Saturday, January 10, 2015

The First Lesson is that Life Sucks

The first Noble Truth of Buddhism is that “Life is dukkha”, which is usually translated as “suffering”, although some teachers prefer the word “challenging”, which is more accurate. Dukkha really means “out of whack” or “unsatisfactory”. Besides those moments where there is serious pain or loss, there are things that you want that you don't have; there are things you have that you don't want. You have unpleasant physical feelings. Sometimes, we'll feel pangs of sorrow or worry or regret, even when life is going well.

On the whole, we don't like acknowledging this. We feel like it's a weakness to admit that we aren't really happy. Certainly, we find it unattractive or childish when others complain. We're taught to be strong and act like everything is o.k. One of the first lessons in Buddhism is that we have to stare our own suffering in the face if we are ever going to find the way to end it. Try meditating on just your own physical aches and pains – checking out all the places in your body that don't feel quite right at the moment. I did this once with the Tuesday night group, and I've never spent a more miserable time meditating. But Buddha insists that you face reality, and your own body is a good place to begin. One thing you notice besides the fact that you have a lot of places in your body that don't feel good is that these unpleasant feeling change, they ebb and flow, twist and pang, getter a little better and a little worse. The very fact you're always having to cope with the way life changes is a form of dukkha.

Mental suffering is even worse: We are trapped in an endless cycle of desires. Even when we get what we want, it's never enough – we'll want something more, or better, or crave it repeatedly. Even worse, we have a hard time letting go of thoughts that make us sad or angry – there just seems to be something about our brains that wants to hang onto those things. One theory is that we've evolved so that our memory records bad experiences so we can avoid them in the future. I know that one reason I keep turning over bad situations in my mind is I think that I will be able to defend myself better – but it never seems to happen that way.

I find it sort of ridiculous sometimes: One one level, I'm really quite happy with my life. I love my job; I'm happy in my home life. My kids are grown, so the tough job of getting them through adolescence is done and I can just enjoy their company. Yet, I also have a long list of complaints – the aches and pains of middle age, stressful situations come up at work that I worry and stew about, regrets from the past pop up in my head for no reason whatsoever, I worry about money even though we're getting along fine and have everything we need. I run into people that irritate me, or conversely, I worry that I've offended somebody accidentally. My life is great, but I still suffer from pain, anger, and, fear, and most of it is completely needless and self-induced.

Part of Buddhist practice is that we have to be aware of our suffering, accept it, live with it, and learn to let go of those thoughts and desires that cause us to suffer. I've just been listening to an audiobook of Jack Kornfield's Bringing Home the Dharma, where he tells how his teacher in Thailand used to send his monks right into situations that would cause them the most stress: The monk who was afraid of the dark would have to go meditate in the forest at night; the one afraid of public speaking who be required to give an extemporaneous dharma talk, and so on. And the point isn't to be mean, or even to force them to get over the fear, but to be mindful of what the stress does to body and mind. No matter where you start in Buddhist practice, the lesson is always about mindfulness. You learn to be in the present moment, even when the present moment sucks the big one.

The lesson is also always about compassion as well, because we become aware that if life is difficult for us, we realize also difficult for everyone else to one degree or another, and if we can remember that, it ought to make us a little kinder.

Thursday, January 01, 2015


I've been working on this topic for a while – at times abandoning it because it can be a depressing and emotionally-fraught thing to think about. But, with everyone out there making New Year's resolutions, this seems like a good time to post on it.

The way temptation works is pretty similar, no matter what the object – food, drink, smoke, video games, shopping – whatever the particular individual's weaknesses are. The want pops up in the mind – and the closer and more available the object is, the more often it will pop up in the mind. And you say “No”. Good for you. Then, it pops up again. “No.” And again, “No” Then, there comes a point that unless the object is completely out of reach, you're gonna cave. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating says that the average person makes 200 decisions a day about food, including each of those times we say “No.” His whole system is built around making it easier for the idea to not pop up, and for you to say “No.” when it does. The point is that so-called “will power” isn't just a matter of dropping a bad habit once, or limiting it to a reasonable level once, it means you have to do it over and over, maybe for a lifetime. It's a really boring and bleak way to have to live.

