Saturday, April 16, 2011

Indiscretion and Ethics: The Question of the C in the Classroom

Nervous Nellie-J is getting a little anxious, thinking this little thought, "What to do next?" I don't mean in the next five minutes or even in the next year - but I am starting to gather information and think about what my next big move will be. It won't be to have one more baby. Sandy and I already had our serious talk about the third child I desire to have: we have decided to close the Baby Chapter of our lives for at least a good seven years to ten years. I wanted to leave the possibility open to have another baby when the girls are both older - at which point a baby would not take attention away from them (which is what would happen if we got pregnant now, when they are too young to understand their emotions), but would, instead, add to their lives. If we are ever to have a third child, it will be when the girls are old enough to understand what is happening AND when I have a secure job/income (seven - ten years, as I said). So if there ever will be a third baby, I will not be its stay-at-home mom. It's nice to be able to leave the door open on the issue, it makes me feel less like I need to face the death of my wish and grieve. I felt, for a while, like I wanted to have all of my children during one time period in my life (now) and THEN go back to school and have a career.  But because NOW is not going to work for our family (it would be too crazy and stressful for all of us), then the only possibilities are later or never. But I am feeling okay with The Unknown, thus far.

I get a little antsy about unknowns every now and then. For instance, whenever I visit my family, I start to feel sad about the thirteen hour drive between us and wish we could do something in the near-future to change that distance. Then I start obsessing, and trying to find ways of somehow making the distance between us shorter. I get obsessive because I feel like our daughters' childhoods are passing SO quickly. I get high hopes and then, eventually, I realize that there is just no way of changing the situation in a pleasing manner right now. Sandy's age makes pretty unlikely that SHE will ever get another job - she will likely be in this position until she retires. It wouldn't matter if I got a job near Western New York, because we have to be here until retirement. So that means my grad school and career plans are location-bound (to a small town isolated from other larger cities). That also means if I do happen to get a good job here, then it will probably not be a pleasant situation to have to re-locate down the road (depending on the career type). Ideally, I would like to live within three hours of my biological/extended family. Whenever the time comes for that to be possible, I will be very excited.

I don't mind Macomb all that much, really. Okay, maybe I do mind it. Sandy and I have our issues with it: we don't like the HOT, HUMID summers (or the fact that Fall and Spring are really extensions of summer), we miss having restaurants we enjoy nearby, and we wish a larger city were within a half an hour of Macomb. But those issues are not so big that we cannot live with them (except the extreme summer heat, which keeps us inside a lot). The main issue is my wish to be able to see and visit my family without having to drive FOR A WHOLE DAY. No matter how you arrange it, there is no way for us to get to each other without either meeting in Chicago and having to deal with awkward and incompatible train and airline schedules or driving for thirteen hours. I would love to be able to visit my family and be able to be back home at night (so three hours seemed like the upper limit). I miss my family! I miss Buffalo! We're worlds away.

I have done some research to find out what is within three hours of my family. We found that Ithaca, NY seems like one of our ideal places to live, AND it's within three hours. (Aside from Ithaca, there are many other nice places in NY that seem promising...if I cannot have Buffalo, then somewhere nearby would be nice...) So we have some idea of where we want to end up when Sandy retires. I do get anxious thinking about the logistics. On the one hand, I am probably jumping the gun by thinking about this prospect so much. But, on the other hand, if we never think about it it is not likely to ever happen. I realize that I sound spoiled - I AM. Throughout most of my life, I have been privileged to have WAY more than enough and to have most of what I want (with a few small and a couple of large exceptions). And when it comes to the big things I wanted that I didn't get, I really had and still am having a fit over them (see old angry poetry).

Right now, I am thinking about my upcoming personal goals. I have a few BIG, ongoing projects floating around the back of my mind: poetry writing and editing and publishing (eventually followed by chapbook publications); writing, editing and sending out a short book about my coming out story that I would like to have published; donating my eggs; and deciding on and moving toward a career path --which leads me to my current fixation: deciding whether to go to grad school for teaching or counseling. I have reasons for being attracted to both. I have taken on line tests in order to figure out possible careers with which I am compatible, but never quite feel like I have found THE THING I MUST DO TO BE HAPPY. To be happy, I must be able to be with my wonderful family, and also to be creatively expressive - and that may be separate from my career. I know what I DON'T want to do, but I don't know for sure what I WANT to do. What do I find fulfilling? I find singing fulfilling, whether in front of others or not. I find writing (non-fiction prose and non-/fiction poetry) fulfilling! But can I make it a career? Do I want to make writing a career? I don't think so - it seems too iffy. I don't think I could make a living as a writer (but I may be wrong). I don't like being told what to write (when it comes to personal, creative, non-academic, non-literary writing). Maybe I could get used to it, but where are my opportunities?

