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Consistency Killed the Cat

March 13, 2011

Dear Diary,

Today at school, a cat fell through the ceiling.

Your Buddy,

R.J.

True story.  Kuwait has a high population of stray cats living out of dumpsters and alleys.  Teachers have found kittens and taken them into their homes, but most live off the filth of the land and the rodents of it.  And it’s common knowledge that some of these cats live in the ceilings of our school. Because of the recent, consistent rain, the roof has been leaking, making the ceiling material and insulation spongy and fragile, enough so for a malnourished alley cat to fall through it, almost land on a student walking by, and go sprinting down the hallway in a clear panic only to crash head first into a glass door, then get back up and run outside.  It was pretty sweet.

The scene of the accident

The last four or five days have shown uncharacteristic downpours and thunder storms.  With just those few days of rain, we’ve easily filled this year’s quota.  Desert sand plus lots of rain means driving through bumpy and muddy “roads” where I live in Mahboula.  Anyways, as it was raining figurative cats and dogs outside, and literal cats inside, I sighed with the relief of another Sunday workday finished.  Even though I’d skipped lunch, I felt strong.  Even though I’d didn’t come in over the weekend, I felt proud of the shape my classroom had taken.

And with the pensiveness of a wet and cloudy day, here’s another reflection on…life.

At the Philadelphia job fair in 2009, I remember interviewing with this very laid-back and likeable superintendent from a school in Turkey.  Half-way through he asked me if I’d gotten any job offers yet, and I explained to him that a school in Kuwait offered me one that morning and that I was leaning towards taking it.  From there the interview turned into a conversation about overseas living, teaching, etc (since we both knew he wasn’t going to hire me).  As I left he said, in response to living abroad, “You’ll never be the same.”  Right then, I wanted to stop his door with my foot and ask, “Never be the same? What do you mean?  How so? Details please?”  Maybe that reaction was a sign of where I was at the time, and that I must’ve REALLY wanted things to change.  Or maybe it was naivety.

For years it’s been somewhat difficult for me to find myself with…what I’ll call, suspended peace of mind (don’t think too hard trying to see through the ambiguity of that statement).  Not that I’m constantly becoming unhappy with where I am or with what I’m doing, but rather…(hmm, I can’t seem to finish this sentence).  It’s a combination of things, really:  In nearly all aspects of life (including peace of mind), I often hold too high of standards for myself, which leave potential for more “failings”.

All I really want is consistency.  I realize as a teacher, that might be asking for a lot.

In any given work week, hear a lot of complaining.  This negativity can easily permeate through the faculty.  It seems every other week there is something extra-curricular happening at school that cuts into my teaching schedule.  And teachers know, we DO NOT like having our schedule’s moved around or our teaching time cut short because of an assembly, or a birthday celebration, or Pizza Day, or whatever.  It gets the kids all riled up so it’s harder to teach, and we lose…TIME!  Something teachers — checking every old email, every spot behind the bookshelf, and every pocket full of lint — can never find enough of.

I know getting sick is something we can’t always help, but…it happens.  The short of it: missing one teacher changes our assistants’ schedules, which changes the “operations and routines” of the day.  Plus, the mood is a bit more somber, because everyone is doing a little bit more work then they are used to doing.

Then we have absent students, parent/teacher communication, report cards/progress reports, professional development deadlines, holistic assessments, blah, blah, blah.  Alright, now I’m just bitchin’.  But still…I would LOVE two normal teaching weeks in a row!  Y’know, to teach.

Back to peace of mind and consistency.  I think reflecting and thinking about what I’ve learned was so drilled into me in university that now I can’t help but do it.  The change I wanted to know about two years ago at the job fair wasn’t something I could have picked up and read about in an encyclopedia.  And it’s not supposed to be!  No matter how badly you want to open those presents under the tree, you have to wait (you sure didn’t ask for socks!).  No matter how badly you want to turn 21 and hit the bars, you have to wait (you sure asked for that shiner!).  No matter, how badly you want to backpack South America, you have to save up money, buy a Rosetta Stone, and…wait.  Change is constant, anyways.

My thinking about that moment two years ago and how I might change, and wanting so badly to “kick start” my life is a feeling I’ve lived with and am often reminded of, even now as I’m typing away, looking at my Arabic clock showing 8:00, and thinking about what time I’ll set my alarm for the morning.  BUT…This need for change or growth or learning isn’t really something with which to be so damn conscious!  If that superintendent told me how I might change, it would may set me up with an unnecessary pressure to achieve those things he said.  The change is constant and inevitable, anyhow.  I don’t need to see beyond my car’s headlights, long as I have a decent map.

Hmm…My want for consistency AND change suddenly seem contradictory.

In conclusion, sometimes it rains.

Change is constant.

Consistency is not.

Right?

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