So, eventually, we will cave in to our desires. It takes something big and powerful for the desire to go away. I was a smoker for years, since I was a teenager. I continued to smoke as it fell out of fashion and smokers were shuffled into unpleasant corners, then to the cold outdoors. I continued to smoke while doctors gave me lectures every time I or either one of the kids had to go in for an upper respiratory infection. I tried to quit several times, but the reward of being a non-smoker just wasn't worth the misery of the nicotine fit. What finally got me to quit was that the smoker's cough became so severe that it interfered with my ability to teach – and that, I couldn't stand. I switched to nicotine gum, and later, lozenges and stayed on those for years and only finally quit them when I couldn't afford nicotine any longer.

In some ways, addictions are easier to kick than other bad habits, because the physical craving does go away eventually. (Although I still miss nicotine from time to time.) Food is probably the most difficult, because it's not a matter of getting something “bad” out of your life, but a complex set of choices that often has consequences for your social life and even your closest relationships. When you stop eating (or drinking) with someone, it creates a distance -- which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending. The alternative of sitting there with something permitted while everyone else indulges is uncomfortable, and probably not sustainable for long.

Other desires fall in between those two, but they still involve the same process of saying “No” to yourself repeatedly. You give yourself rules, limiting the tempting object to a certain time of day, or to a number of times a week. Or the ultimate in obsessive rule-making – the calorie count diet, which requires you to keep track of virtually every mouthful you eat. It does work to a certain extent, though; it's easier to postpone or limit a desired object than it is to deprive yourself forever. “I'll only drink after 7:00”; “I'll only spend $50.” “I can eat this and still be under my calorie limit.”

I don't think anybody has ever been successful at making changes when feeling bad about themselves. That's the reason shaming and nagging are so ineffective. It's better to start from a place of self-nurturing and to proceed with a commitment to mindfulness, rather than the tension of white knuckles and forcing yourself to “be good”. Will power works only in the short run; it's brittle and can be easily shattered. I don't know if metta and mindfulness are more effective as tools in reaching a specific goal, but I do know they are effective at creating more happiness in your life – which is pretty much the end of all those goals.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Nourishing Rage and Letting It Go

He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me – in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease.

This verse, at the very beginning of the Dharmapada, speaks of the very simple truth that if we bring to mind our wrongs and nourish our hurt and anger, we make ourselves miserable. This verse caught my attention a long time ago, because that is exactly what the mind does--it repeats the list of the wrongs someone else has done to us: “He did this. She did that.” followed by your favorite four-letter word for people you dislike. Like a bulldog with a bone, the mind chews on hurtful events over and over again.

Another Buddhist scripture speaks of revenge being like trying to throw a hot coal at an enemy, we burn ourselves before we even have a chance to hurt anyone else. Someone who says “I will never forgive!” is really saying that they will nurse their grudge internally and turn it around and around in their mind, making themselves feel terrible, while the object of their hatred is untouched – this is assuming one is not planning to break the law by doing violence, which leads to its own cycle of suffering.

Now, I'm not so perfect that I've never nursed a grievance. There's a huge amount of energy in anger and you feel like you're going to explode if you don't do something with it. I tend to talk about it until I run myself to a stop. During domestic arguments, I do housework --- the place is never so clean as when I'm rolling on a big internal rant. Ideally, one should use that energy to resolve that situation. I had something happen at work that was unjust, and I used that anger to solve the problem in a professional way, then poof! Anger all gone. Sometimes, I find what's under the anger is essentially anxiety – and knowing that doesn't make it go away necessarily, but it does give me a tool to fight it with. Because., as the Buddha makes clear, it's your own anger that's the real enemy, not the person you're raging about.

It's hard to let go. I sometimes hang on to the illusion that if I can only just explain how they hurt me, they'd understand and admit they were wrong. And let's be honest with ourselves: There is something pleasurable about the idea that we can have the last word and put someone in their place. We fantasize about it. I think that the next time a doctor asks me if I eat French fries when I've come in to have an ingrown toenail treated, I will tell him exactly what I think of him and his stereotyping, and I will stomp out of his office, numbed toe and all! (And I've eaten French fries less than a half-dozen times in the last ten years. Bastard!) Anyway, it's a very satisfying picture to think that you can let 'em have it and leave them speechless as you storm out the door.

But that usually doesn't happen. People aren't “put in their place”; they just defend and justify themselves, and do their best to put you in the wrong. The more you try it, the worse the conflict becomes. The more you justify yourself, the more ammunition you give to someone who wants to put you down. In my experience, the only way to really end any conflict is absence and stubborn silence. It takes two to fight. Nobody can keep a fight going by themselves, except in their own minds.

