much your students affect you.

So lately I've been thinking on those people that I call my gurus. Two directors I grew up with who specifically inspired me to be who all I am. I think about how they coped and survived. I wonder how they became so impressively successful in my eyes. I admire them. P and Z are their names.

P was the first man to inspire me to play music. I completely and totally loathed my elementary music directors and suffered their torture with the singular goal of getting to 7th grade and playing for P. Needless to say he passed on tragically the summer before my 7th grade year. But I'll never forget his excitement and the way my older sisters adored the man.
His replacement, Z, was my director for the next 12.5 years in various settings. He was the only educator to ever give me a detention. But he also taught through thick and thin. I remember the pain the band felt when two of our own died in car crashes, and the support he gave my sister and I through our own excruciating childhood.

I don't know the answers yet.

But I do know I see flashes in the eyes of the kids I teach. I saw them today for the first time in weeks. I cannot describe what these flashes are, some awkward combination of hope, joy, passion, excitement,... But when I see them I don't doubt why I teach. Even when I feel stuck in a rut.

So, yah. Been kinda in the dumps lately.
Wishing I could move my school and all my students closer to civilization.
Wishing I could be a better father, husband, and educator.

But this is right. It just feels like where I need to be for a while. Even though at times it sucks.