Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Plan B: The Chalkboard Pioneers, I'm Gonna be a Whore-able Teacher

"Yesterday was plain awful, you can say that again. Yesterday was plain awful, but that's not now - that's then."

If you don't recognize this, it's a line from "I Don't Need anything but You" from "Annie." Our younger daughter has been watching it every day for the past two weeks. At first, she wanted to watch my high school musical version every day. Then I introduced her to the film version - yes, my favorite version, thanks to Carol Burnett; and she no longer expressed an interest in Mummy-Annie. Then she and her sister came upon the 1999 film version, starring Audra McDonald and Kathy Bates - and now she alternates between the 1982 and 1999 versions. I have a clear preference for the 1982 version, even though Audra McDonald's voice is mellifluous and Kathy Bates is cute in her Mrs. Mudge sunglasses. The 1999 version is a strange hybrid between stage and film, and it lacks the originality present in the 1992 version (or that might potentially be present in a stage version). It lacks coherence and believability. But enough about a snippet of a review of a movie that feels way too artificial to be a film and doesn't come off as spontaneous enough to be a play. The "Annie" reference is intended to kill you with clichés, because that's my word of the day (!), and to reemphasize two things: that yesterday I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and that today was not so terrible, horrible, no good or very bad.

The four of us are under the weather, so D stayed home with us today and the three of us (the ones without paying jobs) spent the day in our pajamas. We're still wearing them. I'm wearing pajama pants with fir trees, pine trees, Christmas tree decorations and white-and-pink churches on them. I don't know where they came from, but I wore them around my room during high school a lot. They are thin and cotton, so I wear them more often in summer than winter. I'm dirty, but you don't mind. That's one of the cool things about our relationship: you don't get to see me, smell me, hear me burp and scratch my throat. We're so close yet so far away. And that's the cool thing about being a writer: people will never know (unless you TELL them) that you were wearing dirty underwear, that your hair was greasy and standing on end and that you hadn't brushed your teeth in over twelve hours when you wrote that brilliant article about personal hygiene. You don't know what I look like or what I do while I'm writing these blog posts. I'll do you the service most others won't, I'll give you a bit of context - mostly accurate context. I won't tell you I smell like flowers when I write to you. I'll tell you I smell like onions because I ate at a Mexican restaurant last night. I'll tell you more. I'll tell you I am sitting on the couch next to my daughters. My Little Stinky E has her leg on mine. She keeps scratching her upper thigh and then looking at her fingernails (which need to be trimmed). She is coughing on me, and it sounds terrible. Poor baby. She's sweaty. She has grapefruit juice and cheese in her hair. We all have low grade fevers. I have a splitting headache. Little E just elbowed Little D in the neck - on purpose. Little D is waiting for the ice pop she made with the mint she harvested earlier to take form in the freezer. They are half-watching the Winnie the Pooh "Seasons of Giving" DVD. Yes, I let my kids watch television and play computer games. That is how I am able to write about what a terrible day I am having or what a great day I am having (ha - I'm not sure I do that often enough).

Yesterday, I found out that Plan A ain't (!!!!) gonna work no more. Kinda like: "It ain't gonna rain, no more, no more - it ain't gonna rain, no more." No longer is Plan A an option. Plan A was to be accepted into and to complete Western Illinois University's Clinical Psychology program for Fall 2012. I thought it was a sure-fire plan, but it's not even an option. With Plan A out of the picture, I have had a very brief chance to reevaluate. That's the one good thing about a plan that goes to hell - you have a chance to devise another. You can either mope around in misery or get excited about the next plan. Or you can be like me, and do both - mope yesterday, get excited today (and do something about it tomorrow). I have choices now, I am free to make alternative choices: Plan B can be to pursue a four year path to a degree in Clinical Psychology instead of a three year one. If Plan B looks like this, I pay extra and take an extra year by being a graduate student-at-large next year. As a GSL, I will not be able to take all of the courses that the eight or nine *accepted* Clinical Psychology graduate students would be taking; however I would have a lightened course load which might be more compatible with being a parent. I would have to pay full tuition, without any assistantships, and I would have to take four years instead of three to complete the program. Plan B is an acceptable plan. I have come to this conclusion: if I want to be a counselor/psychologist enough, then I will do whatever it takes to make it happen.

If I truly want to be a counselor, then I will try harder and I will suck it up and I will do whatever I have to do, and jump through whatever hoop I have to jump through, to make it happen. Right? (<--says the Doubting Dorothy in my head.) I am a persistent person, when I care about and want something enough. So that's the question: Does this matter to me, do I want this, do I care about this ENOUGH (enough to eat a little crow, get over a baby tantrum)? Part of me thinks I already know the answer. I have felt ambivalent about the path of Clinical Psychology for a while; I just don't know whether to interpret that ambivalence as incompatibility or something else. How-evah - I am never sure of any answer (which is why I was a terrible test-taker as a kid and why I could never be a preacher). I will always carry a little doubt with me, until proven otherwise. Doubtful until proven otherwise, that's me. And that's one option for Plan B.

