Tuesday, May 4, 2010


"Oh, now feel it comin' back again

Like a rollin' thunder chasing the wind

Forces pullin' from the center of the earth again

I can feel it

- Kowalczyk, Edward; Taylor, Chad; Dahlheimer, Patrick; Gracey, Chad. Song “Lightning Crashes” Live

I’m fighting The Blues.

I can feel it creeping in, like it often does. Riding my bike to work this morning, I noted the perfect temperature as the sun bathed my skin in light. There wasn’t too much traffic and the air was as fresh-scented (as fresh as it gets in a city) as it tickled my skin and embraced my hair through the helmet vents. Leaves and flowers brightened the earth once again. I reminded myself of the loveliness of the moment. I told myself I was young(ish) and strong and healthy. I listed the good things in my life.

And still that feeling of being sucked underwater wouldn’t leave.

It may have had something to do with my other reality. My tripped out bike with its lovely bags was transporting me to place I didn’t want to go, to do something I didn’t want to do. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what the “something” was going to be. Last night’s call was for Special Ed at the high school. Vague enough for ya?

Would I have my own classroom or would I be teaching with someone else? What subject would I be teaching? How many students would I have? What would these students be like? Were there plans waiting for me or was I flying by the seat of my pants as per usual?

I want a break from subbing. I want a break from writing about subbing. I want a break.

There are too many other wants and responsibilities interfering with this work life that has become my identity. The identity I don’t want. In ten short days, I’m attending the NESCBWI conference. There are so many things I should be doing to prepare for it.

I’ll meet with two agents: one for a quick query and one for a ten-page critique. The quick query agent I’m embarrassed to meet for reasons I won’t get into right now. Maybe another post, when I can look back and laugh. Anyway, I need to prepare my questions and my pitches (should the need arise).

Now I’m a volunteer at the conference, which will make the experience more hectic, but it’s good for me. Still, that means I have more to worry about along with wondering what I’ll wear and what to read to prepare.

I’m halfway through my edits on The Disappearances and Aubrie has been a superstar helping get my manuscript up to snuff. I hope to have someone else’s eye read through the whole thing and then prepare for queries. I’m feeling good about this WIP.

At the conference, I’ll participate in a peer critique. I’ve had the idea for, Naked Eye in my head for months, and wrote down the first impressions of what it would be so I wouldn’t forget. Imagine if I could get a few solid pages done so I could have a five-minute read-aloud of it? That would be awesome. Time is against me. My frame of mind is against me.

I arrived in the school's office to find out that the teacher had been absent yesterday and no plans were left. Shocking!

“Do you know if she works with someone else during the English class?”

“I don’t know.”

“Does she teach a particular subject?”

“I don’t know. She’s SPED.”

“What should I do with the students?”

“Just tell them to work on whatever they were working on yesterday.”

What if they aren’t working on anything?

Then another woman gave me the office key and instructed, “Don’t lose it.”

Am I the only person who feels responsible for the students? Why should I care? I’m the one who’s making less than half of what the regular teachers are making. I’m not paid for holidays or vacations. On the plus side, I don’t take work home, but I’m walking around with a lot of baggage.

I know the jobs are rarely as bad as it all appears when I walk into the office in the morning. My blog is a broken record:

Fractured Plans

Quick Thinking

Sub Saves the Day

I’m tired of living it. Are you tired of hearing it?

I’m tired. The stress of it all woke me up at 4:30 am. That’s sleep I can’t afford to lose. How can I get through work, do all of the mom things after school, cook, and have an iota of energy to write?

I’m supposed to make the whole thing lighthearted, reporting my whacky adventures with zany students.

Not today. Today I need to vent.

Come back tomorrow. I’ll cobble together something better.


  1. I think you are doing a tremendous job. I am in awe; you have a WIP you are going to query! Meeting with agents, wow and well done. I can't even write a blog post with the funk I am in. So I understand where you are coming from.

    I enjoy your the stories relating to your experiences.

