Alun Clewe (alun_clewe) wrote,
Alun Clewe

Unexpectedly, Five Years Later...

It's... been a while?  Five years, I guess?  And eight months?  Yeah, about that.

I haven't been active on LiveJournal for a while (obviously), but I now have a Tumblr account, at, and I have been active there recently.  Well, sort of active.  More so than here, anyway.  Though I suppose it wouldn't be possible to be less active than I have been here.

In fact, it was in while writing a new Tumblr post (my longest one yet, I think, and one that in many ways perhaps seemed more like a stereotypical LiveJournal post) that I mentioned my LiveJournal and thought to look back on it and saw how just long it had been... and decided to write at least one last post here.  Well, I say "last", but I don't entirely preclude the possibility that I may post again here from time to time, but it's likely to be infrequent.  You can follow me on Tumblr if you want (slightly) more frequent updates as to what I'm up to.

In the meantime, because it sort of summarizes some of what I've been doing lately, as well as the backstory of how I came to make this post in the first place, I'm going to copy the entirety of my latest Tumblr post below:

So Little Time, So Much To Do

I feel like I may have already used the above title in an old post on my long-fallow LiveJournal, but even if I did, it can’t possibly have been as true then as it is now.

(Incidentally, looking at said LiveJournal now for the first time in years, I’m... rather aghast at what happened to have been the last post on it.  I ought to make at least one more post on my LiveJournal, if only to bump that rather embarrassing post from the final position and redirect any lingering LiveJournal “friends” to my Tumblr...)

So I haven’t updated my Tumblr much lately, and have missed yet another character update for Teras Terrace as well.  I’ve missed the last two weeklyartchallenges, and came very close to missing the one before that, and am going to miss the current one as well, seeing as the deadline is two hours away.  The truth is... I’ve been absolutely swamped with my new teaching job.  I thought I was busy last semester, with my teaching credential program, but it turns out to have paled in comparison to how busy I feel right now.  Between preparation for classes and grading, the job has kept me busy nearly 24-7, and I’ve been getting a maximum of four hours of sleep on weeknights.  I’ve just had no time for anything else.  And I feel terrible.

I’m going to go on, but because I don’t usually use this tumblr for such personal ranting (that is, stereotypically, what LiveJournals are for, I guess?  Maybe I should have posted this there?), I’m going to make this the first time I put the bulk of a post behind a cut...

I feel terrible because there’s so much I want to do, so many plans I have for creative projects, and I just don’t have time for them.  I hate spending all my time on non-creative work.  (Oh, of course one could reasonably argue that there’s creativity involved in teaching, but not in the same way as in writing fiction, or drawing, or composing music.)  I hate that I’m so consumed with what was supposed to be my “day job” that I have no time for my real passions.

What doesn’t help, and in fact surely makes things worse, is that... I’ve realized I’m not actually good at teaching.  I’ve always thought I was; I’ve thought of myself as having a talent for teaching, that while I’d much rather make a living in creative pursuits if I had to fall back on a day job teaching was something I could easily do and find reasonably enjoyable... but I’ve been deluding myself.  I’m not getting the concepts across to the students; I’m completely unable to keep the classroom focused and in order; I’m just... incompetent in pretty much every way.  Well, except knowledge of the subject matter.  I know the subject I’m trying to teach... I’m just not doing as well as I’d hoped in sharing that knowledge with the students.  A robotics class I’m (nominally) teaching is a particular nightmare, partly because it’s made up of eighth graders (my other classes are high school) and partly because I’ve never really been clear on what I’m supposed to be teaching them in the first place, but, while that class does add a disproportionate share to my stress, it’s certainly not like my other classes are going smoothly.  Even the AP Physics class I teach I’m not able to pace correctly.

This isn’t my first time with a full-time secondary school teaching job, so it may be reasonable to wonder why I didn’t feel like this before, at my previous job.  I've considered that myself, and I think what it comes down to is that when I taught previously, I hadn’t had any formal training as a teacher (it was at a private school, so a teaching credential wasn’t required), and I simply didn’t realize how badly I was doing.  I was putting in little or no preparation, basically just reading the textbook and giving publisher-provided quizzes and doing very few labs or demonstrations or other hands-on activities -- I had no idea what I was doing then, and didn’t know enough to realize it.  I was let go by the school after working there almost two years (”almost” not because I was fired mid-semester, but because I’d been hired mid-semester, after a teacher just stopped showing up without warning and they needed an immediate replacement), and looking back on it now they really ought to have fired me after one.

The department chair at that school really liked me, and we still keep in touch -- but in retrospect I’m not altogether sure why, and I certainly didn’t deserve the recommendation he gave me.

Of course, I guess it’s not uncommon for beginning teachers to feel down on themselves.  At a meeting of BTSA, a program to support beginning teachers, the director mentioned that first-year teachers often doubted their ability to get through the year, and questioned whether they’d really chosen the right career.  What made this less encouraging than it might have been was the fact that she said this usually happened around Thanksgiving... and here it is September and I already feel this way.  I don’t have much hope that things are going to get that much better.

