GingerSass

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Burnt out

It’s been about a week since I’ve posted on here, successfully defeating my goal of blogging every day this year. The truth is 365 blog posts is A LOT, and it’s really easy to be overwhelmed by 365 of anything. For a brief moment yesterday, I even began to consider shutting down my blog.

Then, today, it hit me.

I’m not overwhelmed by my blog or my failed commitment to write something every day of 2014. I’m facing what so many educators– and students– are facing at this time of the school year: I’m burnt out.

It’s been a long first year of teaching, filled with so many changes in both my personal life and the educational world. I have my first “big girl job.” I’m engaged. I’m planning a wedding. V & I are vaguely looking into moving in together somewhere. I have standardized testing scores to anxiously await, district mandated writing prompts and reading comprehension tests every few weeks, rotating schedules to remember, and so much more. Like I said a few months ago, I don’t do enough. Add over 10 snow days to this school year and being the last school in the state to close and it’s an especially rough May– usually at this time of the school year, teachers and students can say they only have a few weeks left. We have 2 months left.

A few days ago, a list of 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout was floating around the internet. The list suggests things like having fun with students, redecorating, and taking care of your own health, just to name a few. I don’t think the creator of this list has been in a classroom recently, as most of the list seems unrealistic.

Instead, I remind myself to “keep calm and carry on,” a trite phrase I once despised. Even though I’m not the most religious person, I find myself silently reciting the Serenity Prayer when I find myself in a moment of frustration or disbelief.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

A year ago this face was a lot less burnt out.

A year ago this face was a lot less tired.

Tonight, I found myself reflecting on why I became a teacher, and pondering  what point I stopped referring to myself as an educator. A year ago, I had the honor of being considered as one of the speakers at the convocation ceremony for my Masters degree. I wrote a speech on why I don’t identify as a teacher, but an educator. My identity has slipped into teacher mode amongst SGOs, data, and talk of tenure, and I regret that. So, for the remainder of the school year, I’m going to do what I set out to do a year ago: be an educator, not a teacher. I want to change the world some how, some way, and I just needed a little reminder that this is a possibility.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day. To the educators out there, both in and out of the classroom, I appreciate you.

Covering

Today’s prompt (optional, as always) is a little something I’m calling “Twenty Questions.” The idea is to write a poem in which every sentence, except for the last one, is in the form of a question. That’s it! It can be as long or short as you like. 

Today is a half day before Spring Break being used to replace one of our snow days from this winter. There aren’t many students in school, and a lot of teachers are out as well so I’m currently covering a class. The following poem stems from the questions I’ve heard in class.

1942: Worthington (Ohio) High School- Don O'Brien https://flic.kr/p/8qDT5E

1942: Worthington (Ohio) High School- Don O’Brien
https://flic.kr/p/8qDT5E

Covering

“Yo, did you save that snap chat son?”
“What is this?”
“What do you think it is, fool?”
“Excuse me, can I go to the bathroom?”
“Miss? May I go to the library?”
“Are you a teacher sub? Or a sub sub?”
“Why?”
“Anyone got a charger?”
“Wait… can I charge my phone, Miss?”
“Are you writing that down? I didn’t mean it, alright?”
“Want to see my grades?”
“Can y’all just shut up? Can’t a girl do her damn work?”
“Yo, why you so upset, Mami?”
“Who you calling Mami?”
“Miss, you hear EVERYTHING, do you have kids?”
“How old are you?”
“Where’s the teacher?”
“How did you find out?”
“Yo, anyone else buggin’ that we’re here?”
“Hey! Can I see the answers?”
Class dismissed.

 

I don’t do enough.

This is my current workday schedule. As implied by recent educational developments and discussions, I don’t do enough to get my students where they need to be.

4 AM – wake up, get dressed
4:30 AM – eat breakfast
5 AM – do my hair and makeup
5:30 AM – leave the house
6 AM – arrive at school
6:05 AM – put my bags down at my work station
6:15 AM – make copies for each of my classes
6:30 AM – set up each of my 4 shared classrooms 
7:20 AM – stand in the hallway and greet students
7:27 AM – 2:38 PM – follow the following schedule, depending on what day it is, rotating class days and periods everyday, 5 days a week*

sched

*During hall duties I am often asked to cover other classes since we have a sub shortage in our district. During Common Planning, I am either grading or developing curriculum with my colleagues. More times than not, we use this time to grade a myriad of state and district mandated common assessments we are required to give our students during the 3-4 days a week we see them as a result of our schedule. During my prep period, I am either grading, developing work for my students, planning lessons, calling parents and guardians, having meetings with supervisors, or running around the school to get questions answered for myself, my students, or their parents/ guardians.

2:28- 4-4:30 PM –

Mondays: staff meeting, department meeting, or professional development
Tuesdays: Office Hours until 3:20, then grading until 4:30
Wednesdays & Thursdays: grading/ record keeping/ organizational teaching tasks/ photocopying until 4:30 (if I’m lucky)
(Fridays I force myself to leave by 3, unless there’s a school event my students are involved with that I wish to attend. Then I may be at school until 8 or 9.)

Also, on any given night, I’m usually up until 10 or 11 grading, writing lessons for my 3 different class sections (in 2 weeks my schedule changes for the 2nd semester and I get to plan for 4 completely different classes and grade levels!), preparing material for class, researching articles to use in class, thinking of ways to engage my students, and thinking/ worrying about my students and their home lives.

I wouldn’t mind the fact that the governor wants to extend the school day and year, except he thinks I’m not doing my job, and that teaching is cozy, easy work. If you want to extend our hours, so be it– just extend our benefits and salaries as well. I’m in one of the lower paying districts in NJ in comparison to my equivalents in other parts of the state, and I highly doubt the governor is willing to compensate for me adding another two hours to my work day. I’m emotionally and physically drained more often than not. I love teaching, and there’s a reason I entered this profession. Now, I’m second guessing what this profession is turning into.

I also question what will happen to my school community. Some of my students have 2 or 3 jobs after school so that they can support their families. Other students are expected home by 3 in order to pick up and/ or care for their younger siblings and, in some cases, their own children. Some teachers work part time at second jobs in order to make ends meet. Other teachers are spending a fortune on childcare and dropping off their kids before the sun rises in the morning and picking them up at 5 or 6 in the evening, when most daycare centers close.

I went into teaching because I wanted to make a difference. I went into teaching to change lives and educate the world’s future. I went into the education field to change– and save– lives. Between “teaching to the test” and trying to meet student growth objectives, somewhere the desire and yearning for educational and personal growth and development has been forgotten.

It’s okay though, I shouldn’t be worrying about any of this. I don’t have a right to, as, when it comes to teaching, I don’t do enough.