  2. So awesome that you are riding your bike to work. And the fact that you were outdoors, active, on a beautiful day and STILL depressed due to where you were headed speaks volumes. Theresa, listen to what your heart AND your head are telling you! Also so awesome that you'll be working as a volunteer at the conference. This should give you great opportunities to network! Best to you at the conference! I hope you have a wonderful time!! Your blogging buddies will all be looking forward to a full report!

  3. Ventilation can be good for you!
    And besides, it's not lost... I'm holding up a wind turbine.
    You seem to care because, in spite of everything, you are a diligent and intelligent professional. That's something to be proud of.

  4. Theresa, you are so entitle to a good vent,
    you amaze me how much you fit in a day, seems like you are the only one to care about the students.
    Good look with the conference, maybe fate will have a hand in your future, I hope so, ok, now its double scones with cream and jam with the coffee in Dublin.

  5. I have that same feeling when I go to work sometimes. And I choose my job. Oh well.

    Just sent you more edits. I love the story.

    Good luck at work today!

  6. Vent away! That's what we're here for. I think subbing is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I came away from only three months of it feeling demoralised, traumatised and actually *afraid* of students. Compared to how I coped (or didn't), I think you're doing an amazing job.

  7. You are certainly entitled to vent, Theresa. Though your blog doesn't sound like venting to me. It's more like a very interesting account of a difficult job by a likable, funny person. I posted about how important teachers are on my blog today. Hope you enjoy the conference!

  8. Venting is good. We all need to do that every once in a while. Hang in there. Good luck at the conference.

  9. Ann, I'm glad you still enjoy my stories. I'll try to write them with a more upbeat tone. I felt like everyone must've been sick of them.

    You just posted such a wonderful poem last week. I though you were quiet because you were preparing for your trip.

    KarenG, I worry that I have nothing worth networking. But that's negative thinking that will get me nowhere. I'll return with a full report.

    I appreciate the support of my blogging buddies.

    Alesa, thanks for the laugh:

    "And besides, it's not lost... I'm holding up a wind turbine."

    Brigid, I think everyone is just done with the school year. Now I need the attitude that the kids don't care if there's no work. They aren't going to turn on me because they'd rather do nothing.

    This is going to be one fattening visit to Dublin! I'm trying to focus on that.

  10. Aubrie, I guess we all hit walls at our jobs. And for writers who'd love to be paid to write, it's more frustrating.

    Talli, thanks. I'm sorry your experience was so rotten. Often I'm more demoralized by the teachers and staff. The secretary in the community I worked in today is always so mean.

    Roxy, thank you. I'm going to keep this in mind because it's so sweet:

    "It's more like a very interesting account of a difficult job by a likable, funny person."

    Choices, I'm looking forward to the conference, even though it's going to be nerve-wracking. I always come back a better writer and a better person, if that makes sense.

  11. Oh, I'm so sorry. I so feel this need to take a break. I hope you get to have one soon! Are your schools year-round, or will you be done in May (like me)? Because seriously, May 28 can't come fast enough...

  12. Elana, we're done the third week of June. You're done so soon!

  13. Oh Theresa Milstein!

    You vent away - vent like a good 'un!

    It's the writer in you. It's straining at the leash to get out!!Especially now that the conference looms and you will be immersed in the writing world for a few days or so.

    Good luck with your queries and getting your WIPs shipshape and ready to rock and roll.

    The subbing world can rest and be at the back burner for this time, just for a change.

    I know you will enjoy it and be focused because after - you never know - if you get this right, if you get this super duper right - how this just herald the beginning of the end of you looking for that elusive key to that classroom door!

    Take care

  14. I've been a substitute teacher and a full-time teacher, and both jobs are extremely difficult and will burn you out if you're not working in a good environment. My last teaching job was great, but the one before that was awful...I hated getting up and going to work each day.

  15. Old Kitty, you are right. I'm begrudging this intrusion on my writing time. The conference has me thinking about writing.

    And it's not helping that teachers, students, and staff have given up. The secretary in this community is always curt with me, which doesn't help. One time she yelled at me for making copies because I used her office, but I had a job in a different community (even though my classroom was next door).