Probably the best tool in your arsenal for that mental fight is the practice of metta (loving-kindness) meditation. It really is the opposite of the “He wronged me” rant quoted from the Dharmapada. Instead what you do is say phrases like “May he be happy. May he be healthy. May he be safe. May he be at peace.” You can google metta and find a wide variation on the theme, but the basic idea is that we start with wishing ourselves well, then those who are close to us, then in ever-widening circles until we embrace the entire world with loving-kindness. But included in this practice are those wishes for those who “we have difficulty loving” or “a person that we find difficult”. If I stop and think about it, I don't really want anything bad to happen to a person who has made me angry. What I want, mostly, is for them to leave me alone – and if I keep stewing about what they've done, it's just a way of keeping them in my life. Ideally, one should be able to endure obnoxious people and still wish them well, but I'm not that saintly yet. One step at a time. :-)

Monday, December 22, 2014

'Tis the Season to Think About Generosity

I'm planning, eventually, to talk about the chapter of the Tao Te Ching that the Study Group is looking at each week, but at the moment, we are only a few weeks from the end of the book, and it makes sense to begin here when we are back at the beginning.

So, I'll begin at another kind of beginning, the first paramita, or perfection in Buddhism, which is dana or generosity. Virtually the first thing I was told when I went to my first daylong meditation at Sky Creek is that there is a dana bowl for the Center, and another one for the teacher, and that's the usual custom. The idea is that the dharma is priceless and no teacher can charge for it, so it is up to the conscience of the student to decide what he/she can pay for it. This kind of giving goes back to the earliest days of Buddhism.

Generosity is one of those universal virtues, praised by all the major religions, and part of the celebration of Christmas in this culture. The local schools here have been having canned food drives, bell-ringers stand with their red buckets in front of every major store, and a huge box collecting toys for poor children stands in the middle of my bank.

I have a hard time considering virtues in relation to myself, though. Immediately, I find myself thinking about all the ways I fall short, the many times when I have not been generous, kind, or what-have-you. I don't find that dwelling on all the things you ought to do and haven't done is really that productive. Probably, the truth is that, as in all other qualities, I am more generous than some people and less than others. One thing I have noticed about generous people is that they appear to do it without even stopping to think about it, as if there is a basic security there that they can give without causing themselves any hurt. So, I think the key to developing the virtue of generosity is cultivating a sense of abundance, realizing that we have enough and that giving away some of it will not deprive us of anything we really need.

One thing that stops a lot of us from giving is a defensive guard – we suspect we are being scammed by those cardboard “Will Work for Food” signs. Even reputable organizations can seem rapacious in their constant pleas for money. I once gave to Doctors Without Borders in the wake of a disaster, only to find myself on the receiving end of an avalanche of requests in the mail from all kinds of charities. Phone calls are even worse: I gave to breast cancer research, only to be hounded by people who said (wrongly) I hadn't paid them what I had pledged, and were pursuing me as relentlessly as a bill collector. Chico State calls me a few times a year, starting with the claim that they are just updating their records, and leading me through a series of interactions that end with me agreeing to pledge money, and feeling foolish at the way I've been manipulated. This kind of exchange takes the humanity out of charity. Instead of giving from a sense of compassion, I feel put upon and used.

Generosity is, of course, more than giving money to a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. It is, more than anything, a state of mind, a willingness to give something that all of us need, whether it is food, care, affection, information, time, or a place to sleep. It comes from a sense that we have enough, or that even if we are short now, that situation will change. Having the kind of job I do has been rather useful in teaching me the temporary nature of material circumstances. One month out of the year, I'm poor enough to qualify for government assistance. A few months later, I'm caught up and have enough extra to go on a weekend out-of-town. Today, I have enough and you don't and it won't hurt me to give; tomorrow our circumstances could be reversed, so it would be better for both of us to take care of each other. It comes out of our common humanity, and understanding of our human needs.

In the end, the whole point of Buddhism is the ending of suffering, then generosity is the first perfection because it ameliorates suffering at its most basic level, both in the needs met in the receiver and the attitude required from the giver.

"Even if a person throws the rinsings of a bowl or a cup into a village pool or pond, thinking, 'May whatever animals live here feed on this,' that would be a source of merit." --from the Sutta on Giving

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Little Bit About Meditation

When I tell people that I meditate, I get some strange reactions. Some people dismiss it as unprofitable navel-gazing and a waste of time. My devoutly Christian dentist gravely warned me about the spiritual dangers of “stopping thought” and “kandaluni”(I assume he meant kundalini.). When I told him I usually just focus on the breath he was much reassured: “Well, there's nothing wrong at all with deep breathing.” Mostly people find the idea of sitting on a cushion too daunting: “Oh, I can't do that. I can't concentrate that long. My mind wanders.”

