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Prom Dress

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The other day I took a walk at home. My neighbor saw me and said, “Haven’t seen you much lately.” Without thinking I answered, “I haven’t seen myself much lately either.” A moment later, standing on a pier looking over the Chesapeake Bay, I realized what I had said. I haven’t seen myself much lately? Did that mean something on a deep subconscious level?

I have been busy. I came to high school teaching at the age of 45, after several other careers. I jumped in with both feet – committees, projects, graduate classes, conferences. I have looked for every opportunity and welcomed it. I have worked really hard and I have learned a great deal. I have been busy, and it’s been good.

But I wonder if there comes a time when too much professional involvement is just too much. So let me ask my colleagues – you – how do you temper your enthusiasm with realistic limitation?

To keep it in perspective, let me share this with you. It’s Senior Prom Week, and I am one of the Senior Class Advisors. I’m worrying about prom favors, and guest registration, and decorations, and music play lists. I have a long list of “to-do’s” and people to contact. I have learned one really important thing from this involvement. If another teacher or staff member offers to help, say, “Yes thank you!” That’s a lesson I can use if I do ever become an administrator. Always say “yes” if you get an offer of help, and always say “thank you”.

I’ve also learned to prioritize. If you do what’s most important, everything else will fall into place. I bought my prom dress. It’s floor-length, black, and sparkly. I found black sandals yesterday - had to get new shoes because my “teacher flats” weren’t very glamorous.

So I’m done looking for myself. Every time I walk into a classroom I know who and where I am. Yes, with everything else, I am first of all responsible for teaching, and I know it. I’m here to guide learning, because it is about the children. Same for Prom, it’s about our seniors and celebrating their four years at Arundel High School. When I remember that, then I know where I am.

I am still looking for the perfect tiara for my dress, though ….


15 Comments

I'm approaching thirty years in the classroom, virtually all of those spent as an adviser of various classes, clubs, and activities.

First off, you know you're too involved when you are standing between your students and their activity. It's not your party; it's theirs. It's not your dance, play, band, yearbook, or student council; it's theirs.

Yes, you can always do a better job of making sure things are "done right" by stepping in and doing it for them. But at the end of the day, what have they learned, and what pride can they feel looking at the finished product and thinking, "What a great thing someone else made for us"?

There's a tendency to think that disaster may strike, that if you leave the responsibility for fetching table centerpieces to them, the ball will be dropped. But the beauty of school stuff is that even the worst "disaster" will not threaten civilization as we know it. Lives will not be lost. Even a fumbled responsibility lets students learn about being responsible and stepping up to lead. If you are the leader, then students never get to experience a role any more advanced than that of a leader's helper.

The other part of the how-much-is-too-much question is looking after your own emotional health.

Teaching can't be the only way you feed your soul. It will never give you back enough; it just can't.

And one of the Hard Parts of teaching is that every year you make a hundred new relationships. Then a few years past, and all of those students leave. Most, even the ones who appreciate you and think fondly of you for the rest of their lives, will never look back. You cannot put yourself into these bonds as you would a family or friendship bond and not be beaten and torn over the years. To keep yourself healthy, you have to be invested elsewhere.

I applaud you for your enthusiasm to get involved and help make senior week and prom memorable. It's clear they are lucky to have you! I'm sure the last thing you want is another to-do, but this is an easy and important one. Please encourage students, parents, and friends to visit www.prmtxt.org and sign up to send a prom-goer a safe prom text message. This campaign is sponsored by The Century Council, a non profit organization dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking. The safe prom text campaign allows people to sign up to have a safe prom message delivered to the prom-goer's cell phone on the evening of their prom. It's just one more way to remind teens that we love them and want them to make smart decisions during this special and memorable time! Please check it out. Thanks!

I HEAR YOU!! I am a late career changer, having started teaching at 49, and this year was my third in teaching. These past few weeks have been swallowed up with National Junior Honor Society Induction Ceremony planning. The event was last night and, although some of the member students were involved and following through, if it wasn't for my sister teachers who offered help, I don't know what I would have done! So, YES, always say YES to help. And more importantly, don't forget to offer to help them with their projects. I look back now and think of a colleague that maybe could have used my help on projects the past two years, and I never realized until now how much she might have needed it.

Helen

Love your insight...I am just so very proud and impressed with your growth as a teacher and true professional over the past several years...

Amen to Peter
"The person who is doing the work is the one who is doing the learning."
Dont' pass up this opportunity to give you students real life, "workplace-like" experiences. They will remember their own accomplishments forever - they'll only remember yours for a week.

