Saturday, April 13, 2013
I'm sure this is exactly what drives literary magazine editors to publish stories: Awesome ending sentences utlizing the phrase "stupid frickin'." Everything ALL CAPS.
However, never fear. I have discovered a new and possibly exciting career opportunity still staying within the storytelling frame, but kind of way more awesome. A couple of years ago, I did a group blog initiated by my friend Patresa called COFFEE. There were about 8 or 9 of us, and we all picked projects to complete that scared the holy living poop out of us. Patresa wanted to sing in front of real people, Holly wanted to complete the Artist's Way, Stephany was learning to live life on her own terms, Katie was working on getting her entire life re-focused, Tawni was going to be an award-winning writer, etc and so forth. Mine, of course, was Grocery Shopping. (Because I'm dangerous like that.) Had I stumbled upon what I stumbled upon this week, however, my COFFEE project would have been: Oscar Winning Movie Extra! (dunh dunh duuuunh!)
Because hello! Movie Stardom without ever getting recognized or harassed by paparazzi? That's just a win-win situation, sweet friends. It pays a lot less than regular Movie Stardom, but I hear if you get a Screen Actors Guild card and they hire you to be an extra at some long distance location, they have to buy you a first class plane ticket to get there because SAG says so (further proof unions are NOT evil). Also, did you know Atlanta is like #5 on the list of New Hollywoods of the South (according to Access Atlanta)? It's true! They film TV shows about zombies and vampires here. And shows about real housewives buying wedding dresses and bras. Because down South we're all about classy. They also film a lot of movies here, too--Tyler Perry being the person who seems to use Atlanta the most (possibly because he has a production company/movie studio here and, like, 500 mansions).
THE HUNGER GAMES sequel was just filmed here, THE BLIND SIDE, and REMEMBER THE TITANS (do you? remember them?). Tyler Perry makes me nervous, but I could so have drinks with Denzel Washington (who also just made another movie here, some airplane movie called FLIGHT--I bet Denzel is completely familiar with Atlanta at this point and even knows his way around Spaghetti Junction like a boss) (fyi--we do this a lot in Atlanta. We name things based on other things and only Atlantans really know what the heck anyone is talking about--Spaghetti Junction is the I-285 interchange that looks like a big old mess of spaghetti from the air. Spaghetti Junction also serves as our official tool of segregration by dividing Atlantans into those who are cool, hip Inside the Perimeter (ITP) residents and the uncool, unhip Outside the Perimeter (OTP) people. Then there's Murder Kroger, because it's right next to a police station and there was a rash of unfortunate homicides in its parking lot..and Disco Kroger, a former gay nightclub turned grocery store. The South: cute, classy, and quirky, without a slight trace of irony.)
But most important? Please consider the following as evidence for my natural inclination toward Movie/TV extra acting stardom:
1) As a child, all I ever did in my spare time was perform Broadway musicals (alone, in my bedroom, surrounded by stuffed animals). My repertoire was wide and varied: Wizard of Oz, Annie, Funny Girl, Westside Story...AND I did my own choreography. At 8 years old, I'm pretty sure that indicates serious tv/movie extra prodigy potential.
2) One long summer between 3rd and 4th grade, some neighborhood friends and I wrote, directed, produced, costume-designed, and marketed a very disjointed outdoor off off off off off off off Broadway theater production based on a conglomeration of STAR WARS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and HELLO, DOLLY!. (That last bit was mine--the neighborhood friends were all boys, and I really felt we needed some girly songs throughout, just to break up the monotony of aliens getting their heads blown off). We sold tickets around the neighborhood for 25 cents, then quickly marked them down to 5 cents because mothers complained we were price gouging.
3) I don't want to make anyone feel even more insecure now that you know about my Bedroom Broadway and successful off Broadway Outdoor Theater past, but I WAS also cast once in a high school drama during my junior year--I played an uptight school marm (foreshadowing!) and had three incredibly important lines.
