Random Events

I received the following job-posting yesterday afternoon. Leaving out the school and other details, I find the ambiguity of the position rather amusing:

Teaching responsibilities consist of U.S. history surv.eys (1500s-1877, 1877-present), Southern history, North Caro.lina history, Colonial Latin America, and courses in fields of expertise….This position will be linked with the Inter.national Studies Program. [School name] seeks applications from people representing diversity based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, ethnicity, religion, national origin, career and life experiences, socio-economic background, and geographic roots, as well as from members of the Reli.gious Society of Fri.ends.

The latter part is a fairly typical statement of diversity, just extended beyond what we usually see, but that combined with the job description which could basically read: “Candidate should specialize in all of North America for all time, but also have idiosyncratic knowledge of our state,” makes me laugh. I’d like to meet the ideal they have in mind.

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So I sent an email off to the cantor last week about G. She responded as I expected: I need to bluntly tell her I want no more contact whatsoever. Hinting at it doesn’t work, ignoring her doesn’t work. And she added the usual I’m being too nice when I need to think of myself and the pregnancy first. She also said to tell G that the synagogue can help her find appropriate help. If my telling her directly that I want no more emails, absolutely no phone calls, and no gifts doesn’t work, the rabbi and the cantor will step in. I was afraid I might sound crazy to the cantor, but she seemed completely unsurprised that G would act so strangely.

I always think it has to be my fault somehow when other people’s behavior makes me uncomfortable.

I’m a sympathetic person, which helps me be a good teacher. I’ve helped students who are pregnant, had a bad breakup, are struggling with classes, are sick, are lonely or are friendless get help, and I always find myself very concerned about them, but am so glad that I can defer to campus resources for undergraduates.  The boundaries for instructors and undergraduates are so clearly defined. I love that I know exactly when it’s not my place.

I think I must have inherited some trait from my father that makes me attractive to people who need help. He’s retired, but for thirty years taught the most profoundly behavior disordered teenagers in our half of the state. The program he taught in was supposed to be just for our city’s school district, but other districts without resources could send their students to him, and a hospital for mentally ill teenagers also happened to be close by. And when a kid got kicked out of every other classroom in that program, he or she (overwhelmingly he though) got to be with my dad. He was really the last resort. People used to ask him if he had any great “success” stories – if any of his students ever went on to college. He’d laugh and say he considered it a success if they never murdered or sexually assaulted anyone. His most triumphant cases could live in a halfway house and hold a menial job. He taught them to read job postings, shovel snow, and coached them on socially appropriate behavior. For example, if a girl smiles at you at the mall, that doesn’t mean you can follow her into the bathroom and drop your pants. Or, if you happen to be an autistic savant who memorizes long strings of numbers and one day when you’re in the school’s office you glimpse a list of staff phone numbers, you cannot call them all every day all day, even if it’s a weekend or a holiday and you miss school. Oh, and by the way, if someone is kind enough to give you a job shoveling their driveway, you only need to shovel their driveway, not their entire yard as well as all their neighbors’ yards and driveways.

I didn’t inherit his abilities, however. That’s probably not fair – he wasn’t born knowing how to help, he spent years learning. But I didn’t inherit the motivation to do it. I’m not suggesting at all that G is that extreme, but my dad is a magnet for any even mildly disordered person. I’m sure that if they were to meet, within 5 minutes, totally unprompted, she’d be telling him her entire life history. He would know what to say, though, and how to set boundaries. Strange, now I’m asking myself why I didn’t think to ask him about her. Probably because I still often forget he’s more than just my dad.

Emily will be here in half an hour to help me learn to crochet! I have one goal – a baby blanket.

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5 responses to “Random Events

  1. Beruriah, I am a magnet for people who need help too! I used to be quite decent (and patient) with them, but since my own troubles, all those people who used to lean on me, kind of faded away. Actually, it’s more like they bolted. I can’t really blame them, even the non-needy ones bolted too. It sounds like your Dad provided a wonderful service for these kids. I don’t think I could manage someone with as many troubles as that. It’s weird for me, now that I’m the messed up one–I find myself feeling uncomfortable in this new role. But the few people who stuck around and are supportive, have made a huge difference to me. Not to mention all the ladies in blogland!

    Hope the crocheting is fun. I haven’t started yet, but I did pull out a few books I bought on knitting–now I just have to get some needles and wool!

  2. Good luck on the crocheting, I’d love to do it but don’t have the patience. I just love teachers like you dad. Too often the teachers of the gifted are rewarded, but the real teachers are the ones like your father who work with those who truly need help. About attracting nutjobs.. I’m with Meg. I used to, but now those nutjobs that know about the loss have bolted. Which is nice. Dh always jokes though that if there is a crazy person in a stone’s throw, he/she will come over to me and chat. He jokes that when he is with me, I always seem to pick the “chattiest” checkout clerk. I think we (me, you , and apparently meg too) may smile or just have a look about us that says, “I understand”. We are sort of like the poem about the Statue of Liberty,.. the name escapes me, but we are sort of a welcoming beacon for crazies.

  3. Good luck dealing with G. It’s good that your cantor was so supportive. I still worry a little bit, but if they are willing to step in right away, it should be ok.

    I have also seen job postings calling for everything and then some in my field. Personally, I think people who write these adds are a little high.

  4. I’m glad your cantor was helpful, not just for the actual help he offered, but also the mental validation involved. Whenever someone acts a little nutty around me, I find myself wondering, is it just my perception? And when others notice and really help me with them, I can’t tell you the relief I feel.

    I’m sure the synagogue will help you to deal with her.

  5. Wow, Noth Caro.lina history and colonial Latin America? They really do want you to be able to teach the whole western hemisphere for all time!

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