Sunday, October 13: I start my first morning in Highland County with unease. I am a person who rarely dreams, or at least I never remember my dreams, so to have two quite disturbing ones in two nights tells me something is really upsetting me. This time, in my dream, I went to my class with all the cheating Saudis and there were a lot of strangers in the class, along with my regular students. I kept telling them to please leave my class. These interlopers left at my request, but as soon as I turned my back, other strangers mysteriously appeared. I couldn’t get rid of them; they kept multiplying like mosquitoes on a summer day. Finally, I asked, what are you doing in here? I saw they each had a small pad of paper, and were questioning my students about every complaint they had about me and taking notes. It was like a sting operation in my classroom.
It’s so strange. I’ve never had any students complain about me as a teacher. Granted, I’ve only been teaching since I went to Korea in March 2010, so it hasn’t been a long career for me. I taught English at Bethel High School in Hampton, Virginia right after graduating from the College of William and Mary in December 1978, but I only lasted one semester. I had huge discipline problems; I even had one fat black girl knock me down! I hated teaching so much, especially because of the amount of work involved for the pay I received, and because of the classroom management and discipline issues, that I finished that semester and swore I would never teach again.
I kept my word all these years, until 2010. But after getting my Master’s in International Commerce and Policy in May of 2008 (another useless degree to add to my already useless B.A. in English), I applied for 250 jobs; I only got 5 interviews and no job. I believe to this day my inability to get a job in the low-paying field of international development is because of my age, and because I was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. When no one in the U.S. would hire me, at least Korea did, and then Oman followed. I resorted to teaching again, though I still had a bad taste in my mouth even 32 years after my high school teaching experience.
In Korea, I taught little children, and though they were rowdy, they weren’t rude; neither did they have a sense of entitlement. In Oman, the girls I taught were problematic, because they were immature and not serious students. They were always talking in class, and cheating was an issue. However, even though I called them on these issues many times, they never complained about me to the administration. It often happened at the University that students would go in mass to complain about a teacher, and that teacher often didn’t get his or her contract renewed. In the Gulf, students have great clout, and teachers are not respected. The administration does not back up the teachers.
So here these Saudis are in America, and acting in the same irresponsible and entitled way, and thinking they can get away with what they do in their own country. Frankly, it makes me sick. I have come to realize I genuinely dislike these students, and thus it is time for me to get out of teaching. At least as long as the makeup of my classes is mostly Saudi Arabians, I just can’t do it any more. An abysmal paycheck doesn’t compensate me for putting up with these students or for the amount of work I have to do outside of class in preparation, marking and administrative tasks.
I’ve decided that I will cut back to maybe one class next semester; I’ll spend the rest of my time looking for another job, finishing my novel, and writing travel essays. I’m not sure what else I will do, but I must get out of teaching for so little pay. Because of the demands of my job, I barely have a moment to myself to do the things I love. Whatever job I have, I want to leave it behind when I go home, so I can devote my free time to my passions.
The things I love are these: photography, writing and traveling. I need to find a way to live my passion. It’s taken me a long time to even find my passion, and now that I’ve found it, I want to live it.
So here, in Highland County, I start off the day having coffee and breakfast with Annette and Dan in their home. Annette doesn’t feel like going out on a photography excursion because of the dreary day; I’m not thrilled about the weather either, but I’m only here for a day, so it’s either now or at some distant future date. So, I take a drive all over Highland County, following a map Annette has drawn for me, and explore the mountains and the farmland.
I drive along Bluegrass Valley Road and through the town of Bluegrass.
I stop at the Ginseng Mountain Store, where the owner gives me sample of grass-fed lamb and shows me the little apartment they rent for $99 for two people. It has a full kitchen, nice bathroom and screened-in porch.
I stop in Monterey for lunch at Mountain Hideaway Restaurant and Tavern, where I eat a huge plate of nachos. The place doesn’t have much in the way of atmosphere, but I am starving, and the food serves its purpose. 🙂
In Monterey, I find some houses are already decked out for Halloween.
I make multiple stops along the road to take pictures. Often there is no place to pull over along the two-lane roads, so I look in both directions as far as I can see, and if I can’t see any cars, I hop out of the car to take pictures, leaving my car running in the middle of the road. The fall colors are beautiful, and I think the fog makes the photos atmospheric. Not quite what I wished for, but here’s my day, in all its foggy glory.
After all this driving, I head south to the Homestead at Hot Springs. More to follow…