I was talking to a friend the other day and she asked me how my year was going so far. I replied that – like always in September – I was exhausted, but I loved my class.
I love my classes too. For me, students are rarely the stressors at school. My students are the princes and princesses of Florida, future kings and queens of the Southeast. Students bring me joy.
The not so fun part of school is homework. I've had a lot of homework lately, teacher homework. I worked four of five days this week until late in the evening--nine o'clock most nights. If I'm being honest, there is good in that work too. I've learned a lot: voice commenting, standards-based grading, scope and sequence planning, and formative assessment have brought moments of epiphany. I love to learn. It energizes me. Good thing because in September the road of work is long and sometimes not well paved.
It is the time of year when we are getting classrooms up and running while gathering initial assessments and building rapport. I've been analyzing students' testing data, assessing initial written pieces, noticing students' needs, planning for instruction, creating a scope and sequence with colleagues, working on common assessment, and reading about Common Core implementations all the while trying to grade student work, give feedback to writers, input grades into the school's management system, connect with parents and manage the book tide that is my classroom library. And these are just my own concerns, not the concerns of the English department I'm charged with leading.
I plan for the work. We have lives outside of school (or we try to): families, dinners, chores, friends, parents, dogs and hobbies. When the work demands doing, hobbies get shelved. I stick closer to home, "go to ground" and lay low for a while. On a weekly basis I have to make sure I manage the home front on the weekends in a way that makes the school week work. I have to let go of pristine and perfect. The house might not be as clean as I'd like. I have to tackle laundry and errands, and spend Sunday afternoon cooking ahead, so that dinners are as easy as chop, combine and serve or "heat and eat." Pleasure reading slows down. Exercise sometimes gets sidelined, but it won't always.
Remembering the temporary, acknowledging the always or the lack of always-ness in any given work moment helps me focus on moving forward. I could choose to gripe and complain and seethe. I could collapse into Common Core crazy, but I won't. I won't make that choice. I won't allow myself to wallow in the what could be, the what was, or too much of the who or the why. I don't want to spend my time that way. As I struggle and have concerns, I voice them. I seek solutions in conversation not gossip or complaint. Sometimes I write my way through.
In data meetings with team members yesterday I voiced my concerns about time. It's an old story. Teachers need more time. We need time to teach and time to assess (as if the two are separate). We need time to plan and time to process. We need time to grade and time to confer. Time to call parents and time to organize the classroom. We need time if we are going to collaborate effectively. We need time to read and time to think and time to learn.
Maybe what we really need is help prioritizing. We don't have answers yet. We are going to have figure out the work-arounds, find the balance, as we do the work. Our work is weighty and in September we feel that weight.
Teachers have a new leader at school, several actually. We also have new standards and new expectations. Iron sharpens iron. I have time to do the work that is before me. I've run through September. I am stronger for it. I have time to run the race of the first marking period. I can. I will. There is no try, only do.
|Image from The People Project|