4) I read a lot of trashy celebrity magazines. I mean A LOT. Like, did you know Khloe Kardashian is now the hottest Kardashian, since Kim got pregnant? If you didn't pick up the latest issue of US WEEKLY and read it over a bowl of Kix cereal, sorry--you're clearly not in the entertainment biz insider loop.
5) But more important than all of that, I have recently learned (as in, breaking news last night during a late night, not-stalkery-at-all-just-casually-interested-in-him Google search): Jason Isaacs may be coming to Atlanta to shoot a new TV series called SURGEON GENERAL. Jason Isaacs, I hear you thinking, Who the heck is Jason Isaacs? Remember when I wrote about him in my last post? He's like Less Famous Clive Owen. Just as talented and British, but people don't recognize him in grocery stores which I hear tell he's totally fine with. So if I run into him in Kroger if/when he's here, I'll play it cool by saying, "Argh, matey. Can ye hand me over that dozen of bosun eggs? Aye, but ye're blockin' me way."
Heh, because see: he once played Capt Hook in a movie. So you probably just read my imaginary grocery store exchange with Jason Isaacs like, What the....Is she drunk?? and really had no idea why I just did that, but Jason Isaacs would totally know why I was talking to him in pirate, and I'm convinced he'd invite me out for drinks after giving me my bosun eggs.
He's also played Lucius Malfoy in the HARRY POTTER movies and the evil British colonel out to destroy Mel Gibson in THE PATRIOT. But his stint as Capt. Hook in the failed 2003 version of PETER PAN is really just a true, deep travesty of justice because, to date, Jason Isaac's Capt. Hook is the only pirate anybody should really ever even consider inviting to a dinner party. No! Not even Capt. Jack Sparrow! Seriously, I mean it. If Capt. Jack Sparrow even tries to show up, Capt. Hook and I are out of there!
The only slight, kind of tiny little hiccup to my whole Movie Star Extra/Meet Jason Isaacs Plan? I hate hate hate being: photographed, tagged in photographs, videotaped, tagged in videos, and generally being exposed to the world in a full body shot kind of way. So I'm hoping Jason Isaacs and his new TV series crew are looking for extras they can shoot just from the neck up. I'm in big trouble if they tell me NO on that and if so I may have to figure out a better ending sentence (no use of "frickin'", no ALL CAPS) to my untitled really bad Work in Progress I pounded out in a mere three days this week.
Oooh! Wait! Coffee girl! I wonder if the movie/tv crews coming to Atlanta need coffee/sandwich go getters for them? I would be so expert at that--my off off off off off off off Broadway years totally prepared me. Off to Google it!
Friday, March 29, 2013
Thirty-ish days of this school year are left. I am glad. I am also detached. I really, deeply love my class--they are good, sweet children, for the most part, and appear to love me back. But many of them and their families are exhausting me; this school year has exhausted me. This is not something unique to me; I'm not some martyr over here. I have spoken at length with teachers at other schools, in other districts, in all socioeconomic areas. Exhaustion is the Word of the Day for public school teachers all over America.
Can I be very frank and honest for a moment? Do you have a moment?
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. Actually, all year long I've been thinking. I've been considering this, and considering that. I've done a little networking. I've had good days and thought: this is all right. I've had bad days and thought: really, wouldn't Barnes & Noble be awesome to work at, even if they are slowly shutting down all their stores? I've spent a lot of time thinking and considering.
I've thought about and considered going back to teach ESOL, except I don't want to go back to teaching that right now...people (other teachers) think I'm crazy, because it has its stresses but hey: no grading! But it is increasingly becoming something I can't agree to do. I do miss teaching it, but only for the relief of not having to be responsible for raising other people's children, and that's no reason to teach something. More and more, I feel that is exactly what is being asked of me, to raise others' children for them. I simply do not feel up to this task. I have a Bachelor's of Science in Elementary Education and a Master's of Arts in Early Childhood Education. I know Reading, Writing, Social Studies, Science, and Math. I am not a social worker. I do not possess a psychology or a counselor background. I have taught children for 18 years, and I'm a parent now, and so I try to draw on that experience to help parent other people's children, but because of political correctness often feel my hands are tied to really give them the help they are looking for, on top of the fact I suspect they don't actually want help; they simply want someone else to be responsible. And I am finding I don't want that kind of responsibility. I would just like to teach children how to read, write, and add/subtract. If I could just do that every day, I'd be happy as a pig in mud on a cool Spring day.
