Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Life at Hollywood High

I have been particularly cautious about writing anything pertaining to my job, for obvious reasons. This is a public forum that can be read by anyone at all. Attacks on one's work have been and continue to be grounds for dismissal. So I begin this treatise by declaiming that this is in no way shape or form an attack on my job with Los Angeles Unified School District, or of Hollywood High School in general. What this entry is about is my struggle to further open myself up to the reality of my own relationship to fear and its impact on my health and well being. These are my perceptions.
From the moment I arrive at work, I am met with the massive, overwhelming energy of the adolescent. Within that energy, the most overt experience I have is being and feeling agressed upon. No one is doing this to me whatsoever. This is my contraction at the sensitivity I have to the level and size of this energy. It is simply enormous. I move through the hallways into the main office to sign in. There I meet an even more intense energy in a space the size of my small apartment. Dozens of harried teachers and administrators are working to sign in, solve the day's problems to come, and assign substitute teachers. To wade through this sea of humanity adds additional stress. By the time I walk to the Teacher's lounge, a mere hundred yards away, I have already experienced a concentrated human mass and heightened levels of psychic stress that most people do not experience in a single day. I have been at work for about five minutes.
The quad is rife with a sea of raving teens, each one keenly aware of the necessities of all that is external. One upmanship is the name of the game at 7:25AM, as the students gulp down a semblance of breakfast replete with processed white sugar and flour. Their systems are in the red zone already.
I have a half/hour before I go to class, the most peaceful time of the day as I am almost totally alone in the staff lounge. Then I go to class.
Each class is unique. Every school and teacher different. I happen to be in a very tight run room. Very tightly run. The teacher is excellent, as is the aide. The students are wonderful. I am lucky indeed. However, the intensity of the room is more than I am accustomed to. It matches the intensity of the quad and the office. I am now in a state of almost near panic as I attempt to breathe and take space into my body. Unfortunately, this is rarely possible in the room I currently work in. This is not an indictment of the room. It is excellent indeed. This is simply an attempt to understand why, by 8:00AM in the morning, I already am experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and coping difficulties. The combination of all these factors have made it almost impossible to experience real peace and serenity at my job. Of course, as my friend Ted says, that's why they call it a job. It's not called Happy Play Time for a reason. Still, each person is different, as is our own unique needs and levels of stress we can take. I have been in schools that are quite a bit calmer, and the class a little less intense. It is my feeling that, in order for me to survive in the district, I need to find an environment like that again. Or, I need to find a better way to cope with my current environment. Everyone is incredibly nice to me at work. I might find a calmer place but could end up with an abusive boss or co-workers. So much of this is finding stress coping skills within the situation at hand. Otherwise I won't be able to be of much help and service in the future.


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