writer/educator seeks viable life of creativity and mindfulness

Welcome to the chronicle of my quest to prove that the pursuit of passion can entail a sustainable income. Along the way, I hope you’ll enjoy my ramblings on Sudbury schooling, Zen, and the joy of writing.

If something here somehow intrigues, confuses, or bothers you, I invite you to leave a comment—though hopefully framed in such a way as to enhance, rather than hinder, fruitful dialogue. After all, one of my main goals here is to stimulate conversation and new ideas, not listen to myself talk.

“Now,” to quote Maurice Sendak, “let the wild rumpus start!”

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The Need for Work

If you’ve been following this blog at all, you already know that I’ve been looking for work for a few months now — long enough to have generated a handful of thoughts and observations on the process. I’ve reflected on how much I enjoy having so much time to myself, my ambivalence about dipping my toe back into public education, and vague outlines of what I might do if I could write my own job ticket.

There’s a deeper issue here that I want to explore today: what does it mean to say, “I need a job.” Continue reading

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My Monty Hall Problem

I suspect many of you are too young to remember the original version of “Let’s Make a Deal” (hosted by Monty Hall), but the segment that made it a fixture in the pop culture lexicon had contestants (many dressed in costumes) choose whatever prizes lay hidden behind Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3.

(Interestingly, I just learned there’s a brain teaser, a probability puzzle called The Monty Hall Problem, that imagines a new car behind one door and goats behind the other two. The question is whether it’s better to switch your initial choice after seeing that one of the two doors you initially passed over concealed a goat.)

I don’t have a Monty Hall problem, exactly, but I do have three leading choices for projects I might develop. These choices aren’t mutually exclusive — I could pursue two, or all three — but my time is of course finite, and I can’t know for sure the opportunity costs of choosing to invest in or another combination. There’s also the question of income, as a fourth claim on my time — paying work —will have to compete with these projects until such time as they become self-supporting. So today I’d like to sketch the outlines of the prizes behind my three doors, in the hope that either my writing or your comments will fill in enough of the implications that I can make a more informed choice. Continue reading

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Toward a Narrative Résumé

As I drift through these weeks of near-total unemployment, every now and then I recall that it might help to clarify just what it is that I want to do for work, and what I do well. Here, then, is a stab at articulating a few things I enjoy and for which I seem to have some aptitude. With a nod to humility, I should emphasize that this is not simply tooting my own horn; these have all been identified as strengths by others too often for me to believe it’s just wishful thinking. Continue reading

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To Sub, or Not to Sub

Given my background and the situations with both my career and the local school district, it would seem that becoming a substitute teacher is a no-brainer.

Would that it were that simple.

At the school where I’d student-taught and would later be hired full-time

When I was in grad school preparing to become a teacher, and then during the gap between getting certified and getting my own classroom, I subbed more times than I could possibly count. Over this three-year period (including student-teaching), I got more and better training in how to actually teach, how to be with students and how to handle chaos, than pretty much anything in my 2.5 years of formal teacher training.

By the end of that time, I was subbing daily, teachers were fighting to get me to cover their classes, and I enjoyed a ten-week maternity leave assignment that gave me a taste of having my own classroom, teaching the same students, the same subjects, day after day.

Granted, all that was over 25 years ago, but what I have been doing in that intervening time? Mostly working with more and more students (albeit in very different sorts of schools). Right now, the demand for subs here is so great that, for the first time in my life, I’m seeing signs in front of every school saying that they need subs (with a URL for more information). It’s maybe not the best money, but what other job allows you to work only on days you feel like it? And “work”? Back in the day, at least, the bulk of my subbing tasks could be captured in the following nutshell: take attendance, manage the hall pass, pass out the worksheet/quiz/test, press PLAY and STOP for the video.

In all fairness, I was good. And mostly, I enjoyed it. Yet here I am, over a year since my return to Columbia, and I haven’t so much as applied to become a sub. Why? Continue reading

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Some of My Best Friends…

The more I (hopefully) get back into blogging, the more I promote these posts on social media, the more an ancient bogeyman stirs: what I really think about conventional education, and people’s reactions to that, and the effects on our relationships.

I learned long, long ago that education is right up there with religion and politics as a sensitive topic; I’ve often half-joked that debating who’s in charge of the universe or the country is nothing compared to saying how you think young people should be raised.

Early in my Sudbury years I was possessed by a sort of missionary zeal —understandable, perhaps, given where I’d come from, but it cost me years of one of my closest friendships, with someone I’d known in my first professional job at a public high school. We eventually reconciled, thank goodness, but given that she died a few years after that, my relief is tempered by a haunting sense of what was lost, what might have been.

In part due to this experience, I’ve learned over the years to temper that youthful zeal, to view things from a broader, more realistic perspective. It’s brought considerable relief to realize that I don’t have to, can’t, and shouldn’t tell anyone else what form of education is best for their family at any given moment. I will never know enough, the complexity and nuance are too great, and besides, the freedom I want to put at the heart of learning prevents me from constraining others’ choices.

And yet… Continue reading


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Public Daydreaming

Regarding my work, I’m starting to suspect that waiting until I have some clue what I’m doing may not be the way to get things moving. I don’t want to work a job that I only do for the money — I know this. As for what I do want, where my passions might possibly intersect with income-generating activity, lately that seems to fall into three categories… Continue reading


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True or False: I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

I don’t want to do a damn thing today.

That might not be entirely true.

I won’t lie about this: there are parts of being unemployed that I really, really like. Being able to get enough sleep, driving/leaving home a lot less, abundant quiet, more time to read and write and run, vastly more flexibility in my non-schedule. Basically, I’m enjoying some rough equivalent of retirement while I’m still young enough not to have age interfere with the enjoyment. Even my currently minimal income, while not pleasant, is totally in keeping with this premature retirement story.

Yet my current situation is far from viable Continue reading

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What’s the Deal?

Well, for all that outpouring of words this past January, my resolve to resurrect this blog petered out pretty quickly.

I can explain. At least a little.

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Doing Nothing: A Love-Hate Relationship

So much in this country and world is so seriously screwed up — but what am I doing about it, apart from sitting in comfort on my privileged posterior, intermittently complaining, occasionally feeling guilty? Like most, I spend so much of my time on trivial nonsense, willfully blinding myself to my outrageous lack of real contributions (out of self-protection? I don’t know, does the reason really matter?). I don’t want this post, this blog, to remain yet another exercise in self-flagellation (rationalization/consolation). I am tired of thinking (talking/writing) but not truly acting, stopping instead at the point of feeling soothed that, golly, I sure have my heart in the right place, huh? 

But how do I avoid once again falling short? How can I (finally!) make the leap from good intentions to sustained (and sustainable) action? I still have bills to pay, and limited time and other resources. I still have no idea where to begin or how to move forward.

At the same time, I have to confess Continue reading

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Much To-Do About Nothing

Words, words, words
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?

Like Eliza, I sometimes get sick of words — more specifically, my own; more specifically still, the fact that when it comes to what I imagine as my “mission,” I feel frequently and endlessly stuck in a swamp of my own verbiage. 

Partly, I think, this reflects the challenge of carving out any sort of time for any new venture — or even oases of sanity — in a world that doesn’t much support dreaming and remaking. Yet even when I’ve found myself with extended time to play and explore, I feel stymied by an inertia whose roots extend far deeper than distraction. 

Basically, I‘m butting heads with an overabundance of options and no clear sense of direction, compounded by a touch of imposter syndrome.

There are even myriad tracks within the countless options! Continue reading

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