I am increasingly frustrated. My house looks like an episode of Hoarders. My husband spends a lot of time worrying (often out loud) about my mental and emotional state. My own child is getting less from me than other people's children, and I will be brutally honest: I am growing resentful. I have no energy when I get home--I would like to take my child to the gym or the park every day, or read with her or finger paint or teach her sight words or play with play dough or just laugh and have fun. I am too tired--I cook dinner, clean it up, do bath, and then sit on facebook or pinterest because facebook and pinterest are two mindless, numbing things I can do to unwind. I am beginning to suspect classroom teaching is turning into a single, childless person's game.
The easy answer seems to be: just don't do it, Amy. Don't go to school at 7:45 and leave at 5:30/6:00 every day. Do what you can and go home and forget about it. But I don't operate that way. Quality matters to me, and if I don't deal with Project X or Y right now, tomorrow it will eat me alive because I won't have a planning period due to this meeting or that one or I won't get to Project S or T and that will cause even further stress than I already have, and I won't have that, concerned friends. I won't have it.
So I'm slowly and reluctantly starting to wonder if teaching may not be the right career for me. Isn't that crazy sounding? Because it's something I really love. Because I got into teaching because I'm a helper and I wanted to help children. Because people say I'm good at it--I'm never going to win Teacher of the Year, but if you stick your kid in my class? I work my butt off with them. Because I've done it for 18 years. But 10 of those 18 years were in a support teaching role, and support teaching kind of, I don't know, lulls? you into a sort of complacency.
On a positive note, going back into the classroom this year was like having cold ice water thrown on me repeatedly. This was good, because it taught me some important things--about human nature and what poverty and powerlessness--and, yes, maybe a slight touch of psychosis--can make people do to one another. It taught me some things about me, like I genuinely like children in spite of some of their home situations. I mean, God bless them, they've got a lot on their plates and they don't even know it. I am crossing my fingers and sending powerful prayers to all the Universes out there, begging these Universes to pull these children out of their lives, to help them defy their odds and the growing, enormous chasm between the classes I'm watching good people in this country (myself included, because you won't see me at any Occupy Something events) allow to happen.
But it has also taught me this is one goddamn exhausting, thankless job. If I were getting paid 6 figures, I'd probably just deal with it for another decade or two. I mean, there are summers off for the love of all--who wouldn't just go find their happy place when needed, for $100,000 a year and decent health benefits? However, I am not getting paid 6 figures. I am getting paid in the mid 5's. And I am not being respected by the very people I'm attempting to help, and I spend a lot of time confused and frustrated and angry about that. And crying. I cry a LOT when I'm at home, because I'm desperately worried my own child isn't receiving what she needs from me. Realistically, I know she will most likely turn out okay--she is deeply loved and hears that all the time. She has two supportive parents who will gently express concerns to her future teachers, not make angry demands. Melissa doesn't need a teacher to send desperate prayers for her out into the Cosmos. But I'm also painfully aware of what schools are expecting from and doing to children these days (another angry rant for another frustrated day), and I need to help my child meet those expectations, to the best of her ability. I need to serve and protect my own child, as much as I love and want to serve and protect other children. I owe that to Melissa.
I think what I'm saying is: my plate isn't just full, it has become completely overloaded. For some people, this would be A-Okay. For some people, overloaded is a challenge, and dealing with angry people is no biggie and besides they love getting punched in the gut; it builds character. This is not me. I do not do overloaded, angry people, or gut punches. And my plate has been overloaded since August, and I have been talk therapy-ing out the angry people and gut punches as much as possible, all the while continuing to reason that it's just a learning curve and if I just move this roll to this side of the plate and push this pile of potatoes over here and push this angry person under the table for awhile....but the moving and pushing and hiding never seem to end. I mean, it will end: Summer will come, and Melissa and I will read books and visit the library and go to the pool and eat ice cream and paint our horrified HOA neighbors' sidewalks with rainbows and unicorns and giggle ourselves silly as Mr. F glares at us through his window, frantically making notes in his little neighbor spy log.
