The dark, full clouds of doom have gathered and knit themselves into a suffocating, itchy sweater of despair and desperation that drapes itself over my shoulders and hangs from my neck, pulling me inextricably down into the peculiar abyss of chaos, greed, incompetence and clusterfuckery that is the public education system in my metropolis. That’s right – school is starting again.
I find the metaphor of the homicidal sweater particularly fitting; even as I feel my job is choking the life out of me, it is employment, which keeps me warm and shelters me from the harsh realities of life without a job, like 999.3 thousand people in my state, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, or, more specifically, like hundreds of thousands of teachers across the nation who are being sacrificed in massive reductions in force because of budget deficits. Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimates that approximately 300, 000 teacher positions will be imperiled in the 2010-2011 school year, and that is on top of the thousands of jobs, programs and schools that have already been cut, terminated or closed. When President Obama signed a bill this month that is designed to secure the jobs of 160,00 teachers, as well as save or create positions for fire fighters, nurses and police officers, he faced sharp criticism from Republican leaders who blasted the bill as “an irresponsible union giveaway.” I’m lucky to have a job, even if not everyone respects its value or sees it as a necessity.
There are parts of my work that I love. My students are terrific. They teach me things, make me smile, and shower me with kindnesses every day. Being a teacher gives me the opportunity to feel like I am helping, like I have added to the good in the world, and am pitching in to create happy, healthy futures. This satisfies me and makes me feel important and worthy. I respect and admire many of my colleagues, and am inspired by their compassion and willingness to toil against insurmountable odds, rather than give in to the inevitable tides of time, trends and circumstance.
But right now, I am in mourning. Soon my garden will dry up, fry or freeze, until the black stalks that once held treats and bounty have to be pulled up and cleared away. No more road trips, no more time to read or write or ride my bike around the lake. Showers will become mandatory. Instead of sunshine, wine and song, buzzing florescent lights and blaring bells, crappy essays, absurd, time-wasting directives, and Lunchables await. I’ll look forward to doctor’s appointments, just because they are a break in my routine. That’s right; sometimes peeing in a cup, having my breast folded, spindled, mashed and photographed, and repeatedly being jabbed by needles and speculums are the highlights of my day. School sucks.
Let’s pretend it isn’t happening. Oh, Denial, old friend, take my hand and whisk me away!
The next post will take us back to South Dakota – you didn’t think I was finished, did you? Don’t worry! There’s more, so much more! I haven’t even gotten to Deadwood yet, cocksucker!* Stay tuned!
*Fuck! I said it again! Sorry E.D.!
Bonus: This picture from 2009 was taken just as a storm was rolling in and the sun was setting. The whole sky turned bright orange; I guess you can see that, huh? It was scary, surreal, and beautiful. Yay, Nature! You’re so awesome!