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Day of Rest

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It’s Sunday night, and I feel great! I think to myself. Then I have to ask, Why? Uh oh, guilt sets in as I recognize my mindset. I feel great because I don’t have to teach tomorrow! What kind of a teacher would say that, even if only to herself? And here I am saying this publicly, that I am happy I am not teaching tomorrow.

This is a confession. Here it is: I am tired. I work so hard, and teaching is stressful. So this week, when I don’t have to teach students, I am relaxed, rested, and unstressed. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for ten is no big deal. Teaching 80 students for 258 minutes in three periods five days in a row, now THAT’s stressful.

Usually Sunday afternoons are a time to read textbooks, plan the week’s learning, differentiate materials and assessments, create graphic organizers or notes, check for supplies. As the day wears on I find myself growing stressed, worried about not having enough time to do what I need to do. Sunday evening I clean out my “teacher bag” and get ready to go, very early. I fill my weekly calendar with notes about meetings and to-do lists, those jobs I couldn’t get done on the weekend. Usually my Sundays don’t allow much down time.

Today, I spent my Sunday in a day of rest. I read the morning paper, cover-to-cover. I raked up leaves outside, and took a long walk in the afternoon sunshine. I chatted on the phone with my daughter, and cleaned the living room. I cooked a nice dinner. I watched a football game without holding a textbook in my lap. It was nice. The day seemed long, languid, and lovely. Didn’t have to worry about what I am doing tomorrow. Tomorrow our faculty is attending an all-day seminar. I get to be the student, not the teacher. I’ll learn something new, and don’t have to prepare anything!

I like teaching, and I hope I don’t sound whiny. I like preparing lessons: I find the process of lesson planning both creative and intellectually stimulating. I just feel like there’s never enough time to do it right.

I am thankful that I have a lot of support in my school, from administration, mentor teachers, media and technology specialists, department chairpersons. I am thankful especially for my fellow teachers, who share everything they have and hold me up when I am tired and stressed.

But mostly, this Sunday evening, I am thankful because I am not teaching this week. Enjoy the holiday!


8 Comments

I am also a new teacher at the age of 47 and can totally relate to your comments. Unfortunately I am in school tomorrow and took a moment to do some computer work in preparation for the day. I love teaching, especially high schoolers, but you're right the amount of time spent getting everything ready is unbelievable. I think that is due to the fact that we are new and want only the best for our students. By coming late into the game I think we have life experience on our side which for me has saved me when there is down time. If we didn't work so hard perhaps the students would suffer more than they already have before we became their caring and wonderful teacher. Keep up the excellent work and enjoy those precious moments of peace and tranquility when it happens. Happy Holidays

How long are your classes? What level? How much writing do you do? What's your turn around? Are you comfortable with that? I do exposition with juniors; what about you? Are 3 classes the norm? o you have a rotating schedule?

Thanks for your comments. Sounds familiar.

Hey - I can *totally* relate to you. I'm 38 and this is my 2nd year teaching. I teach 4 different preps (3 upper level French courses, and Spanish 1) and ALL my weekends are spent on planning, grading and other school-related activities. When I have a day off, like today, I finally get to cook, clean, shop, etc. :-) We do love our work and are dedicated - but we shouldn't forget to take care of ourselves and our families -- it will make us better and more relaxed teachers.
Happy Holidays (and happy time to yourself!)

I am also a career changer, in my first year of teaching at age 48. I teach middle school, and I have an overwhelming load of work: 7 classes a day. I teach 4 sections of 8th grade science (over 120 students total), 8th grade reading, 7th grade math, and a 7th grade art elective. I haven't had one day without working (teaching or prepping) since school started in August, and average about 4 hours of sleep a night. I feel like I am not giving my students the high quality lessons they deserve because I don't have time to plan them, gather materials, etc. and I am anticipating that next year I will do better. But I do feel that my previous 18 years in high pressure jobs in the biotech industry has given me the ability to handle this stress. I am looking forward to my 4 day Thanksgiving weekend to catch up on sleep and get ahead in lesson planning. Happy Thanksgiving and good luck to you all!

I know what all of you are saying. I have a question. To all of you who are "late bloomers" as I was. Did you all go through education programs in college? Or are you coming from other fields?

I graduated from college at age 50, a career changer, from sales and small business operations. This my first year as a 4th grade teacher, and it is the most challenging thing I have attempted yet!
I thought,(naive me) that finally graduating from college would be the biggest hurdle. Reminds me of most high school graduates thinking the same thing. Boy, did they have a rude awakening!