The truth is, meditation is just not as complicated as all that. It's just going with the flow of the present moment. Musicians have told me something similar happens when they are into playing and going with the music. From what Jeff tells me, he experiences something like it while riding his motorcycle. You are totally “into” what you are doing. The object can be your breath, a mantra, an ideal, or just the field of sensation your body experiences. It can be devotional in nature, or you can just count your breaths up to ten over and over. Whatever the focus, you bring it to the front of your awareness. “Concentration” is really too harsh a word, because it implies a kind of force. As for “emptying your mind of thought”, that doesn't happen, so I don't know what folks are so worried about.

You don't even have to be sitting down. There are Buddhist schools where work is considered a meditation. (Remember Grasshopper on the show Kung Fu sweeping up the leaves in the temple? He was meditating.) You can also lay down or stand in a relaxed posture. The point is that you bring your mind into the present moment and try to keep it there.

This is where people think they are failing to do it right and that they aren't “good at meditating”. But the truth is that the moment when you are aware that your mind has drifted away from your object and has begun to tell its own story is very important. That awareness of what the mind is doing is part of the learning process. You just say to yourself “I'm thinking.”, and bring it back to the breath. And you do that again and again during the time allotted for meditation. Sometimes I'll give myself credit for having positive thoughts, if that's the case, although one should strive to observe without judgement.

It's strange that we think that meditation on a single object is “boring”, but if you pay attention to your thoughts you find that the mind throws up the same old stuff again and again. But for some reason, we aren't bored by that. Counting to ten is boring, but re-living that argument you had with someone last week for the hundredth time isn't boring. In fact, because the human mind is wired for self-protection, we think that if we keep re-living bad experiences, we'll be more ready to defend ourselves. Maybe we will, but in the meantime we're causing ourselves to suffer unnecessarily.

Meditation takes us out of all that, as well as out of worry about the future. It's just a tiny mini-break from the internal drama we create for ourselves. If I'm sleepy, I can exercise first or do walking meditation. There are times I'm just too wound up to meditate silently, and I try exercise or chanting. Sometimes I just have to cry. Other times I have to put my energy into resolving the situation that has me hung up – and there always is some kind of solution that will release that energy and return me to a calmer state. I don't worry much on the discipline aspect of it, as in setting a goal to meditate a certain amount of minutes at a certain time every day. I do the best I can with the circumstances I find myself in. Mornings are best, especially if my daughter isn't home and sleeping in my yoga room. If she is home, then I have to do things differently. One of the things that meditation teaches you is that life is constantly changing, and you're better off accepting that. And it's hard for everyone – I certainly don't have some sort of special talent or ability. But I do think it's worth the effort, because it gradually changes your attitudes even when you're not on the cushion.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Going to Sky Creek

The Sky Creek Dharma Center is supported by four different Buddhist sanghas that each have their own “take” on Buddhist thought and practice: The Monday night group is associated with Thich Nhat Hahn; the Tuesday night group does Vipassana meditation out of the Thai Forest Tradition and is associated with Spirit Rock Meditation Center; the Wednesday night group is Soto Zen and is associated with both Shasta Abbey in Redding and the Zen Center in San Francisco; and the Thursday night group calls itself “Dharma Buffet”, and I have read that it includes some Tibetan Buddhist practices. Since it was also once known as “Twenty-somethings”, I assume it attracts a somewhat younger crowd than the rest. I don't know precisely how the governance is done, but there is a board that has people from all four sanghas. Sky Creek also has a couple of non-Buddhist groups that meet there. I have recently been going to the Taoist Study group – not because of any philosophical preference, but simply because it's so much easier for me to drive to Chico on Sunday mornings as opposed to a weekday evening. We meditate 15 minutes, then discuss the Tao Te Ching for 45; early arrivers can do some Chi Gung practice to loosen up before meditation. I have been trying, as part of my practice, to learn deep listening, to focus on what others are saying rather than getting filled up with what I might want to say.

