Why Can’t I Be Superhuman?

Hello out there,

Today concludes another day of teaching and another day of feeling like I’ve failed in a few small ways. I also succeeded, such as when I confiscated a student of mine’s Mass pamphlet before he had the chance to create an Oragami swan. A couple weeks back he made a little boat and while I told him I was impressed by his paper-folding skills, it wasn’t acceptable during Mass. 

I just felt like I was tripping over my own feet today. I came into work late (had to get blood drawn, ick) and so this morning felt discombobulated and rushed to begin with. As I moved around the room checking the Emily Dickinson homework assignment in my one junior class, I could nearly feel the confusion sucking the air out of the room. I paused and scanned the 23 faces I’ve come to know well since September. I saw palms of hands pressed against foreheads, fingers snarled through hair, and teenagers sitting in their seats, staring at their incorrectly done homework assignment as if it was a plate of brussel sprouts they were being forced to eat. 

And I felt red in the face, flustered and agitated with myself for their lack of understanding.  Then I looked over at the clock, my enemy, and saw that we had about eleven minutes of class left. Everything was suddenly happening too quickly and I thought I saw the room spin. 

“Let’s stop,” I said. “I’m putting the breaks on tonight’s homework.”

A few kids exchanged shocked looks. 

“I don’t feel comfortable moving forward before we’ve really understood these things first.”

I saw some nods. 

“That alright with everyone?”

And I heard the sighs of relief. I swear to you. The room stopped spinning and I no longer felt like I was breathing at a 50,000 foot altitude. I moved over to the whiteboard and re-taught the homework assignment.

Writing this, I guess I didn’t fail as badly as I thought. 

“If someone isn’t changed, then what is the point of your story?” –Anne Lamott

Hello blog,

Or, maybe it’s hello people who read blogs. I’m not sure who I’m greeting here. That is because I’ve never even looked at a blog before. This raises an interesting question that I, myself, haven’t quite answered: why are you doing this?

Well, I’m not totally sure. Perhaps I’ll find out. Either that or I’ll become bored with this or get writer’s block and move on to something better, which is my passive-aggressive excuse for giving up.

But today is January 30th, 2013, day 99 of the school year. This is my second day-99-of-the-school-year. Last year I was a “newbie” teacher. My principal mentioned me in the back to school letter that came two Augusts ago: “And welcome to our faculty, Laura Beninati. Laura will be joining our English department. She studied at UNH for her undergraduate degree and completed her M.Ed at Rivier College. She has a background in English and Special Education, which will be an invaluable something or other…” It felt like a better diploma than the two I’d already earned in the last few years and it didn’t cost me 140,000 dollars. I bet I have the letter stashed somewhere…

I actually hate the term “newbie.” It’s the cutest condescending word in existence. I also hate the word because most days I feel like I’m sloppily navigating through this career choice. Some days I love this job like people love their favorite food, while other days the love I have is buried under twelve or so feet of ungraded papers, terse parent emails, 27 unread pages of The Scarlet Letter and the nagging, pulsating reminder that I haven’t planned for the next day yet. I know the love is there, but I sometimes don’t have the energy to find it. So I take a nap instead.

Some days I love this job the way I love mashed potatoes. Or Tripoli’s extra-cheese pizza with the thin, crispy crust that never lets me down. I hate inconsistent pizza. But anyway. Some days this job is something that I actually look forward to spending 12-14 hours focusing on. I find that I have something cool to share with the kids: a funny story, a new creative writing activity (Those paint samples at Home Depot make for the basis of an awesome warm-up), a connection that I discovered that I know will make everything make sense. “See, we do have something in common with Jonathan Edwards, guys!” I devour everything about this job in one breath some days. Then there are the days when I choke and gag on it.

I often over-indulge in my job. I submerge myself in it. Then I get the inevitable sinus cold that feels like a horse is standing on your face and my dad will scold me for not eating enough, not resting enough, doing too much.

It’s like when you drink too much and you’re hungover and throwing up until 2pm you vow to never do that again. But you do. And even as you’re cursing your life and damning yourself to the fiery depths of hell, you know it’s only a matter of time before you drink just as much. Though maybe it’ll be beer and not vodka.

I think I’ll end my first blog posting with that.