Another option for Plan B is to continue down the path that I know fairly well and in which I have done well and achieved success - the path of literature and composition. There will be something new and unknown (ambivalence alarms are sounding) as part of this Plan B: TEACHING. If Plan B becomes the plan of literature and composition, it will also be the plan of teaching at either a secondary or post-secondary level. I am drawn to this Plan B and I even did a happy dance in the kitchen earlier thinking about it, mainly because it involves literature, art and composition. After taking these two Psychology courses, I am longing for the type of work I used to do in English and Women's Studies classes. To read something, to be inspired by what I have read, to derive creative and analytical ideas (usually humanistic, feminist and philosophical ones) out of the reading, to play with and develop interpretations, ah-ah-ah the pleasure zones in my body are becoming aroused. I have enough experience with these things to know that they are sources of passion for me. I cannot say whether or not I will find similar satisfaction in teaching, although I do feel fairly confident and excited about the idea of it. I don't know whether secondary or psec is the right teaching environment for me.

There are things to like and things to dislike about high schoolers and college students. I think I would be a highly entertaining and thought-provoking teacher - high schoolers might be more affected than college students. Of course, I know I will be considered "that weird lesbo" by idiots of any age. The high school environment is more personalized than the college teaching environment, or so it seems to me. Students often come to class and leave class as if they are checking in and out. The focus in college can be so much about fulfilling credentials and paperwork and not about a LEARNING experience. And the arrangement of classes fosters this depersonalization. What the hell is an education? I'm giving you one right now, what do ya think of that? The same depersonalization can occur in high school, but the environment warrants more time spent in the process of learning. In a high school classroom, you have more time in the classroom together - to get to know students and evolve together throughout a marking period. In a college classroom, you have a couple of hours a week for a semester. And then it's over. Usually. College students might possess some of the technical skills and intellectual talents not yet developed (in process) in high school students; however the youthful vigor of high school students sometimes compensates for the lacking areas. I might have more of an impact on a high school student than I would on a college student. I know how shape-able I was in high school and I believe my honesty, integrity, creativity and passion could really affect high school students. I also have the compassionate and counseling-nature thing goin' on, as well as the fierce defender of the downtrodden thing. High schoolers and high schools could benefit from the qualities I possess, but first I would need to find a job.

That's one of the concerns I have about teaching high school. My sister, who is a teacher, has shared her concerns with me: she is worried that I will not get a job because of how open and outspoken I am. I think it's a valid concern. Bureaucracy sucks! I get my knickers in a bunch when the You Tube admins ban one of my videos, imagine the School Board...I would probably end up having to use every last lawyer skill that I have in me to get and keep a job. Unless the principal of my school is an out of the clo-set lesbian. I will look for jobs in Ithaca, NY when the time comes! Tee-hee. I think I am so passionate about fairness and equality that I would be willing to go through all of the inevitable aggravations. I also thrive in situations in which I have the opportunity to stand up for or defend someone say what others are too scared to say. I am brave. I am really fucking brave. I CAN do the right thing. (But can I keep a job?) I don't know 'cause I've never tried. According to the English-Plan B, I will go to grad school and obtain both teaching certification and an MA in English. I will plan to teach high school English, but if it doesn't work out then I will continue my graduate studies, get a good ol' PhD and teach at a university. I am talking about all of this as if it WILL happen. Yes, I am doing that on purpose. Will I be the high school English teacher who writes Cunt Poetry? Wouldn't it be lover-ly. Hey, ya never know unless ya try. They think they can't handle out and open Chalkboard Cunts in the classroom because no one has dared try it. Someone has to be the first. And I love to be the first.

Usually the ones who are the pioneers are the ones who have to work the hardest, who have to suffer, who lose their jobs, who have to fight against the system. I wanna be a pioneer in the field of queering the high school classroom. I know there are others out there (ahem, attn: LGBT cliterature crones!!!) who are already doing this work. Thank Youuuuu. I wouldn't even have a vision of what might be possible if I had not witnessed S-Someone making it work in 2001. Some of the pioneers are able to bring queer issues into their classroom but aren't able to link their personal selves to their work. That's fine - for them. For me, it's different. I can speak about almost anything. You NAME it, I will name it out loud and I will wear it on my bare chest and I will sign my name beneath it. No area is too taboo for me. High schools need more openly feminist lesbians in the classroom. I feel a duty to be a pioneer in this area. I also feel a thrill. I think I have my answer for Plan B. Keep it under wraps, will ya? A joke, sometimes I tell those.

I'm gonna have my own Word Hoard/Horde. And I'm gonna Call it the Word Whore-d.
Farewell (Plan A), always fare well.


Kristin Davis said...

This is a very good Plan B Jess!! I am happy that you've dug yourself up and chosen a path! Good Job!Honestly, I think you will be amazing at it, it makes me envious of the future high schoolers you will be teaching. English is my favorite subject, and having an interesting English teacher would have been awesome.

Kristin Davis said...

It will be awesome then!