Doubts, Part One

Just as a person has to sleep after a long day of work, I wonder if I’m just tired. I have been extremely productive in the last six-and-a-half years, since the beginning of 2004, taking on teaching projects, writing projects, personal projects, and social justice projects that have almost swallowed me whole. And now I am tired. There’s not much left of me— of me. All I seem to remember how to do is work. It’s probably my main reason for naming this blog “Pack Mule for the New School.” But what troubles me more than being tired is the doubt that I am having about the value of the work I have done.

From 2003 through 2010, I have taught high school as a full-time job, including coordinating the required features of the creative writing program there: sponsoring the literary magazine, organizing an annual poetry reading, developing and directing an annual sketch comedy show, coordinating our place in two annual school-wide performances, as well as organizing a plethora of student projects. In 2005, we did the Taking the Time book on Civil Rights history, and in 2007, we did the Our Hope anthology, both with separate SPLC Teaching Tolerance grants. In 2008, we did the More Than a Century Later book on the state constitution, and for two years after Our Hope, we did the Writing Our Hope national writing project that put out four issues. I also chartered the school’s chapter of the National English Honor Society in 2005, and sponsored it for three years; I founded a Film Club and have sponsored it for the last four years; I have been the faculty rep to the PTA for the last five or six years; and I did the school yearbook for the last two years. I was on our school’s SACS accreditation effort a few years ago, too. Last year, I created an ongoing online arts-focused school newspaper called Newsprung, with a Gannett Foundation grant, and was project chair and wrote the narratives for a multi-million dollar federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant for our school, which we still don’t know if we will receive.

And that’s just the main points in my teaching work. In that same period of time — 2004 until 2010 — I started and finished my teaching certificate, and started and finished a Master of Liberal Arts degree. I also wrote two full-length now-published books — I Just Make People Up and The Life and Poetry of John Beecher — and acted as general editor for the Treasuring Alabama’s Black Belt curriculum guide. In addition to those projects, since 2007 I have been working on the book of Southern memoirs that was originally titled Aftermath, and this year I have been writing a curriculum guide for a book on Alabama food traditions; both of them are due on October 1st, in about eight weeks. Last year, I also did this Arts Teacher Fellowship from the Surdna Foundation, too, and it took a lot of time and energy for the travels, blogs, and podcasts that it entailed. Finally, in the last few years, I have made presentations on writing conference panels in Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Louisville.

And if those things weren’t enough to keep a man busy, I haven’t begun to mention my personal life over the last six years. In that same time period, my wife and I have had two kids — one in 2005 and another in 2008. In 2008, we also sold our house just as the housing crisis began, and had to move into an apartment (with a newborn) for five months while the house we bought was renovated completely. So two kids, two moves, and one home renovation later . . . we’re still married and doing fine.

That’s hitting the high points, without even going into the social justice projects I have worked on in recent years, like the helping to organize the Montgomery Children’s Walk in 2005, the Civil Rights Education Summit in 2007, and the Independent Lens film series in 2006-2007.

I’m tired. So tired in fact that I am going to write more later . . .

*You ought to read “Doubts, Part Two” next.

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