The Day Job is Calling

As most people know, I am a high school photography teacher.  It was never my intent.   I enjoyed teaching after graduate school but never wanted to “deal” with teenagers and definitely did not intend ever to have a steady job.  Then, there was no other way but one way to support myself and that way fell into my lap.   I became a high school photography teacher and it became my day job.  Now, when I think of the term day job, I think of the many manual labor, demeaning low paying jobs I have had over the years and the high school teaching job does not fit into that description.  Still I go to it everyday during the school year for eleven hours each day door to door.  I ride my bike there and that gives me a way to re-enter my home and studio with the day job left behind.  I am able to live in two different worlds pretty successfully;  in fact I enjoy both immensely.  The teenagers I have taught have been rewarding, frustrating, sometimes sad, tons of fun. They keep me young in my 21st year of teaching high school.  I am good at it, though my students (some of them anyway) might say different.   But in the summer, as soon as school is out, I have almost ten consecutive weeks to work in my studio on anything I want. I get a rhythm and because I live and work in the same place, I get a lot done.   Summer is a blissful time, I go to bed late, take a catnap in the afternoon, work in the studio or go on a road trip and take pictures.  It’s a beautiful life.   And then, the day job calls out from it’s slumbering heap in the corner, and I can’t believe summer is  over.  True,  in some ways I am grateful for the discipline of the day job.  It keeps me honest, in a routine that is healthy out of necessity.  I become  responsible, eat well, do yoga and go to bed early.

I will be the first to admit I get a thrill out of my day job.  After all, teaching is fun and  I really  enjoy turning teenagers onto photography.  They are not afraid to make mistakes and they love to express themselves, to be heard.  So as I begin another year of teaching, I am looking for ways to merge both lives.  I intend this year to loosen my grip on myself;  enjoy every minute more and let both types of work, teaching and making photographs flow freely.  I am continuing to work with color negative film in the  4 x 5 inch pinhole camera.  I give you two here both made in the Catskills, New York State, this summer.  More to come as I finish processing.


5 thoughts on “The Day Job is Calling

  1. Sharon

    Janet: this is great. Seems like a good balance. I love teaching teenagers too (writing, for me) and I agree with your description of how open they are to new things, and hue they so want to be heard. I didn’t know you were teaching for that long. Enjoy the new school year!

  2. Nina Nachtigall

    Wonderful, Janet. Troy will be in Seattle from the 14th to the 20th at the ISWC conventional. He’d like to get in touch.

  3. Sally

    I like the way you describe our day jobs as “a slumbering heap in the corner.” I didn’t want this beautiful summer to end. Every year I think how perfect it would be if summer went from June thru September. One day I’ll clean up that heap but I feel as you do that the time we spend with students is full of amazing revelations and touching moments. It keeps me honest and it helps me learn.
    Last week they put a boy in my class who failed it last spring. He was utterly uninterested in doing anything but showing up late and just generally disrupting things. He’s tough, gang affiliated and headed down a long troubled road.
    I was irritated, thinking of the thoughtless way the counselor had placed him in my class. “Okay. Whatever. It seems kind of sad that he’ll be put in the position of failing all over again. Couldn’t they have found something that he might connect with?”
    At the end of the period while kids crowded out the door, he slid over to me, pulled out his phone and said, “Can I show you the pictures I shot last summer?” “Those are wonderful,” I said. And, he beamed like a happy 10 year old. Now if that doesn’t make your heart melt…

  4. Barbara Hume

    Hello Janet, I so enjoyed reading your reflections on beginning your “day job” once again this school year. Ditto on “merging” the two lives we teachers live. I’m looking for more movement in my teaching and plan to incorporate more of my dance background at odd moments during a language arts class to reinvigorate the mind and body to new possibilities. The drama students are natural movers and long to experience the visceral rewards of movement patterns. Thanks for reminding me how to “merge” my day job with my passion for the arts. Let the music play on! Yours, Barbara Hume


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