Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Good of the Job

I received an email this morning that included a section with several teachers responses to the question, "Why do you love to teach?"

It seemed to come at a very opportune time. During the past couple weeks I've been asked several times about why I stay in a job that I seem to complain so much about. And honestly their questions have made me do a lot of thinking about teaching....because, yes, there are many days where I do vent....but, at the same time, there are so many rewards too.

So why do I love to teach?

• Every day is different. There's no boring routine to my job! Every day there's new things happening, new topics being explored, and there are new challenges to face. In fact, in ten years of teaching, I doubt there's ever been two days exactly the same.

• I have the opportunity to watch kids grow. There's nothing better than seeing a student suddenly make a connection, grasp a new concept, or learn something new. I absolutely love, particularly with language arts, seeing a kid suddenly discover they actually love to read, or love to write. I've been blessed with having several parents come up to me and say things like, "She was never much of a reader, but she's reading all the time now" or "I was reading his story and wow, it's pretty good, isn't it?" -- those are fabulous moments! It's amazing to be able to stand by and know that with the right nudges and guidance, I have the opportunity to help students realize their power as writers or the wonderful escape a good book can be. It's those little moments that make everything worth it.

• Being around kids is also fun. They're constantly teaching me new things. I get to hear about great books and great authors. They, particularly through discussions in writing conferences, teach me lessons about topics I'm no expert about (For instance, just this week, I got to learn about all the parts to a skateboard!). They make me smile with some of their stories, comments, and actions. They at times make me laugh. Fundamentally: it's fun to teach.

So while, yes, there are the many challenges I have to face on top of all of that — complaining parents, sometimes demanding administration (who I know are primarily demanding because of what state standards demand), occasionally frustrating students, or heavy bags of schoolwork taken home each evening — the rewards still somehow outweigh the pain. If there ever comes a day when I stand in my classroom, look at the clock and wonder how many more minutes until I get to go home, I'll know that it is time to quit and look for a job elsewhere, but in the meantime, I get to spend 7 hours each day working in a job that for those 7 hours doesn't really feel like work. And that's why I love to teach!

Maybe I should talk about the joys more often, and vent about the frustrations less, but somehow it always seems like the frustrations are the parts I need to get rid of (i.e. talk about) and the joys are the parts that I treasure but that non-teachers don't always understand.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rambling Thoughts

Ugh! Still fighting this cold germ. Could have gone into school today, but ultimately chose to take a sick day and stay home instead. Thought I might be able to make it a productive work at home day, but in actuality I did very little. I hate unproductive days, especially when I'm feeling already behind on so much!

Overall, it's been a rough month. Yes, the month has had its good points in places, but it's definitely had its not so good points in others. For one, I have felt continually behind on work. I have reading responses that should have been graded today. My online gradebook is out of date. I've got many students to still conference with on their 2nd quarter goals (even though we're already 2 weeks into the quarter!!), and the list could go and on...

My practical sensibilities are very much in conflict with my dreams right now. I love teaching, I do. I'm happy at the school I'm at. I love having the freedom to teach how I want (e.g. through reading & writing workshop) and not being restricted by my administration or forced into some required literacy program (like I know teachers at many schools are).

But I have to be honest and admit I'm getting tired of living and breathing school. I want an identity beyond "teacher". I dream of taking a couple months off and just going somewhere with no particular plan in mind. Talk about an unsensible idea though! I mean, I'm continually being reminded how lucky I am to have even found a good teaching job last year, in the midst of a time when all school systems are currently cutting majorly back. My mind knows that quitting my job to hopefully find another after a "few months off" would be a completely insane thing to do because I probably wouldn't easily find another opening.

Nonetheless, I keep feeling pulled in the direction that a change has to happen soon for my sanity. Yes, I am a teacher, but I want to be a normal person too....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Curses on cold germs!

So I complete a wonderful weekend, and actually take some time off from schoolwork, figuring I'll get everything done somehow this week and then....I wake up this morning with definite signs of a cold germ! :(

I hate not feeling well, and especially hate it when I have work that I want to do. I've had a huge pile awaiting me tonight and haven't touched a bit of it. I have this goal to get everything done for this week, next and the following one *all* this week. I want to leave for Thanksgiving break and know that I don't have to touch or worry about schoolwork until I get back. But this little bug that I've picked up was not part of the plan!