I do think it rather humorous, though, that some educators, especially the administration, have a pet phrase, "welcome to the real world". Yes, education is a world in itself, and it can be your whole world if you let it, but, there are also many other "real worlds" out there, too. They don't have a clue about marketing and selling a product in a competitive market, travelling out of a suitcase hundreds of miles a week, putting in 12 hours a day on a regular basis, and being held responsible for sales quotas and reports that can be the difference between keeping your job or losing it at any given point.

I should write a book about what they don't teach you in college about teaching. I am sure many of you could contribute. Would you?

I too am a late-in-life career changer. My first degree was marketing. I did the travel, 12-hour days and buisness politics two-step. I finally got fed up and went through an 18 month accelerated teaching program. I am now teaching 4th grade in Detroit. It has been, beyond a doubt, the hardest job I have ever had. On so many different levels. Gone are my 12-hour days. Now I average 14-hour days- if I'm lucky. Weekends? What are those? And silly me I thought I would escape the politics issue in a classroom. Yeah right! Frankly, I think it is worse because you don't have the opportunity to defend yourself. Maybe if I were in a school where the administration was supportive and put kids first I would feel differently. But at my school it is ALL about teaching to the test.

But worst of all is the emotional tug-of-war I have with my students. So many of them have "difficult" home situations that it breaks my heart. And makes it tough to manage the classroom. But you have to sympathize. Who would want to learn about digraphs when you haven't eaten all weekend? Or can't sit still because of the whooping you got last night? These are things you can not learn in your teaching program. I would be happy to contribute to that book!

I, too, am a late addition to the ranks of educators. My story is similar to many of you, however, you left out some of the more ‘frustrating’ aspects. Having been laid-off after 14 years of loyal service as a software engineer with Hewlett-Packard, I found I had no desire to get back into that rat race. I began working with a transition consultant who turned me on to teaching. Starting as a substitute teacher, I tried every grade level and found that I really liked the middle school environment best. Fortunately, my school district has an arrangement with a local university who runs a teacher intern program. The way it works is you get a job and you attend school at the same time to get your credential. I was hired just one week before school started, by a principal who had been hired just one week prior to that! Needless to say we hit it off right away, commiserating on our mutual lack of experience in that arena. There I was, at age 60, facing 170 pre-teens on a daily basis and teaching physical science (my degree is in Biology). Fortunately, my husband is a physicist and we’ve spent years exploring various aspects of physics, so it was right up my alley.

I soon realized that I had never worked so hard for so little money and enjoyed it so much. I said these words to my principal one day and he has repeated that phrase many times to others. Now in my fourth year, I am the head of the science department and a member of the school leadership team. My administration sees the value in my work experience, even though no other aspect of the entire education systems cares a wit for my past work career.

My biggest gripe is this fact – the entire entry process relies solely on my college transcript, which needless to say took place during the dark ages and has very little relevance to anything happening in a classroom today. Nowhere on any form was I ever asked about work experience. That’s because the entire education system is expecting only people right out of college to apply for teaching positions and has not adjusted itself to accept those of us coming from a business background. I found that amusing since there is a tremendous push to recruit laid off high-tech workers into the profession, yet no attempt has been made to modify the procedures to accept anyone other than a recent college graduate. In addition, the NCLB (which I personally call Every Child Left Behind) required new testing and, of course, the switch took place in the middle of my training causing me to start over and pushed my credential out one year. Well, I do have my credential after some shenanigans in Sacramento. I had to test out in Physical Science, however, when I sent away for it, what I got back was Physical Education. I have great respect for my PE counterparts, but that’s not my field! So, I tried again and was finally given a credential in Geoscience, as that was the closest they could come to what I teach. Why on earth they require a Physical Science test when there is no such recognized field is beyond me. Why my college transcript from 35 years ago was the only documentation used to determine my qualifications is beyond me. Why people who have no vested interest in education make all of the policy and financial decisions is beyond me. Why we all put up with this nonsense is truly beyond me! So, I work in my own school, in my own small way to try and change attitudes and policies, and I’m hoping some of you will be doing the same. I volunteer to be on textbook review committees, to work on the school climate policies and help out new teachers whenever I can. I have embraced my new profession and have put on the back burner all thoughts of retiring, even though I just received my Medicare card (very scary!). I love teaching and I love spending my days with these exciting, creative kids, so I’ll be around for a while.

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