For me, the best part of Sky Creek, better than any particular group or teacher there, is just the center itself. It looks like it was, at one time, somebody's “dream house”, built on a generous bit of countryside, with a creek running through it. I feel happier and more peaceful just to set foot there. The thing I missed, more than anything during my years as a Baha'i was having a place, that was there set aside for spiritual purposes – and now, as a Buddhist, I have it. And it's not so very complicated; some of the groups I mention above aren't any bigger in terms of membership than our Baha'i community in Red Bluff was. But they do work together with each other, and very likely had some support from their larger affiliates – or maybe they were just lucky in having some well-to-do members. However they managed it, they own the property outright, and to me it's a little piece of heaven right outside Chico.

Exactly how I made the journey from unenrolled Baha'i to Buddhist is kind of hard to describe. It's something that I never thought would happen, and was not at all my intent when I began looking for local places where I might find a group to meditate with. These groups don't get hung up on what you believe, specifically. The only question I have been asked is whether or not I'm a beginner at meditation – because the practice is the center of what you're doing there, not teaching or reaffirming yourself in a particular set of propositions. Even textual study is done with a critical eye – it's not at all uncommon for me to hear someone say that they just flat disagree with a passage in the Tao Te Ching. But it would be wrong to call it irreverent – it's a very respectful atmosphere. Nobody bows as much as Buddhists do. Sometimes I'm not all that sure what we're bowing to – the room, the statues of the Buddhas, the current teacher, each other, or just to the East. In any case, I could have retained Baha'i belief and meditated with these folks, and no one would have had a problem with it because beliefs of any kind are rarely discussed.

Anyway, the final collapse of my attachment to Baha'u'llah paralleled the collapse of my marriage, and I have the feeling that the two were intertwined, but I cannot precisely place either one as cause or effect. All I know is that by time it was over, my dance with the Divine Beloved was done, and I had a real-life romance going on, and my spiritual life was more like calming water than a roaring fire. This isn't something that I could have chosen earlier, although I've long admired Buddhism for its extremely practical approach. It took a change in my emotional life before I could change my spiritual direction. Now I feel like enough time has gone by that I can comfortably change direction in my blog as well, maybe to make weekly posts on what I've been studying and/or thinking about. It would be nice to begin writing again.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Regular Teachers Probably Don't Know About Their Sub

1. I have to take my house phone and my cell phone with me when I take a bath, because I might miss work calls. I’ve missed work calls because I don’t answer my cell phone while I’m driving, until I can pull over. Sub clerks want the spot filled, and aren’t going to mess with voice mail unless I’m specifically asked for by the teacher.

2. I have to get up at 5 a.m. or even earlier in order to fit in all my morning routines, before I have to leave for work. Sometimes things get skimped on, like my exercise program or breakfast.

3. I have to prepare myself for work, scheduling all appointments around it, even when it turns out that no calls come.

4. If I don’t get a work call, I don’t get paid. That means I get a tiny paycheck in July, nothing in August, and another tiny paycheck in September. January and February are also pretty lean because of Christmas break. Easter break and testing week can also disrupt the cash flow, although not so severely because there is some variation between school districts.

5. Rising gas prices will influence how far I’m willing to drive for a half-day.

6. I can get work calls so late that I already think I have the day to myself, and then have to shift gears at the last minute.

7. I like being scheduled beforehand, but few teachers do that, even when their absence was for an event planned months ahead of time. If you really want me in your class, call me early, otherwise you’ll have whatever sub happens to be available that morning.

8. One of the many skills I’ve acquired is the ability to figure out where tiny country schools are in the middle of nowhere, and where the portable buildings are for alternative education. I’m never given a key for the latter and sometimes have to wait in the rain for the aide to arrive. (An umbrella is in my backpack at all times.)

9. Sometimes the first challenge of the day is figuring out the little “trick” to unlocking the door. Technical difficulties in general can make a good day go down the tubes in a hurry.

10. Once inside the classroom, my first challenge is locating the lesson plans -- which may be on the teacher’s desk, on the overhead projector, stuck with a magnet on the white board, or on any table in the room.

11. Subs should not be required to do morning yard duty. They need that time to look over the lesson plans, and simply find where materials are in an unfamiliar environment. Also, bear in mind, I won’t know I’m required to do morning yard duty until I find the lesson plans. On rare occasions that’s happened either just before or even after the morning bell rings.

12. Next is figuring out the roll procedure. Even if computers are used, it is helpful to give me two paper lists of the class -- one to take roll on if I can’t get the computer to work; one to make sure all kids returned after lunch. (Subs have tragically overlooked a missing child -- remember, we don’t know these kids by sight.) I try to make sure I know how many kids I have that day, but late arrivals and early departures can sometimes get that number a bit confused. Besides that, having to huddle behind a computer takes me out of my “power position” in front of the class, which may be crucial in establishing my authority. (Remember, these kids don’t believe I’m in charge until I convince them.)

