The first week of the new year is always a tough week for me. Everyone is either full of "piss and vinegar" as my Grandmother used to say, or in deep dark depression. The behaviors by many students are what people, not just teachers consider "interesting" or completely off the wall. Either way it marks the beginning of the Pupil Evaluation Team (PET) season which will last through mid May.
It also marks the last three weeks of the second quarter when teachers, parents, administrators and students to realize which students are going to fail and are going to need extra services to "make it". This is the time when we all start looking at the RTI process and much more closely at eligibility for Special Education services for those students. So I have been gearing up for all that activity and also planning for a big unit on Digital Safety and Digital Footprint to help my 7th graders understand their web presence better.
Hiveminder has been a big help in figuring out what I have to get done. Now I just have to find time and energy to get things done.
This meant that in addition to teaching three 90 minute blocks of resource room English Language Arts with its own challenges, I have had my firefighter hat on all week. Over the course of the week I assisted in putting out some major forest fires and a couple of brush fires for students on my caseload or in my classes, it seemed almost daily. From the time I usually got to school usually before 6:45 AM to when I left between 3:00 and 4:00 P.M. I was on screech and was totally drained. I got to the gym three times, but the days when leaving was closer to 4:00, I just don't bother.
When I finally sat down for the day after supper, I almost instantly fell asleep for an hour or two. I would wake up around 8:00 and then around 9:00 I trundled off to bed. So much for getting work done in the evenings (which is expected) last week.
Am I whining - yes on purpose. Being a teacher is not what most parents, administrators, business people or politicians see, it is much more stressful and not nearly as easy as they seem to believe.
What I have described is the reality for many teachers and is much worse for some. Teachers push ourselves hard to meet the needs of our students, parents and administrators, to the point where we exhaust ourselves mentally, which in my opinion is harder on you than physical exhaustion.
The next couple of months is the time of year that most teachers openly question why they continue to abuse themeslves this way. They ask why am I doing this and try to come up with ways to alleviate some of the stresses of teaching. Many find their answers in exercising more, trying to do less in the classroom (make things simpler if they do not have a canned curriculum), seeking assistance from peers or other places/people. Unfortunately, some (more than we want to admit) make poor choices with food or drink and others simply give up.
Teachers decide more often during the next couple of months to leave teaching forever when their contract is up.
Therefore, please watch out for your colleagues you believe may be/are having a difficult time and some that you don't think are, but if you look more closely are really having a super hard time in school over next few months. Offer them your support and guidance on how you make it through these tough months. Don't let them sit alone in their classrooms, feeling like they are on an island with no one to go to, talk with or that they are the only ones who have felt the way they are probably feeling.
Am I worried about myself as one of those teachers on an island - nope I already know what I am going to do and have a plan on how to survive the next few months:
- Talk openly with my family.
- Ask for help from my peers at school and discuss my frustrations and achievements with them.
- Say no more often.
- Don't sweat the small stuff that makes no sense, but just irks the hell out of you. Will it matter a year from now? If not let it go.
- Leave by 3:00 P.M. most days and limit the work that I bring home to what is necessary.
- Go to the gym immediately after school, even when I don't feel like it.
- Make time in the evening to sit and talk with my family.
- One evening on the weekend put away the computer and sit and watch a movie for entertainment purposes (Tonight I am going to watch Avatar).
- Force myself to not be a "teacher" 24/7.
Remember we have all been there at one point or another in our careers as teachers, how we help our colleagues during the these difficult times, will help determine in some ways the future of who teaches in our schools.
Think about it.