The closest thing there is to a silver lining is that at least I’m making more money now than I ever was before.  (Not that teachers in California are paid particularly well, and the district I work at pays less than most, but it’s still much more money than I’ve ever made before, definitely including when I taught at the private school.)  If I ever had any doubts as to where my priorities lie, whether I’d be willing to give up on my creative dreams for a chance to make more money in some other career, this experience would have laid those doubts to rest.  No.  Here I’m making a good living wage, with benefits, for the first time in my life (what I earned at the private school, while significantly less than what I’m earning now, may just have qualified as a “living wage”, but I didn’t have benefits), but I’m having to put my creative projects on hold, and it’s killing me.

My original plan wasn’t to go into teaching at a public school at all.  My original plan was to get a license as a studio teacher.  But to do that, I had to get a California teaching credential (two, in fact, one to teach at the elementary level and one at the secondary), and in the process of getting that I was awarded a scholarship that paid me a few thousand dollars (without which I’m not sure how I would have made it through my last semester) but which required me to teach for at least one year in a “high-need” public school district or pay the money back.  Okay, I figured teaching one year in a public school wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I could use the benefits and the money anyway.  A part of me (okay, a large part of me) felt guilty about accepting a job at the public school with the full intent of leaving after one year, but I thought maybe that wouldn’t happen anyway.  Maybe I’d like it enough I’d end up staying, at least until I got some kind of big break with my creative work that made it totally understandable that I would leave.

Yeah, well, that temptation to stick it out at the public school past the one year has been going down every day.

Oh, I do still feel guilty about leaving; I like the staff and the other teachers here, and I’m grateful to the administration for hiring me.  The first day I met the head of the science department, she told me the job I’d been hired for was one she’d come to think of as her “Defense Against The Dark Arts” position, because nobody ever seemed to last more than a year or two.  My most recent predecessor had simply retired, but before that one teacher had been arrested (due to embezzlement during her previous job that had just been discovered), one had just disappeared (shades of my predecessor at the private school?), and two had gone insane.

Unfortunately, while I don’t intend to meet any of those particular fates, I fear now I won’t be breaking the pattern, and she may be finding her “Defense Against The Dark Arts” position having to be filled anew next year.

Though, again, I’ve realized I’m not good at teaching anyway, so probably the school will be better without me.

(If not in a classroom setting, I do seem to be reasonably good at tutoring and teaching in smaller groups, however, which is what studio teaching is more like anyway (that, and looking after the students’ welfare), so I’m reasonably optimistic I’ll do well in that.)

Okay, but really, I guess it could be that things are at their nadir now, but may get a little better.  I didn’t have textbooks for the first few weeks of class, nor any sort of curriculum for the robotics class, nor access to the school grading system, all of which I do now have... and if this weekend I’m loaded down with trying to get caught up on a month’s worth of grades, well, at least that won’t happen again.  And there remains the possibility I will eventually get more used to the job and more comfortable in it, as unlikely as that possibility appears to me right now.  Plus, things will get better when I move closer to the school... not only because I’ll be closer to the school, but also because I’ll be able to afford to move into a better apartment; where I live now has enough wrong with it to fill a post by itself.  There’s also the fact that I foolishly agreed to teach a college class two evenings a week this semester, as if I wasn’t busy enough already, and that will be over in early December (and I’m not teaching at the college in the fall!)  Still...  I don’t know that my chances of still being at this job a year or two from now are particularly high.

But, in the meantime, while I say I’ve put my creative projects on hold, that isn’t entirely true.  I have fallen behind with the Teras Terrace updates, but I do intend to get caught up (though probably not tomorrow).  And the one thing I have kept up with is my webcomic d24... in fact, I’m working on the newest d24 comic right now.  (Well, not right now; right now I’m typing this unwieldily long Tumblr post.  But I’ve... well, I’ve come up with the general idea for the next d24 comic, but haven’t started drawing it yet, and am kind of worried I’m not going to get it one in time, though truth be told that happens for every d24 comic, and I’ve always gotten them done so far, though I am a bit worried this one will the the exception...)  I think, honestly, it’s kind of good for me that I have kept up with d24; it gives me at least some outlet for my creativity, and lets me show myself I haven’t entirely given everything up.  Still... there are so many other things I want to do, and I’m just not finding the time to do them.

Oh... there is one more thing I’m going to find time for, come hell or high water.  I just ran across mention of the CTN animation eXpo (yes, that apparently really is how it’s capitalized) in late November, and I have decided I am going.  It’ll be good for me: maybe I’ll make connections, and even if I don’t, it’ll give me a feeling that I’m in some small way a part of the industry and that I’m still keeping some sort of tenuous hold on my dreams.

Of course, all the better if I have something to show by then.  All the more reason to try to have the d24 site presentable by then, even try to finally complete the resurrection of my (un)dead webcomic Soup.  And, of course, ideally to finally have some animation to show from Teras Terrace.  But even if I don’t have any of that done by then (though I certainly hope I do!), I’m still going.  I think it’ll give me a figurative shot in the arm that’ll really help.

But anyway, for now, I have just... hm... 160 more schooldays to get through this year.


Well, I guess I’ll try to take it one day at a time...

Tags: d24, education, teaching, teras terrace, tumblr

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