    Love your quote: "...the beginning of the end of you looking for that elusive key to that classroom door!"

    Melissa, I know the feeling of hating to get up to work each day. As an assistant, just having a hard group for a year makes such a difference. I'm glad your last job was good.

  16. I'm sorry you are stressed and fighting the blues. Shame on that school! But bless you for caring about the kids.
    I hope you find some quiet time to get done what you want to get done for the conference, and more than that, I hope you have fun and learn and feel inspired while there.

    Sending happy thoughts your way. :)

  17. I think we all need to vent from time to time. Subbing is such a difficult job. People don't get it. I did it for a very limited time, and okay, I wasn't very good at it, but OMG, the trials. But you have so much more going on right now, too, with the conference.

    I think a good night's rest might help a lot--I know I could use one. But I hope you feel better tomorrow, and that the rest of your week goes a little smoother. Good luck with the conference, hon. Hang in there.

  18. I'm not tired of your posts! But I am so sorry that you're going through this. Truthfully, I'm going through something very similar. I haven't worked a full week of work in a while. I've just had it lately.

    You're amazing at your job, doing above and beyond what you're supposed to. You need a break. Even if it doesn't mean taking days off, you at least need some time to relax and breathe and not think about work. I know it's easier said than done.

    Hope you feel better and enjoy the conference! You deserve an abundance of happiness, and I hope it comes your way soon, friend.

  19. Don't worry, I think we're actually supposed to vent sometimes (I've heard of this one woman who never vented and her head exploded - seriously - it was a huge mess).

    Wishing you all the best at the conference - good luck and knock 'em dead!

  20. Lola, if I don't get any time off this week, I'm going to take some time this weekend. Maybe it will be my Mother's Day gift.

    Carolina, I like hearing from former and current subs. You know how crazy it can be.

    I'm taking your advice and going to bed soon.

    Shelley, I guess it's a time of burnout for subs too. It's great you take time when you need it. My husband said I should get back into yoga to help me relax.

    Jaydee, thanks for the comment. I definitely don't want my head to explode so I'm glad I vented!

  21. Vent away, girl. Cold comfort, I know, but part of it is just the time of year. If you're a teacher you just feel beat to hell and back by now. My student teacher finished with me last Friday and today was in another classroom subbing. She came in to see my on planning to tell me that she had a fight in her room. One kid throwing things at another who said stop or I'll punch you in the face. Kid 1 didn't stop so kid 2 stood up and smoked him in the face. Blood flew, the liaison carted them off, and so it goes.

    Hang in there. It's a brutal ride to the end of the year. Hopefully you'll have a great time at the conference and then school will be over and you can enjoy summer.

  22. You deserve to vent my sweet friend!!! I just don't understand how your school system allows this to go on. It would never have been tolerated in my public school system here. It just amazes me that your Administration Office allows it to go on. No wonder you are tired of it.

    I hope you have a wonderful time at your conference and come back inspired!! I am no writer but I was an English major so if you need someone to read for editing purposes, I would be happy to do so.

    Take care my sweet friend!! Don't let it get you down...take some time if you need it.

  23. Subbing is an incredibly tough job. I'm shocked at how often there are no plans left for you. That's not allowed at all in our board. Every teacher must have at least 2 days of emergency daybooks in the office in case of emergency. We also must have a detailed outline of the day left in the office and on our desks.

    I only had 1 day of sub work where I had zero plans left for me (of course it was about my 3rd day out with pretty much no experience to guide me). The teacher had a disciplinary note left in her file because of it. The principal checked so I'm assuming it was a recurring problem.

    Keep at it - not all days will stink!

  24. Oh honey, you have every right to have a break!!! The things you face on a daily basis are incredible. A lesser woman would have thrown in the towel much earlier.

    Hope all goes well in the writing world. I'll be sending you good vibes!

  25. Hi Theresa,
    Thanks for visiting my blog:)
    And don't worry, it's okay to vent. I vent all the time, I think it's good for the soul! My Mum is a teacher too, so I have an idea of how stressful it can be.
    Just think of the summer holidays!

