Saturday, November 29, 2003

Human frailties have gotten the best of me again this weekend. I had so many things I needed to do, starting with preparing my manuscript to go to a couple of publishers. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I have been in terrible physical condition for the past week or so and it doesn't appear to be getting any better.
I have spent the last two days in bed. When I stand up, I feel like my head is swimming, but I am just fine when I lay down, so naturally, I have been laying down quite a bit.
I was starting to feel a little more under the weather when I went to my parents' home in Newtonia in Thanksgiving, but I just acted like everything was fine. Since I am not particularly good in crowds, it wasn't a great experience, but it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated.
Of course, it could be psychosomatic. I occasionally exchange e-mails with the mother of one of my former Diamond students. She said I sounded depressed in my last e-mail and, who knows, maybe I did. I have a tendency to dwell on things and when you have had two jobs taken away from you that you loved in the space of four years...while everyone talks about how great you are at both of them...well, it does have a tendency to get to you. And now I am being told that the new journalism teacher at Diamond has made numerous comments about my shortcomings at journalism (I spent 22 years as a journalist, he has a master's degree in journalism and spent most of his adult life writing publicity releases for the Navy) I know I shouldn't take his comments seriously, but these are my former students who are listening to his criticisms. I doubt that they will be swayed by his comments, but it has to place a little bit of doubt in their minds, especially when the comments are made over and over and over. I suppose I should be flattered that the journalism teacher and the superintendent see me as being such a threat, but it all seems so childish.
I was told Monday or Tuesday, I don't remember which, that the block scheduling for communication arts is being dropped for next year and that I will be teaching writing and not reading. (That is, of course, if the school district doesn't have to cut jobs or something of that nature) I don't mind the change, but I really enjoyed the two-hour communication arts blocks. I have the opportunity to know my students better and I enjoyed getting reacquainted with good literature after spending the last several years reading almost nothing but non-fiction. (I suppose that just because I am only teaching writing doesn't mean that I can't continue reading.)
My old habits have resurfaced during the holiday break. I'm not reading any great works of fiction. I finished the biography of former Supreme Court Justice Byron White earlier today and now I am about 70 pages into David Halberstam's study of the military decisions made by former presidents Bush and Clinton during the 1990s. Military books have never been among my favorites, but I'll read almost anything written by Halberstam. I donated several of my Halberstam books to the Diamond school library. I would be surprised if any of them have been put on the shelves. I would love for students to be able to read "The Children," his book describing the Freedom Riders of the early 1960s and what happened to them in later years. It's long, but it is so engrossing that it seems like the pages just fly by. My guess is "The Children" is still in a cardboard box in the storage room at the middle school, along with the other approximately 500 books I donated last summer. About 500 of the books I donated earlier are on the shelves at the middle school library, but among the ones that didn't fit into the librarians' concept of what belongs in a school library were works by Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austen, and John Steinbeck. I guess those writers are out of fashion.
I am hoping to get enough energy to drive into Joplin either later tonight or tomorrow, most likely tomorrow, and check to see whether Edna Buchanan's latest novel is out in paperback at Books-A-Million. For those of you who aren't familiar with her work, Ms. Buchanan has written a series of mystery novels about a Miami Herald investigative reporter named Britt Montero. I have read all of them except her latest "The Ice Maiden," which supposedly came out in paperback last week. Ms. Buchanan herself is an award-winning investigative reporter for The Miami Herald. If I still don't feel well enough to go tonight or tomorrow, I'll drop by after school on Monday. (And yes, barring a disaster, I will be at work on Monday. Since the day I took my first full-time job at The Newton County News in May 1977, I have never missed a day of work. There probably have been numerous times when I should have stayed at home, but I was always brought up that if you have a job, you show up ready to work every day. If you don't there are other people who would just love to have your job. I know my streak is going to end some day (and obviously, not being married and having kids has something to do with it since I guarantee you, I would stay at home with a sick kid), but I don't want to ever get in the habit of taking a day off just to recharge my batteries, especially as a schoolteacher. Think about it, our jobs probably do expose us to all kinds of psychological stress and teachers deserve every cent they receive (and more), but we do have at least 185 days each year when we are not teaching or attending in-service. We have time to recharge our batteries. My God, I must sound like someone from a bygone age.

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