I'm still functioning -- went to school today and am planning on teaching tomorrow too -- but definitely am hoping this germ whomever (student or otherwise) gave me will pass by soon. *fingers crossed*

Friday, November 11, 2011


The positive: Today is Friday.

The negative: I'm still suffering from a bad mood.

And with a 11/11/11 event to head to soon, I have no more time to write today either, so this will have to count as today's blog entry...

Yea, I know it's short and boring, but in a quest to finish NaBloPoMo, I think it still counts?? ;)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Good Cries?

I suppose this entry comes with a warning: I'm not in a good mood tonight.

There's some days when I wonder if anyone (with perhaps the exception of my students & principal) would notice if I dropped off the face of the planet. While I'm not planning to test out the experiment, currently I feel like probably most wouldn't.

The miserable mood I fell into this afternoon, I know was started with simply the loss of a potential perfect rental. I'm in the midst of really wanting to move, and for the past month have been searching for a place that's closer to work and also somewhat larger. There seems to be very limited inventory in the areas I'm looking, so when I discovered one listing that seemed perfect, I got excited. I had an appointment to view the property this afternoon after work, but then a couple hours before the scheduled meeting, the rental agent called and said the property was just rented and therefore our meeting would be canceled. I was immediately disappointed. I hate commuting — especially at this time of year when the days are getting shorter — and I want to move so badly, but I'm starting to think it won't happen. For the price I want to pay, the location I want to be, and the 3 bedrooms (or 2 bedrooms + garage/storage) that I need, I'm just starting to get very discouraged that I'll ever find something. It seems the rare properties that are perfect I'm getting beat out on, and the ones that are available are just too far from perfect to justify the move. I'm tired of my work/guest room being part storage and am definitely tired of having my bike stored in the middle of my kitchen, so the space I can't compromise on, and the location I don't want to either, so I'm feeling very stuck and discouraged.

Put that on top of a general feeling of being overwhelmed with school work (e.g. I don't feel like I ever get a break from having tons to do), and also a feeling of loneliness (losing touch with too many friends from further away, and never really having been able to develop any close friendships here in the town I live now)....and it seems like a lot has combined to make me feel pretty glum tonight.

I've felt it building for the last year or so, but I think so many years of having sooo many hours tied up with school and some general exhaustion over dealing with everything basically alone (i.e. no local support system) has simply got me worn out. I miss my old school where whenever I had a bad day, there was always someone around to listen and give me a hug when I needed it. In my new school, the atmosphere is just very different. My co-workers aren't bad but it seems like there is an environment where most just keep more to themselves. We talk, collaborate, plan, and get along, but on bad days, I have yet to ever find someone who is willing to offer a shoulder and just let me cry or vent for a little while.

So maybe that's what this blog post has turned into today -- a virtual spot to at least vent....and cry...and hope it gets better...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I'd Rather Stay in the Classroom...

Tomorrow I have to leave my students with a sub. I have a required training that I have to attend. What's the training on, you might ask? Well, it is on teacher evaluation.

Our county is going to a new teacher evaluation system next year and apparently feels it is necessary to provide all those scheduled for evaluation next year with a whole day of training on the new system.

Myself I simply wonder what makes a whole day of training really so necessary? I mean, if you want me to be a good teacher, then allow me to stay in my classroom and teach! While, yes, my students are technically still having reading workshop tomorrow, I know it's not really a true workshop without me also there. There's no sub I yet know who I feel comfortable handing the real reins over to, so while my sub can sit and observe and hopefully keep my kids on task, I can't ask her to be me and wear the conferencing, note-taking, observing and assessing hats that are also a big part my job in workshop each day.

But in missing tomorrow, I don't get a choice in the matter. I reluctantly must resign myself to the fact that I have to leave my kids behind tomorrow (e.g. sacrifice good class time with them), to instead go and spend the entire day listening to whomever tell me about how I'm going to be assessed as teacher next year. Somehow I just don't quite understand the logic behind tomorrow's training, but alas, off I go to it anyways, even I feel my time would be better spent elsewhere...because, yes, I'd definitely rather stay in my classroom.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Vacation" Over :(

Tomorrow everything goes back to normal. Kids return and my little semi-vacation is over. Having today free to work was sooo nice! While most of what I planned to get done didn't get done, I'm happy with what did. It felt good to leave a classroom today that was cleaned up and better organized.

