Saturday, August 6, 2011

Old Synapses ~ New Connections

We all know that as we get older we become set in our ways. That’s certainly been true for me, although as I continue to learn about myself, I see that I’ve always been routine oriented. I remember as a child making up a schedule for my summer days: art at 9, snack at 10, TV at 11.

One of the many aspects I’ve loved about going back to teaching these past five years has been the routine: Math at 9, snack at 10, Reading at 11, so when my principal asked me to become Interim Program Administrator for our Primary School (primarily), the change in routine was at the top of my list of concerns.

For five years, I drove to work at the same time and drove home at the same time. Although I had different students, they were the same age and the curriculum was pretty much the same. Although my team members changed some, others stayed the same. I was happy, productive, and relatively successful.

Then came change and Holy Terwillikers has it been stressful! I no longer have a work home as I’m functioning out of two offices and a cloth bag. I’ve lost my tool box and haven’t created a new one. I don’t know how to use the office phones, which doesn’t really matter as I don’t know whom to call for what anyway. in addition, I don’t know how to put out the fires or even where they are or what caused them to begin with.

I have to admit that I took the position mostly for the money, not only for now but because it will add significantly to my retirement. In spite of that, I want to do a good job. I want to be helpful and add to the good of the cause. But other than those two very important reasons, I couldn’t think of any other justification for taking this new job.  I'm no longer climbing the ladder to success.  The rungs are too old and rusty (or perhaps the problem is that they are too slick and new) and I'm afraid of heights.  And so, I wondered if I'd made a big mistake.

But then I remembered synapses. Not long ago I read somewhere (not surprisingly I can’t recall where) that one reason older people lose mental functioning is because they become so set in their ways, so routine oriented, they are no longer making new synapse connections.

This past week, I’ve screwed up and told people wrong and looked stupid and said I don’t know. I’ve gotten lost and said I’m sorry and made mistakes and wondered once again about the Peter Principle, especially apropos to my situation as my very popular predecessor’s name is Pete.

But the good news is that I’m feeling a few synapses begin to wake up from their well-deserved five-year-nap, stretching and scratching their sleepy heads. They’re a little pissy and put out, needing a caffeine boost, but last I heard, they’re in their tiny cerebral Corolla, careening to the firing range, after stopping for a 12 pack of Diet Cokes.

I’ll let you know how they do.  That's if I can remember.

25 comments:

Olga said...

Oh, I always hate to see a good teacher go to the dark side.
But congratulations anyway. I'm quite sure you will be at the top of that learning curve in no time.

Friko said...

Oh dear, Marcia, tat's the trouble when you get to around eighty, you hardly know your own name anymore, much less the way home.

Joking apart, I feel happiest when everyday routine runs smooth and even, because I then have enough firepower to attend to new and different leisure horizons.

Good luck with the new job, you'll have it knocked into shape in no time, knowing you. Look forward to hearing about your wrestling techniques.

marciamayo said...

Olga, several of my teacher friends have mentioned the dark side. Friko, my wrestling skills have never been good and they certainly aren't going to get any better now.

Kate said...

It's not the synapses; it's the diet soda!
Go get 'em, Marcia! and enjoy it...

marciamayo said...

Kate, I can live without the synapses. Not so the Diet Coke.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

Very important to keep the brain functioning. That's why I keep going to school. The last few professors I have had have been very computer savvy (they are much younger than me). Their savvy forced me to learn many new things.

Otherwise I stick to routine. That's how I get anything done and manage to live with an 83-year old who is losing his hearing as well as his way. Do you think shouting the same thing three times creates any new syapses? Dianne

paula devi said...

A trivial coment to start off: Just because you live in Atlanta you are not REQUIRED to drink any kind of Coca Cola (even if it supports my grandson).

Now for the real stuff. I am pround of you woman! Routines are so important to me as well and since I haven't been working for a few years it has really been hard to not have an "imposed" daily routine.

That being said, change is hard for all of us. I'm not sure it's age, since routine is so important for babies and children as well. I know it takes time to get used to new phone systems, not have have all the information in the palm of your hand and at your fingertips - in short to "own" what you do. It takes time to settle in and one of the best mind imprints come from making those beginners mistakes.

Hey teacher, isn't it called a learning curve? Challange is good, so healthy, keep us fresh. Be easy on yourself and enjoy the ride. You are already successful, now you will be successful at something else.

As for my lack of routine - it really created too many senior moments so I will be job searching as soon as we get home to Fla. I so much look forward to that challange and (hopefully) my ability to jump back in.

Making up a new routine will be good for both of us. When we do get to meet on my next trip to Atlanta (see myreply to your last comment on my blog) we will be able to follow the conversation so much better. (^-^)

Linda C said...

Congrats, Marcia, and good luck. Hope this experience "out of the classroom" will be a very positive one. I understand your situation because I also have my eye on retirement in the (not near enough) future and would do anything to help that retirement amount. At least you teach in Ga. and not in TN! However, I agree with you that we need to keep "growing" or we will just waste away. Hope to see you again this year.