Amen to Peter
"The person who is doing the work is the one who is doing the learning."
Dont' pass up this opportunity to give you students real life, "workplace-like" experiences. They will remember their own accomplishments forever - they'll only remember yours for a week.

Amen to Peter
"The person who is doing the work is the one who is doing the learning."
Dont' pass up this opportunity to give you students real life, "workplace-like" experiences. They will remember their own accomplishments forever - they'll only remember yours for a week.

Amen to Peter
"The person who is doing the work is the one who is doing the learning."
Dont' pass up this opportunity to give you students real life, "workplace-like" experiences. They will remember their own accomplishments forever - they'll only remember yours for a week.

The best advice my first principal gave me was, "Draw an imaginary box around yourself and don't allow school to come inside that box." It is so hard; good teaching requests every fiber of your being. But little by little, I learned to follow my princpal's advice. Even if it meant taking a two-hour break from grading papers on a Saturday afternoon and getting a pedicure, or allowing myself one hour with a really good novel, I tried to work in ME time. It took awhile, but once I got into the habit, it came more naturally. You'll find the balance eventually.

The best advice my first principal gave me was, "Draw an imaginary box around yourself and don't allow school to come inside that box." It is so hard; good teaching requests every fiber of your being. But little by little, I learned to follow my princpal's advice. Even if it meant taking a two-hour break from grading papers on a Saturday afternoon and getting a pedicure, or allowing myself one hour with a really good novel, I tried to work in ME time. It took awhile, but once I got into the habit, it came more naturally. You'll find the balance eventually.

As a VERY new teacher (graduated 12/09/06 and started 1st assignment 02/02/07), and as a late convert (I'm 49) I am so thankful for blogs! I AM NOT ALONE! Regarding extra-curricular activities: I too am a 'joiner.' I always want to do more, but I am cautious enough to hold off for a while. I could actually see myself in Hanne's shoes - I'm a natuaral coordinator in my private life. I hesitate to do anything at school because I do not want to become so overwhelmed with MORE stuff! Then I read Leah and Helen's posts, and I felt slightly guilty. Thankfully, Kathleen posted "The best advice my first principal gave me was, 'Draw an imaginary box around yourself and don't allow school to come inside that box.'" That advice is priceless - I will learn to do that. And finally, Martha put it into perspective for me: I need to become "over-involved" in teaching the students to beome "The person who is doing the work is the one who is doing the learning." Again, thank you to everyone's thoughts and ideas. I used to think blogs were a waste of time, but I've been converted!

I identify with the "I haven't seen much of me"...mid-career changer and Library Media Teacher at two elementary schools with no adopted curriculum means a LOT of scratch lessons that are scaffolded and built upon for different ages, while going to grad school and picking up a 2nd Masters in Information Science. The "me" I see is not as pretty as in the past either due to many, many hours of computer work: collaborating, writing my PBwiki into a Digital Library, grad research papers and assignments.
I too, jumped in and wanted to say yes but nowadays, I have learned I must say no, as it has become personally unhealthful and I am ripe for some sort of health accident.
I agree with another poster on getting the kids involved in their activities more and becoming more of a guide on the side-whether that be setting-up and repacking the annual book faire, to reshelving the mega amounts of books that are circulated without a clerical staff that is adequate to do that work AND the additional book and classes clerical work. This year I had one 5th grade glass whose teacher really understood and is grateful for the Library teacher's work and she brought her kids in regularly to shelf-read and reshelf: they now have skills that they could actually parlay into part-time employment in the real work world. I anticipate a big pizza and rootbeer float party at the end of the year as a symbol of my great appreciation.
There is only so much of me to go around.
You must 'draw a box around yourself' and REALLY find innovative ways to stick with it-I can not do my work if I'm not alive to do it!
Melissa Rentchler, M.Ed./LMT in CA

I, too, got my degree in my forties. There is such a high level of instant gratification from saying yes at school. Contrast this with home life, where everything you do is "retarded," or "stupid," and "you just don't trust me."
At school, my middle schoolers think I walk on water. It would be so much easier to be where I am appreciated for the short haul.
I would strongly suggest that saying no to extra school activities is just one more sacrifice we make for our families.
I have seven of my own, with two launched, one headed for university this fall, and four at home that are bigger every morning. Very, very soon, they will all be launched. And I will be on every committee I have a passion to join. But just right now, my window of time with my own children is closing, and I will never regret spending less time at the office.

I had a baby. That really helped me keep my professional responsibilities in check. Before the baby, I had no life because I was working 15-16 hour days all week and was too tired to do anything on the weekends. I certainly don't do that anymore.

Believe yourself, you are one and only.

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