Of course, having spent most of my day organizing, I still have a pile of papers to grade and lesson plans to complete tonight. I'm having a hard time figuring out what I want to do for the next few days. I'm there with the kids tomorrow, but then Thursday have to stick my kids with a substitute as I have to be out for a training, and then Friday I'm back with them again. The lesson that would come most logically on Thursday, I don't want to leave for a substitute, so I'm stuck trying to decide what to leave for my students to do. I don't think they're quite at the point where I can just give them a full reading workshop day (i.e. 60 minutes of reading), but I hate the idea of leaving them busy work, so what do I do? I don't yet know...

Really the only thing I'm confident about right now is that with work still ahead, I better stop procrastinating and get back to it. Short and boring entry tonight, I know, but hopefully more time to actually write something interesting tomorrow. (?)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thinking & Sinking...

It is not a new realization. I have had similar thoughts many times before. But nonetheless: "Wow, how quickly can my mood & stress level change!"

Last night I was sitting here feeling completely at peace. It had been a great weekend. I had two days of no students ahead of me, so everything was feeling like by Wednesday morning I could actually be caught up and ahead on stuff. BUT fast forward 24 hours and bring me to tonight and none of those peaceful feelings still exist!

My mistake tonight was going upstairs to my work room. Honesty ever since I switched schools, not a whole lot of work gets done in there. It's become more of a storage area than a work area. When I had to clear out my old classroom (from 8 years of teaching) everything had to get carted home and my work room was where most of it got stuck. Then last year, getting hired at my new school only a couple days before the kids arrived, it mainly was only the bare necessities that got carted back to school. Trying to keep my head above water, there simply wasn't time to get it all taken back into the new building, so the work room remained part storage area. THEN: this year brought a classroom change, and versus my old classroom last year that had TONS of storage, I'm now in a classroom with practically no storage (minus one small cabinet, my desk and a filing cabinet). So all the past intentions of last year (a.k.a: "I'll get it all organized during the summer") didn't happen because there was almost no place to store stuff at school. So, long story short, my work room still has a number of crates, boxes and bins sitting all around it, and I hate the clutter!

I like being organized and having everything in order, but the change in schools just seemed to shove everything into disarray and I'm suffering from a continual feeling that there's not enough hours to get everything back in order. I have numerous boxes of papers that need sorted out. I have crates of books that I no longer need but can't find anyone who is willing to take them off my hands. I've got extra supplies which I know I'll use, but don't have room to store at school. And well, the list goes on and on.

Sometimes I tell myself that what I should do is grab all the boxes, haul them straight to the recycling center and get rid of them all, but then I start thinking about the special things that I know are mixed in with the clutter of papers, and then I know I need to find time to sort before I throw anything out, but of course, sorting takes time and time is at a premium, and AHHH!! The thought of it all makes me want to scream!

I'm still fighting to not allow school to consume my life completely, but it's nights like this when I feel like I've just let everything go for so long (e.g. focused on school so much) that I've backed myself up into a hole that is almost impossible to get out of. I need at least a good week (or more) to get everything in order, but even then it would be an uphill battle. For instance, some files are 29 miles away stored at school and then others are packed away in boxes that contain all nature of subjects/topics/units/grades/etc. here at home.

To be honest, I so wish I could spent my work day at home tomorrow. I'd know I'd work on schoolwork and probably get more of what really needs accomplished done here at home versus at school, but oh well, that option sadly doesn't exist. :( Instead, I'm thinking it's back to feeling overwhelmed again...the biggest sign to me that, yes, my "vacation" is just about over...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wondeful Weekends :)

Ah, I love weekends! And this one has been so particularly nice!

Due staff development tomorrow and a teacher workday on Tuesday, I don't have students, so therefore this weekend has been completely free of school worries/work/stress/etc. I had the opportunity to go out biking for awhile yesterday, catch up on some other tasks last night, and then went out hiking today. It's been wonderful!

I honestly wish every weekend could be like this. I have loved not having pressure on me to get everything ready for Monday classes or feeling pressed to grade every paper because, of course, I have two more days to get all that done. This weekend has just been for fun and relaxation, and I've loved every minute of it!