I'm not a go-getter. I am not entrepreneurial. I am just creative and thoughtful and erotic. I like structure, I don't like to have to decide my entire schedule and my own hours. An Oprah career survey suggested I would be very good in civil service or law enforcement positions (because of my desire for stability). I like to have SOME control over my time and the use or arrangement of my time, but I don't want to be my own and only boss. I am bossy, but I like to be a boss under a boss, I think. But what do I know about what I think? And what do I think about what I know? I don't know. Do I want to win the lottery? SURE, YES, FOR SURE. But do I buy tickets? Nope. I'm not really into improvisation and risk-taking - what I am into is STABILITY. I love stability! I don't like a TON of pressure. I like a good amount, but not a ton. I don't like feeling like my job is over-taking my personal life. Family and personal life are HUGELY important to me, and they come FIRST. So I want a job that allows for a healthy work-home life balance. I also want to feel relatively confident in what I'm doing. I don't want to feel like I'm faking my way through it. I want to be at authentic and at ease and real (and still feel I'm doing a good job).

What do I feel I'm good at, besides singing (and maybe acting)? I feel a sense of pride in my writing. I feel pride in my ability to process humanistic information quickly. I feel competent in my ability to listen to others who are in great need of help - who are having difficulty functioning. I feel competent in my ability to synthesize and analyze human action and behavior (emotional existence). I feel competent in my ability to help people come up with strategies for positive changes in their lives. I am able to see through things to a deep level, and to cut through a lot of the bull shit we tell ourselves. I feel competent in my ability to discuss emotions and behaviors and to speak honestly and in detail about those things. I feel pride in my ability to detect unfairness, and to come up with solutions that are fair and reasonable. I feel pride and competence in my ability to analyze and write about literature from a feminist and humanistic perspective. I feel pride and competence in my interpretations of and creative ideas relating to literature - and in my ability to connect the human element (the experiential element) to the literary elements.

I do not feel a great deal of confidence in technical realms, but rather in the realms of IDEAS and philosophies. I feel confident in my ability to see things from multiple perspectives as well as in my ability to empathize with a wide range of experiences and perspectives. I am VERY interested in philosophy, writing (particularly creative, feminist and non-fiction), literature (feminist, gay and lesbian, OUTSIDER lit), and psychology. I studied Musical Theatre for a year and a half at Niagara University, but I never felt like that was a career path for me. I felt it would have only led me to a future in community theater (which is fine, but not as a career). I love singing and would love for singing to be a career or hobby for me, but I am not interested in sacrificing my life with my family in order to "get into the Biz." I love to sing and act because I love to express deep, erotic and loving parts of myself. I don't necessarily love being a Singer or an Actor - it's not the titles that matter to me so much as the art and the experience. I DO love being seen and known, though. I'm aware of my narcissism. I love being OUT there, being a public entity, being a creative, erotic, poetic exhibitionist. I do NOT love people taking advantage of my time or people not doing what they say they are going to do.

I do NOT love being censored. I worry about being a high school teacher, in that regard. I will not choose a career in which I have to be closeted. That is one reason I am interested in teaching older populations of people (high school or college) - because I want to be able to express myself freely (of course with sensitivity, but with honesty). I will not censor my writing or my personal self in order to be a teacher. I don't know, at this point, if that is necessary. If it is, then my decision is a lot easier. I would love to be able to be a high school teacher who can be respectful of a diversity of opinions yet be myself openly and honestly. No, I don't think I will pose naked for MY art students but I'd like to be able to pose naked for an artist in my separate adult life. But what if the students saw the painting of my naked body on the wall of an art museum and, GOD FORBID, recognized it? Well, it wouldn't bother me. But could I lose my job over something like that? Am I going to have a hard time finding a high school teaching job because a poem of mine that is published on the internet (with my REAL name attached) has the word Cunt in it? Maybe, I just don't know.

I ABSOLUTELY will have ethics. In fact, I bet my cunt-loving ethics will be more sound and stable and REAL than most of the closeted and privacy-loving teachers out there who are contradicting themselves left and right in their personal lives. I will not write directly about my students. I will not write about the cunts of my students (Jeesh, this blog in and of itself is gonna be a problem...but I ain't (!) deletin' it). I will not be romantic with my students. But I will still be romantic as a person and still write about cunts and still write. So can I write and be my ethical, EROTIC, expressive self AND be a teacher (or counselor)? That is one question I need to answer.