12. Please leave the lists and signs I need for any sort of drill or emergency -- by the door or some other very obvious place. I will call the office at the first opportunity if I can’t find them. Because I don’t know the kids, this sort of preparedness is even more crucial for me than it is for you.

13. Please let me know where the extra pencils are, and where I can find the type of paper needed for all assignments ( or leave out a stack). I’ve never yet been in a class where somebody didn’t need a pencil, and if I have to hunt for one, I’m not teaching, and impaired in my ability to supervise the class.

14. Seating charts are hard to read when you‘re trying to find out the name of that kid with the big mouth in the middle of the math lesson; names on desks are better; name tags that I can actually put on the kids are best. Leaving me without anything that identifies the kids is not a nice thing to do.

15. When writing lesson plans, please be aware that I might not be familiar with the materials you use. If you just say “Kids do their Flapdoodle”, I might not know what the hell you’re talking about. If the kids know, please tell me where it is (in desks, or stacked on the counter, etc.); it reduces my anxiety level.

16. If a lesson is incomprehensible to me, or just isn’t working, I will do something different. Overplanning is better than under planning, but I can pull a lot out of my bag o’ tricks if I have to.

17. Because I’ve worked in a lot of Special Ed classes, I can usually distinguish between the kids who have learning disorders and kids who are just being obnoxious and react accordingly, but it’s nice if you give me a head’s up.

18. If kids are 2nd grade or younger, I will let them go to the bathroom, regardless of what your policy is. (One girl and one boy at a time.) Accidents at school are no fun for any of us. The system I like best for older kids is giving one “Potty pass” per day, then having them suffer a consequence in exchange for any more than that.

19. Do not tell your aide to take over the class for the day. It’s insulting, and I’d rather be teaching than just following an aide around. Your class can endure minor variations in the usual presentation for one day.

20. Please give me a list of which kids ride the bus, which get picked up and which go to SERFF (the after school program). It’s especially important to tell me if a child is forbidden to go with a non-custodial parent. Remember, I’ve just spent a day with these kids and I’m lucky if I’ve got their name memorized; I don’t know their parents either by name or by sight. I have to trust the kids for that.

21. I’m usually happy to do your correcting for you, except for writing (I don’t know what your rubric is), or math where there isn’t a key (quickly going down a row of math facts is fine, but I’m not going to calculate answers to a whole page of problems). I usually won’t stay past 3:30 to do this, unless we have an exceptionally good working relationship. If your kids have been really horrible and my nervous system is fried, I might not stay even if you want me to.

22. I will give you a report about behavior -- if your class is really terrible, I won’t sub for you again until next year. My favorite teachers are those who put the fear of dire consequences into the kids should they get their name written down by a sub.

23. I will have a bad attitude if I see:

A.) Lesson plans that include the insinuation that I’ll do nothing all day but show movies and play games if not warned otherwise.
B.) School policies that threaten to take you off the sub list if teachers complain about you. Your principal will get any warm body with a credential in there rather than teach all day, and we all know that, so cut the crap. Besides, I resent the implication that I won’t do a good job unless threatened.
C.) Principals that create menial jobs for subs to do in order to keep them around until 3:30, even when I’ve taught 4-hour Kindergarten or on minimum days. By this I don’t mean clearly useful things like correcting and copying, but I don’t appreciate being told to rearrange bookshelves, sweep floors, or to ask if I might “help” in other classes (teachers always say “no” in the afternoon, and are annoyed at the interruption) just so you can feel like you’ve gotten the last ounce of work out of me for your money. It’s not like we’re paid that extravagantly. Any principal that tries this, by the way, eventually gives it up as more trouble than it’s worth.

24. I will have a good attitude if I see:
A.) Principals and staff that say things like “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”
B.) Secretaries that tell me that teachers asked to have me back.
C.) Kids who clearly fear what I might tell the teacher because they know they’ll be in big trouble when she gets back, if I give a bad report.
D.) Well-written lesson plans with the materials logically organized, including any teacher’s manuals and keys I might need. The best arrangement I ever saw had materials in piles labeled “morning”, “after recess”, “after lunch”, and “extra”, including everything that was needed for me and the kids for each lesson.