Monday, September 21, 2009

The Energy to Teach

Now that I'm solidly back in the school year, I'm reminded of what a physical challenge teaching can be. Here was my schedule today:

  • 6:30 Arrive at my classroom...Organize the room,board and materials for a kid with Chemistry homework (I'm an English teacher) off to pick up the computer lab key...Boom! The first bell rings.

  • 7:50-9:20 Analyze college essays with bleary-eyed AVID students...develop some starting points for their own essays...go over to the computer several students one-on-one with the wording and conceptual approach of their essays...Boom! The second bell rings.

  • 9:20-9:50 Run back to the library and return the computer lab key...find my waiting homeroom students outside...try to connect with the twenty or so new freshmen kids in my homeroom whose names I'm still foggy on...answer their questions about how to get a password for their online grades account...Boom! Time for 2nd period.

  • 9:55-11:24 Analyze an allegorical story with my 38 English 10 Honors students...discuss the relative merits of rushing through life and being "phony" (We just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye)...Talk about what makes a good writing prompt for an groups develop prompts...Boom! Time for lunch.

  • 11:24-12:05 Run and grab my lunch...head up the hill for an AVID college tour fundraising with kids and another teacher to figure out how and where were legally able to sell food...choke down a tuna sandwich...boom! Lunch is over.

  • 12:05-1:33 Prep period! Whew...At least some peace and quiet...Read, respond to and "deal with" about 30 new e-mails...grade five reflective essays...Boom! Time for the last period of the day.

  • 1:39-3:10 Honors English 10, do the same thing I did 2nd period all over again with more exhausted students...Boom! End of school.

  • 3:10-5:00 Type up student prompts and post to the class with a parent and her son who isn't working as hard as he could be...Mom and I search for something that will motivate him...grade two reflective essays...A former student stops by looking for work as a tutor...Wife calls...time to get home!

Even just typing all this is a bit exhausting. I wish I could say I accomplished all these tasks in a calm and deliberate manner, but I felt rushed and harried all day. Perhaps the solution is to accept that there is simply too much for one person to do every day. When I woke up this morning I wanted to get even more papers graded, but the kid with the Chemistry problem and the former student, plus all the other unmentionable minutiae of the day, prohibited all that.

Sometimes I feel like I'm running in place or chipping away at a a tunnel with nothing but a mechanical pencil with a tip that keeps breaking off. It is too much but I don't plan to stop. My kids need me to do all these things day after day, so I go on. I suppose I just have to draw the line at my physical health and sanity. When I feel cracks forming in my patience or sense of hope it's time to take a break.

If you're wondering why I'm blogging, on top of all this? I'm back to the essays as soon as I hit this period.


  1. Rob--I so hear you. I hope when you say that you "draw the line at [your] physical health and sanity" that you mean you don't give those up. I tend to do that, and it isn't healthy. One of my life pursuits is to try to find a way to be a good teacher AND a happy, healthy person, at the same time. It is much harder than I thought it would be, and 5 years in, I still struggle. But I realize more every year that we have to take care of ourselves, or there is no way we can be as effective or fulfilled as we'd like to be. Even though our kids need us, we need us, too. :-)

    Hang in there! It's only September.

    And I'm so jealous of your long break. We're down to 10 minutes at LCC. 10 minutes! Barely enough time to pee. Ah!

  2. Thank you Suzi! I will take care of myself. It seems like a constant struggle between the guilt of what "should" be done and the actuality of what you can accomplish while keeping your sanity and health. Despite the challenges, I'm enjoying my students and classes so far. It would be easier if there was way to be absolutely sure of the proper place to draw the line. I suppose that's what family and friends are for.