If it is DO-able, then I think I could make a great and happy teacher. I remember when I was a high school STUDENT, I thought to myself, on many occasions, "I could definitely do this as a career someday." I felt that confidence in high school. I still feel it. Do I know everything there is to know about grammar? Hell, NO! But I specialize in ideas, and I think I have a lot to offer in that regard. I also am not afraid to LEARN. I am not afraid to NOT know (as much as I used to be, at least). Would I ever in a million years teach math? Noooooo. But I know I am CAPABLE of learning about writing and grammar and literature and emotion and feminism and theatre and humanity.

Now do I actually LIKE high school kids? I'm not entirely sure about that. I like myself, and I used to be in high school. I guess from that perspective, I don't like them any less than adults: we are all the same (human!), we're just at different stages. Not all adults are adult-like, not all teens are teen-like. I think I will be very good at seeing the students who fall outside the norms for who they are. One thing I know I would be good at when it comes to teaching is DEFENDING the outcasts and downtrodden. I would take on BULLYING full-force and DIRECTLY. I started taking on bullying when I was in high school (I would confront bullies who harassed kids in the Drama Club - and, often, they thought I was a teacher...was it ME or acting? Dunno.), and I have become more and more skilled at directly addressing the issue of bullying. That is ONE major reason I would like to be a teacher - to help the kids who can't be reached by the average teacher.

I am not very average when it comes to defending victims, so I think that would be a key strength for me. I also think I could relate to the kids who lack self-esteem in their writing because I was one of those kids. I did not know how to write, but, in college, I LEARNED. I never, before then, thought it was possible for me to feel smart or confident about anything academic (I was creative and non-academic at the time)- but the good teaching and writing skills of my WIFE (as well as my own desire to face my feelings of inadequacy) empowered me to learn. I believe I am actually a VERY good person to teach grammar and writing to high school or college kids because I remember vividly how it feels to want to IGNORE the problems that existed in my writing. I simply felt it would hurt my ego too much to admit that I did not know. I did not want to face what was lacking - it was SO painful to do so. But when I did face it, I realized the only direction I could move in was toward knowledge and TRUE confidence (not ego-based, deceitful "confidence"). Even though I complain about people a lot and feel angry about humanity a lot, when it comes to directly interacting with people I am actually quite compassionate and connective. Part is real, part is an act - and I suppose that is true for each and every one of us. I am concerned about the time-consuming element of teacher homework. I really love grading. It feels stable and fun to me. But I want to have time for FUN with my wife and kids, too. So I need to find out how much grading dominates personal time for teachers (generally speaking).

As far as counseling is concerned, it is something I only recently realized I had a DEEP interest in. Actually, I cannot believe I never considered it before meeting Sandy. All throughout my childhood I was trying to counsel my parents and family members, but I was unaware of what I was doing. I did not realize that what I was very gifted at doing actually had PRACTICAL VALUE. Fairness was the thing I cared most about as a kid. I was an extremely WISE child (not a wise ass, a font of EMOTIONAL wisdom). Trying to help my family and repair my parents relationship and change it from the inside out with planning and thought and wisdom was my driving force. Then, in high school, I counseled many of my younger friends. I LOVED feeling like I was giving them hope and HELPING them. It was one of the best feelings. I still counsel people in and out of my family, and I think I am pretty damn good at it (even if I am entirely untrained and have no academic experience in it). I feel VERY confident in listening to and working with and helping people who are in difficult situations or in transitional or tumultuous periods of their lives or are dealing with psychological issues. One of the things I love most about the counseling career path is that it will largely involve one-on-one interactions or small group interactions. I, naturally, feel most comfortable in those settings. I am quite uncomfortable having to "run the show" under somebody else's (administrators?) watchful eyes. But fearing having to be in front of people is no reason NOT to do something.

Funny, I would rather pose nude in front of a bunch of strangers than discuss grammar with them. I am sure I would gain confidence in teaching just as I did in writing...it would just take a bit more effort. In terms of psychological comfort level, I am more comfortable being in a counseling environment than a teaching one. But in regard to knowledge comfort, at this stage, I am more comfortable talking about literature and writing than about psychological terminology (because I have only taken one or two Psychology classes). As far as the Master's Degree is concerned, I think English Ed would be EASIER for me than Psychology because I have a background in it (the B.A.). With Psychology, I am taking all new classes, including (eek!) Research Methods and Statistics (which my lovely wife teaches). So, while I feel more comfortable with the practice of counseling than teaching; I feel more comfortable with English classes than Psychology classes (and that's not even mentioning the fact that I will be taking classes with all of my wife's colleagues....ah, the pressure!). I also need to think about my job prospects in MACOMB. Hmmm, that is another tough one. I have a lot to think about, and these are just some of the thoughts that are passing through my very active mind tonight. I hope to find more clarity on this issue - I feel so indecisive about it.