Sunday, September 28, 2014

Getting a Handle on Teaching

The days since school started are flying by. I have been with my new class for almost twenty days. Amazing. I don't write much about my job. When I was trying to get back to work I did write about all interviews I had, and how much I wanted to get back into the full time work force. In October of 2012 I thanked my lucky stars as I was offered a long term position for the remainder of the week.

Fast forward to my third year in the same district teaching the same grade. They kept me and the time has flown. When I accepted the long term position I was dropping my three year old at preschool twice a week and saying goodbye to my kindergartener. Now my three year old is the kindergartener and my sweet girl is in second grade. So grown up and changing fast. My thoughts about both working full time and teaching have been all over the board since I returned to the field. I never talk about teaching, but I think I need to today.

Teaching is hard. This is not a complaint; just a fact folks. It is the type of job that forces you to be "on" all day. It does not matter how much sleep you had or if your mood is good. You are working with kids and they need you to be upbeat, knowledgeable, firm and loving. These things can be done simultaneously or in different combinations. For example: you are redirecting the same child who really struggles to pay attention and make good behavior choices. He or she has missed the directions and possibly half the lesson and needs something reexplained. So you smile (upbeat), redirect the behavior or provide a gently reminder (firm), encourage them or gently put your hand on their shoulder (loving), and finally teach what they missed, while assessing where they are academically (knowledgeable). Whew! That is just one student and one situation. There are probably twenty students in your room who need different combinations of knowledgeable, firm, loving, and upbeat all day. Teaching itself drains you of your energy and that is just the teaching part. There are lesson plans to write, assessments to grade, students to refer, experiments to set up, papers to copy, and entire weekends spent completing report cards to complete. (Join me some weekend when I spend my entire weekend reassessing work and writing thoughtful comments on each and every report card about how children are doing.)These things can not get done in the short prep time that we have each day. Where I work we get a 40 minute prep each day. No matter what I try to do that prep time flies by. Even something like a jammed copier can steal precious time. I try to get to school between 30 and 45 minutes before my student arrive. Arriving earlier is impossible because I need to drop my kids at Before Care. Some days I stay at work for an hour or an hour and a half. It depends on what my own kids have in the afternoons and evenings, but truthfully I could stay every day until 6:00 PM. There is no drama in that statement. It is so true. Unfortunately it would be impossible, so I do the best I can when I am there and bring some things home to do at night and on the weekend. So then after my own kids are in bed I am sitting on my couch at 8:00 at night trying to weed through what I need to do. There are nights I just can't do this.

This is the point where people point out that you have the summer off. Yes, we do have about eight weeks off during the summer, and I very much appreciate it. However, I will go out on a limb and say that teaching is a job where you are expected to do work during your own time because a daily forty minute prep isn't going to cut it.

Teaching is also a job that weighs on your mind all the time. Every weekend I bring things home that need to be done. Whether I tackle them Saturday or Sunday night, they are in my mind ALL WEEKEND. It isn't just work teachers think about either; they think about kids. Kids that they worry about and are unsure of how to reach.

So why don't I just do something else. Well, I think about it a lot. When the pressure's on, and another initiative is added to our plates, when MCAS scores come out. I really do think about it. However, teaching matters. It matters that I am upbeat and reassuring. It matters that students know I care about them and will help them when they have a question. It matters in ten years when kids look back and say a teacher made them feel good and taught them something they never forgot. It matters during Open House when my students from last year pop in to say hi and their parents do too. It reminds me that I can positively affect kids and their families. That they care enough about me to visit and reconnect, that our year was valuable, and our time mattered. I want to keep teaching, no matter how hard it is, because every single day with children matters.


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