Saturday, October 5, 2013

Keep Calm and Do

 Katherine Sokolowski's recent "Rose Colored Glasses" slice has resonated with me this week. From her love your way through September lead to her commitment to a positive focus.
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


  1. I love this post, Lee Ann. I can't even quote one line because there are too many the resonated with me. You write what we all struggle with - September is a killer. I looked at my class yesterday and took a breath. I am beginning to see where we can go, but still a bit overwhelmed. :)

  2. Lee Ann -- You have a knack for always showing us how our best selves can be shown through our work.

    This year is a little different for me as I cycle through the last year at the school where I've served for 27 years. I have every intention of crossing the finish line at full speed. I'll admit that in other years I've sort of paced myself, conserving energy for third and fourth quarter, and putting things off for a better time.

    Not this year. This year I'm trying to do everything as expertly and efficiently as I can. The obstacles are plentiful, and they are looming larger this year. I have to deal with them head-on. If it becomes a war of attrition, the obstacles win. Time is on their side. So I have to go through them, over them, or around them. That's good for me.

    I don't know how it will work out, but this year everything is top priority. Everything is important -- every student, every colleague, every parent, every conference, every piece of written feedback, every interaction.

    I feel a blog post of my own coming on here. Once again, Lee Ann, you have inspired. Keep going. You matter, not only to the future princes and princesses of the Southeast but also to the tribal elders. Thank you.


  3. They say we read so that we know we're not alone, and this is so true of how I feel after reading your post, Lee Ann. Everything I've read here resonates with me, strange as it may seem coming from a teacher in a different country, in a different grade level. Our work is the same, though, and it's complex and important. Thanks for this post. It was good for me to read it.

  4. So very true all that you said-for me it has been such a different September-I loved September because of much of what you said. on the other time, I hardly had time to breathe! this September I am still volunteering about a day a week at my old school and it is nice to have that connection and have some time to view the world...