I visited another high school today. This was the last one for this year (and for my stint as music coordinator for this program), and it was quite a privileged school. I had two teachers to observe, so it was a long morning, but I had a chance to catch up on a little bit of work in between the classes.
In a sense it has been good that I bundled my observations together as closely as I did this year, because it helped me to keep open some questions about ways in which I could try to mediate between my teaching principles and the realities of the students that I will be teaching. One of the teachers I spoke with today, who appears to be in his 20s, observed that few high school students seem to be held accountable for failing to prepare for class. He recalls being required to take quizzes on assigned reading in English class before discussion of the texts would occur. He is not aware that this sort of mechanism is in place in the school where he teaches.
The point for me is that I don't want to feel like a sell-out by totally abandoning my principles, but I also don't want to become a martyr to rigid adherence to a particular expression of those principles, if the result is that I thereby fuck up the rest of life and keep getting sick as soon as I get a break from classes.
I have also talked to a few faculty from my department--or have participated in email exchanges with them--and they are also troubled by some trends that they see in students who are effectively refusing faculty instruction but failing to come up with viable alternatives for themselves. I spoke to a piano professor today. One of her students is heavily dependent on ADD drugs, and can only function for about 6 hours each day, and even then does better at the beginning of the week than at the end of it. Another of her students recently resumed his abuse of opioid pills. In my department lately it seems as if we are being called upon to accommodate one exceptional, extreme nut case after another, and the faculty are divided about it. Some are so hopelessly codependent (or indifferent) that they willingly enable these students, while others insist on holding the students accountable to at least some modified set of standards so they can try to fulfill their obligations to prepare these students for the (slim) possibility of some kind of professional lives.
This same faculty member described a bizarre, rambling phone conversation with the faculty member who used to be my mentor when I was on the tenure track. The things she said corroborated impressions I had formed over the years and helped me to gain a better appreciation of the ways in which my bristling and gruffness have helped to keep him at bay. I'd prefer to have a more open, productive collegial relationship with him, but if the only alternative is to hear him go one nonsensically about himself--alternating with stern lectures to me about this and that (as he did during his rambling phone conversation with this other faculty member)--perhaps I'm simply better off without any of it. Sad to say, but maybe that's just the best that happen under the circumstances. This former mentor's wife is an active member of Avatar and a Google search reveals that she is quite open about it in her professional profile (as a photographer). Maybe some of the loopiness of that ideology is rubbing off on him, even if he isn't actively involved.
When I think back on my earlier years in the department, it's no wonder I had such a difficult time. The people in my area (including this mentor) were undermining me somewhat because of their own issues. My mother, who had rejected me for over 20 years because of my sexuality, was struggling with malignant brain cancer for 5.5 years before finally succumbing to it. Faculty members who hated my colleagues were voting against my reappointment as a way of indirectly trying to get back at them. My "best friend" for a time was a survivor of incestuous sexual abuse who took out his issues on me with such intensity that it seems (in retrospect) that I experienced signs of psychological trauma. Reading about euphoria followed by crashing in the article on Avatar that I linked to above reminded me of experiences that I had in the Amma org. While the euphoria can be compelling and make in fact be "real," crashing without proper support seems as if it can be a gateway to psychological instability and potentially to long-term deterioration. I'm kind of amazed that, of the therapists I worked with, none really connected the dots and discussed some of these red-flag issues with me in a more productive way.
That was a lot of fucking shit to deal with. In retrospect, I guess I can say that I'm pretty tough. That isn't always good news for people who continue to try to manipulate me, however. ;-)