  26. Sarahjayne, that does sound brutal. I'm glad the fight didn't happen in your room.

    I got a call last night for tomorrow's assignment, so I hope that's a good sign.

    VKT, thank you for the sweet editing offer.

    I'm taking off Friday next week + I'm taking off a week at the end of May, so I need to hang in there for now.

    Jemi, that's lousy to be a new sub without plans. When I first started, one of my first jobs was like that too. Then it was decent for so long. Technically they are supposed to have plans in their folders. Nobody bothers checking, I guess.

  27. Bossy Betty, thank you for the nice words and the good vibes!

    Olives, I'm looking forward to summer holidays. I know it's not too far away, even if some days it seems like it. Thanks for visiting.

  28. I've thought the same thing about my blog sounding repetitive. I've tried to find more good things, include more general commentary, taking a weird angle at stuff. But in the end it's still "Here's what the bad kids did, and the good kids don't get mentioned because they didn't do anything remarkable."

    It's kind of sad really.

  29. I like the metaphor: a good vent is ventilation, freedom, grappling with the stuffiness of every day experiences, and feeling better.

  30. Hi there, Theresa, I'm here through various linkages. :)

    Goodness, do you need a break. I feel for you! You need an extended break filled with rest and recuperation, STAT. I hope you get it, or something like it.

    Best at the conference!

  31. Sorry if this is a duplicate! Blogger.com weirded out on me for a second.

    Do take a break if you can! Sounds like you could really use it!

  32. Chris, it's funny because I enjoy the stories on your blog. I guess I worry that writers don't want to read this stuff. More importantly, I'd like to have something else to write about. Like, maybe I can have another career!

    Paul C, I'm glad you like the metaphor. Often, I try to do a play on words in my title.

    Janna, I'm glad you found me. I'm off today and ecstatic about it.

    India, it's not a duplicate. I've had problems with Blogger too.

    You're right. We all needs breaks.

  33. I think it's awesome how you take your bike to work!!! What a beautiful day as well it sounded like!

    Venting is sometimes the only way to get through a tough day, and sometimes it's needed... really needed. I hope it gets better, what you do is amazing but I can see how a break would be needed!

  34. Jen, I love when a job is close enough and the right time so I can still take my bike, but ride home to get the car to pick up my kids.

    The vent did me feel much better.

    Sheila, you're right. We do.

  35. Vent, girl! I hear you about work just getting in the way - I've been sucked down into my own sullen vortex where my work is concerned. I know I'm lucky to be a full-time freelancer, but sometimes? I just don't feel like working on another ridiculous last-minute deadline. Or come up with a headline for a product we all know is crap. Especially when my head is full of my WIP. So take a break wherever, whenever you can. (And good luck at the conference!!)

  36. Zoe, I think any time we're doing anything else, it encroaches on our writing time. When I have WIP, it's hard to concentrate!

  37. I think you're extraordinary, brave and strong. You've always had so much responsibility and have worked so hard and had to juggle so much. You've never gottten to just goof off, step back, disappear into a trip or play.

    Good for you for venting instead of holding it all inside! Your work situation sucks, but you will continue to keep asking yourself the tough questions until the answers come.

    I'm do glad that you're volunteering at the conference! Hopefully, you'll come away from that weekend inspired and focused.

    Btw, your introduction to this blog was beautifully written; I never cease to be impresses by your writing. I can't wait to read the new edits on "The Disappearances".

  38. Kathleen, I've had my good off days and times I've disappeared into a trip or play.

    I'm glad I'll be doing my part at the conference.

    You're welcome to check out the progress of The Disappearances.

  39. "Am I the only person who feels responsible for the students? Why should I care? I’m the one who’s making less than half of what the regular teachers are making. I’m not paid for holidays or vacations. On the plus side, I don’t take work home, but I’m walking around with a lot of baggage."

    So so so true. I had a day just like this last week. It's good to vent. I hope things are looking up for you today.

  40. Tiffany, you've had good reasons to do your own venting here and there.