But eventually August will arrive, and the plate juggling will begin again and I find I am dreading that. Really, really dreading that.
Please know: I am not frustrated about my school--I love my school, and my administrators have been nothing but kind and helpful to me and incredibly supportive with some of the gut punches I've taken this year. I am thankful to and for them. And I am deeply in love with all of my coworkers, and think the Supreme Court ought to pass gay marriage just so we can all marry each other and live in one giant teacher commune together. And I am not frustrated about the students--I love the students, kids are kids and I love helping them work on/work out their ridiculous kid issues, as long as I'm not hormonal or ravenously hungry at the moment. Also, when I shut that door and get on the floor with them and read or write, I am completely in my element. I love that feeling. I love sharing books with them and reading their bad writing and showing them a Youtube video about using periods and then dedicating it to the one boy in class who refuses to acknowledge punctuation but is really good-natured about having a punctuation video dedicated to him because he's the class clown and likes that kind of attention. I love that, and if I could do that all day and have time to make lesson plans and grade and not worry about unhinged parents coming up to the school to sue me or beat me up, I'd practically work for free.
However, this is not Reality for public school teachers anymore, no matter where you are in America. And I am really beginning to wonder if the Universe didn't have A Big Plan for me back in 2011, when I volunteered--sheerly on gut instinct--to leave ESOL teaching and take on a different kind of support teaching which then landed me back in a classroom in the very kind of school I said I'd never (never say "never"!) want to teach in a classroom at. Because sometimes the Universe does stuff like that--takes you over here to get you over there which takes you here so you can land there, which is where you were meant to be at this part of your life all along. I find that's the only consistency the Universe has about it--Its inconsistency.
And it is not lost on me at all that certain emails and events may have been rained down upon me this year in order to jerk my complacent butt out of its chair of comfort and get it moving.
So I will spend this summer getting ready for another school year but also working on changing careers. Having talked to some savvy Corporate America People Who Know (C being their spokesman), it's been suggested to me for every $10,000 you wish to earn per year, it takes 2 months of work and dedication and making contacts and finding leads and etc and so forth to find a job making that. C would like to see me make $75,000 per year, because he thinks I'm worth that (which uh, hello, I think he and I need to talk about--clearly I'm worth $12 million, but at 2 months per $10,000 I just don't have that kind of time. If only Charlie Sheen would read this! I know he'd cut me a check). I'd be pretty happy with far less than $75,000, and at this point I think C would be too--he has said on at least 100 different occasions he'd rather see me happy than continue to witness what he's witnessed this year.
Which all brings me to my point: upon examining my educational background and current set of skills, I think I'm good at a handful of things (besides eating chocolate at night and googling Jason Isaacs and Gerard Butler and Clive Owen). I love children and story telling. I like to write. I like to read. I like to do research. I like coffee houses and singing birds and waking up with the sun, not before it.
So this is where I've decided to start: I'm exploring freelance writing, which can be slightly lucrative (though far less now, with all the blogs permeating the atmosphere and bad journalism being the rule of the day) but take awhile to break into. Ditto getting a novel/short story published. JK Rowling did not happen overnight--JK Rowling had talent and also timing and luck and Jason Isaacs in the wildly successful movies based on her books. I just want to be able to afford to eat out once in awhile, not sit on piles of Potter-like money. So I'm exploring writing articles and children's books and story telling and writing a novel and short stories on the side. It sounds like a lot, but compared to the enormous stresses I've been dealing with this year, that's a cakewalk in the park.
If anyone knows anyone, please point me in their direction. If anyone needs a storytelling researcher willing to freelance write with children while Jason Isaacs, Gerard Butler, and Clive Owen are in the audience, let me know that, too. If anyone wants to write me a check for $75,000, I will write an entire novel about why it's a travesty you are not Emperor of the World (Charlie Sheen, I'm looking in your general direction).