Amy said...

I love it that you know the Peter Principle....you are doing a great job!

Tabouleh said...

Hi there... Even though I had become a follower of your blog some time ago, I never commented on your posts... so Hi and it is great to read a post that touches a chord... I am also a teacher who finds herself, after 8 years of establishing SEN departments, in a position where she is being told what to do and how it is done in an already established department... I just joined a school team two weeks ago and now find myself in a position I am not used to... I was so used to my routine starting programs, building systems and routines and now I must follow old established routines that are different than mine... my confidence plummeted and am finding myself unsure if I could do the job and do it well... but after reading your post it helped me see that I am not alone in this and that there is the motivation in me to learn new things and new routines... I might even have a few cents to share with the new team of my experiences and resources... Thank you for writing this post which I identify with.
Good luck with your new routine and position... the best teachers are the ones who doubt whether they will do a good job or not because that would help them to continue to learn and improve on their knowledge... so way to go!

marciamayo said...

Amy, I'm starting The Paris Wife as soon as I finish the one I'm reading on my Kindle. You'll get it back relatively soon. Thanks for lending it to me.

marciamayo said...

Tabouleh, I too have always enjoyed start ups more than already dones. I think some jobs are put in front of us to help us realize what we really are and are not good at. I also think we each find our own way in every job. Best of luck and email me (address on my blog) if you want to talk more.

cile said...

You are wonderful and brave, Marcia. This whole routine vs change challenge is facing many of us. I sometimes wonder if the expectation of routine when we age is not something we inherited by virtue of our parents example. Our parents...people who did not live as long and who were not expected to be wage earners as long as our generations. I love settling in myself but I hope I can learn to at least appreciate the unexpected, too. I suppose, if we fail at that at least we know in our hearts that we certainly vacation better as we age!

The learning curve you wrote so well about hit home. I have never felt so bad about the many mistakes I made in one day as I have in my new job although I don't think I've made anymore than I made at learning other jobs, really. Oy! One takes mistakes harder I think as we age that is why I recognize your bravery.

May you find great sense of accomplishment and reward in this new undertaking! (I must say, however, that I can't help but feel a wee bit sorry for those little ones who are not going to receive your devotions...) Onward and prosper!

Arkansas Patti said...

It is never easy being a new girl. You have to ask where the paper clips are.
However it is encouraging that your synapses are stretching and gaining strength. Any new activity makes a new set of unknown muscles sore. Guess that goes for synapses also.
I have no doubt that in no time your synapses will be ripped and rippling. Hang in.

Nance said...

Whatever it is, it's made your blogging absolutely stellar on this post. Must be just right!

Linda Myers said...

It's kind of like when I go to the gym after recovering from an injury. Day 1, elliptical trainer, 10 minutes, tired. Day 2, elliptical trainer, 11 minutes, not bad....Day 6, elliptical trainer 15 minutes, just fine, thanks. Physical synapses, maybe.

Keep it up! That way, when you're really retired, you'll have all that mental agility to use for your own enjoyment.

Brighid said...

Always thought I was gungho for change until my schedule got misplaced, not a pretty sight that!
I'm not a teacher, but was a dark sider for many years...and I too hate to see a good teacher go to the dark side.
Hope it all works out for you,and your sparking in comfort on all levels soon.

Jo Ann said...

I am a retired teacher, wannabe writer, and a struggling beginning blogger. I discovered your blog, which really makes me feel like an amateur! I, too, am exploring the multiply sides of aging,

Interestingly,unlike you, I have always resisted routine, not a good attribute for a teacher! I'm enjoying the freedom of retirement, but finding I have to exercise some discipline in order to accomplish even a few of the things I want to do with my time. I can see I've got to add reading your blog to my (ugh, I hate the word) routine!

Freda said...

You'll be setting up a whole new load of synapses connections over the next few weeks. Happy settling in!

Sightings said...

Holy Terwillikers? Haven't heard that one before. Where have I been?

I liked your explanation of your routine. I myself have spent half a century trying to DEVELOP a consistent and effective routine, and haven't been able to do it.

Btw, enjoyed reading abt. your meeting with Ronni ... and it sounds like you have a great son in law! (I'm still waiting for one.)

LC said...

I thonk I am in love with your slightly pissy but altogether feisty synapses!

LC said...

PS-- "thonk"? Guess my synapses need some Coke in order to handle proofreading--but no unleaded Coke for me please.

Wisewebwoman said...

What a powerhouse you are Marcia! I just love that you are taking it on the chin and finding your own way through the heavily trodden paths of those gone before. It can't be easy but if it makes your retirement life easier, all worth it.
You will stir and shake them.
XO
WWW

oklhdan said...

Good luck on your new endeavor! I'm sure you will shake things up and fire off a few synapses in the process!

Jenny Woolf said...

It's exercise for the brain, so yes, you're doing the right thing - but it hurts for a while. Good luck with the new job!