School has been in session for only three days. Each of those three days, I arrived an hour early and stayed for over an hour after my contractual time to leave. I don’t remember the last time, in my 13 years that I arrived at work (school) at 8:00 am and left at 3:30 pm. Is it that I just enjoy being at work more than I do at home, or that I am super-dedicated, or that I just can’t seem to get all that is required of me professionally completed during my 7 ½-hour work day?
For as long as I can remember, I have spent EXTRA time at work. The worst EXTRA time is over the weekend; the days that I am NOT required to work. I always deemed them the days I am supposed to use to recharge. When I first started teaching, I just thought, “I am the newbie and I have to pay my dues by staying late every single day and going back in every single weekend.” Even holidays – vacation time – were no exception.
This past school year, I thought I had broken this habit. I promised myself, and my family, that I would not spend the weekend at school getting work done. I was very successful after the first of the year, only spending an hour here and there on a Sunday at work – not a full day. To me, that was success! I was very proud of myself and WAS energized for the coming school week!
Fast forward to this weekend… Labor Day weekend… the LAST weekend of summer; the LAST chance to enjoy warm weather with family and friends during cookouts and picnics.
I tried not to think about work.
I tried really hard not to think about the NEW standards I have to learn and how to effectively teach those concepts to my students so they are successful on THE TEST – THE TEST that helps to determine my worth as an educator.
I tried even harder to forget about the new 17-page lesson plan template that was given to me a week before students would be coming to sit in those seats – the 17-page lesson plan template that I am required to complete each week. The 17-page lesson plan template that does not make any sense to me and is not supposed to be altered to fit how I teach. Did I mention that it was 17 pages?
Needless to say, the beginning of a new school year is ALWAYS overwhelming. I still remember my first year, my first teaching position. But this year, year 13, is far more overwhelming than I have ever experienced! I know change is hard – especially change that does not make sense.
The first change is to the Common Core. I’m sorry, the PA Core Standards. Yes, PA has to be different – they’re Common Core, just not the “same” as the national Common Core Standards. The second change is my day-to-day schedule, changed drastically to fit in the MOST instruction time manageable while students are at school. The last change, the one I am fighting with EVERY fiber of my being, is that new lesson plan template that takes EXTRA time – weekend time, recharge time – to JUST COMPLETE.
This weekend, it took me approximately 6 hours to complete – JUST COMPLETE. I spent Sunday afternoon, away from family, my hobbies, my home, working at JUST COMPLETING the plan. Nothing else is ready…papers aren’t copied; books and materials are not gathered. This does not even include the mountain of paperwork that I still have to do during the work week and that has traditionally trickled into the weekend.
But, I digress. I was not the only one at school on Sunday. There were several of my colleagues spending precious time away from their families, their hobbies, their home doing exactly what I was doing. They, too, were going back on their word, their promise to themselves to do better this year, to be an effective teacher without sacrificing all of their free time, to put MORE energy into finding new, creative ways of teaching the hungry minds of their students – the very thing that keeps us going and energized.
“Something’s gotta give.” Sadly, with tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart, that something is me.
*Submitted anonymously Sept. 1, 2014. If you would like to submit a Teacher TRUTH, email it to Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org or Angela at email@example.com. You may remain anonymous or choose your level of identification; for example, state, school district, grade level, initials, or other identification form of your choice.