Thursday, July 20, 2017

Through the Lean Months

One of the biggest misconceptions about public school teachers is, in part, true. Yes, we do get July and August off. But we do not get paychecks in those months.

There are some single teachers at the high end of the pay scale who can spend the summer touring Europe or Alaska or some such. I'm not single, and I'm at the low end of the scale. The way low end.

Fortunately I found a summer job. I did it last year, when I wasn't blogging. I am doing it again this year.


For July and August, my profession is interior painter at my school. The day begins promptly at 6:00 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. This year we have a crew of four. Already we have completed a corridor and a classroom. Today we were in an air-conditioned guidance office, but that won't last long. (This photo is from last year. I was painting the ceiling in the auto tech shop.)

How did I get from graduating 15th in my class at Johns Hopkins University (1981) to a 40-hour-a-week paint job at thirteen bucks an hour (2016 and 2017)? Life is curious. The answer, I think, can be summarized with a line from the movie Mad Max: "Maybe it's just a result of anxiety."

But la di dah! Unfulfilled potential, or luck of the draw? Who cares? I'm a painter!

This is what I have learned by being an interior painter:

1. Edge first. Then roll.
2. Move all furniture. Don't paint around stuff.
3. Getting up early in the morning is a good thing.
4. Being able to move fairly nimbly at 58 is a really good thing.
5. Paint rollers never come clean no matter how long you work with them.
6. Screw drivers are not, after all, incomprehensible.
7. The custodians are the nicest people in the school.
8. Physical fatigue is preferable to mental fatigue.
9. Painting is far easier than teaching.

When I started on paint crew last year, I had a bad attitude about it. I thought, "Look at you, Anne. What a loser you are! What happened to that novel you worked on for 15 years? And the other ones you were going to write? How did you become a school teacher, and not a very good one at that?" And much more of the same.

The first week nearly killed me. As bad as I needed the money, I didn't think I would make it. But I needed the money. So I persevered.

By the beginning of August, I noticed something. I no longer got winded climbing the stairs. The paint poles weren't as heavy. I could carry more cans and tarps. And I finally figured out how to open and close the cans without splattering paint everywhere.

Then I decided to go on a hike.


Why not? Nothing like a pleasant little jaunt on a summer's day.

This is the trail head for Glen Onoko Falls. It is in the Pocono Mountains. If you read up on it you get the picture really fast that this hike is not for sissies. And it wasn't. I should know, because I did it!


Glen Onoko Trail actually has three large waterfalls. This is number two.

By the time my daughter The Heir and I got to the top of Glen Onoko Trail, I was the only person my age to be seen. Everyone was younger! As far as the "trail" goes, you're looking at it. It was basically climbing rocks, straight up.

Without becoming a school teacher, I never would have seen these waterfalls. Without becoming a painter I could never have had the stamina at age 57 to climb those falls. Forget Phi Beta Kappa! I'm Far Better Hiker!

This year I am back to blogging along with my painting. I double dog guarantee that I will engage in some sort of extreme outdoor trek some weekend soon. You'll hear all about it.

The moral of this sermon is: How wonderful to be mostly pain free, able to move and breathe and smile! With a little money to pay the bills kicked in as part of the bargain.


anne marie in philly said...

as we age (and I am almost 63), MOVING is prime for our bodies; builds muscle, makes us stronger, challenges our endurance, works our heart. I have been going to a local gym lifting weights for 8 years now; best thing I ever did for myself. YOU GO GIRL! KEEP IT UP!

Unknown said...

The thing I like I like about tasks like painting is that, well, I know when I'm done. It's a task. It has a defined ending point. There are so few jobs like that in what i do now. Or rather, even if they do have an ending point, the amount of work needed leading up to the ending is amorphous. It feels good to finish something.

The health benefits are a bonus!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Well, you may have started painting last year with a bad attitude but your attitude this year is magnificent! Show those young pups a thing or two!


there is no fecking way you could be a bad teacher..stop are my fecking go teach you paint you hike, you be the best human being that you can..which is the very best...but get back to that novel too.

Jono said...

Living in an area that is a bit of a travel destination gives us an extremely over-educated citizenry. If scrubbing toilets and building houses and waiting tables didn't pay a nearly living wage we would all be broke. My father wanted me to go to college so I wouldn't have to be a ditch digger. Guess what? When I was younger I was damned impressive with a shovel.

e said...

Far Better Hiker, indeed! I'm impressed! Does your school routinely hire teachers for summer projects like this? It's a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Loved reading this, especially this particular post. Physical tiredness at the end of the day is a blessing, indeed. I'll not get into the shame of underpaid teachers.

Unknown said...

I hate seeing big healthy trees cut down in their prime. It's very depressing.