I know, sadly, it will be quite awhile before another such one comes. Christmas, I think? And then a wait until Spring Break? And then a wait until summer? It's times like this when sometimes I wish I wasn't a teacher who cared so much. I think it would be nice if I could leave everything behind on Friday afternoon and not think about it again until Monday morning, but alas, I know that's not me. No matter how well I find to organize my time, I know weekends are always going to have a schoolwork aspect to them. I know that because I am a teacher and a teacher that does care. I can't escape my job. It is who I am.

So for the time being, all I can do is be grateful. Next weekend everything will be back to normal, but at least this one weekend was wonderful. :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I'm trying my luck with NaBloPoMo again this year. That stands for "National Blog Posting Month" for those who might be wondering what that odd combination of letters stand for. The challenge is to write one blog post every day in November. I started but failed miserably at the challenge last year. The year before that I successfully completed it. What will this year bring? I don't yet know.

For me I guess it's the easy version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which I love the concept of as well, but just simply don't have time to attempt this year. In many ways that makes me sad. In past years, NaNoWriMo has been a wonderful writing motivator for my students. I've been blown away by the shear amount of words that some of my past classes have written. But due to multiple factors, this year my students don't even know about it and when I stop to think about that, I get sad. With our class schedule (e.g. limited minutes) and the intense test pressure we teachers are under (that I already overlook a bit with just doing workshops in the first place), there's no feasible way of successfully doing it. Next year, if I'm still around, I'll likely try to do an after school version, but this year, even that wasn't possible -- I've just been too busy with a bunch of other school demands.

Oh, what I would I do to have a 90 minute (or more!) class period again! Old school that was the norm. Here (new school) it's only 60 minutes, which is just never enough time to do all the things I'd love to do...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Poetry Friday: Reading Myself to Sleep

I think it was sometime last NaBloPoMo when I was last partaking in Poetry Friday, but now that I'm back to at least attempting to revive this blog, I figured I'd leap back in today with a poem that is in my plans to share with my students soon. I try to incorporate a poem into each and every one of our writing workshop days, and after our class library day (which is always fun), this seemed very appropriate today. Especially as I've got a good read awaiting me upstairs that I know already I'm picking up once I complete this entry tonight. So without further ado:

Reading Myself To Sleep
by Billy Collins

The house is all in darkness except for this corner bedroom
where the lighthouse of a table lamp is guiding
my eyes through the narrow channels of print,

and the only movement in the night is the slight
swirl of curtains, the easy lift and fall of my breathing,
and the flap of pages as they turn in the wind of my hand.

Is there a more gentle way to go into the night
than to follow an endless rope of sentences
and then to slip drowsily under the surface of a page

into the first tentative flicker of a dream,
passing out of the bright precincts of attention
like cigarette smoke passing through a window screen?

All late readers know this sinking feeling of falling
into the liquid of sleep and then rising again
to the call of a voice that you are holding in your hands,

as if pulled from the sea back into a boat
where a discussion is raging on some subject or other,
on Patagonia or Thoroughbreds or the nature of war.

Is there a better method of departure by night
than this quiet bon voyage with an open book,
the sole companion who has come to see you off,

to wave you into the dark waters beyond language?
I can hear the rush and sweep of fallen leaves outside
where the world lies unconscious, and I can feel myself

dissolving, drifting into a story that will never be written,
letting the book slip to the floor where I will find it
in the morning when I surface, wet and streaked with daylight.

Poetry Friday is being hosted by Writing the World for Kids this week. Head there to check out even more poetry! :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Musings of a Lazy Teacher

Tonight I have been lazy.

I *should* be grading papers, or writing up student goals, or getting countless other things done that make my to do list longer than I even want to think about, but I'm not. Ever since I got home from work this afternoon, I have been lazy. I checked email, relaxed on the couch and watched part of a movie, and now am in the midst of writing.

I have a tendency to be hard on myself for taking such lazy afternoons. With my school bag loaded with things that need done, my mind has continually been shouting, "Get to work!" but my motivation just isn't listening. I try telling myself that it's a good thing, but it's so easy to slip back to the feeling that I should be using my time more productively.

It's a tough thing being a teacher. My work hours state I'm on the job from 7:45 to 2:45 each day, but of course, in actuality there is no time clock which I can punch out on. Whether it is simply my concern for "my" kids or my desire to do a good job in my work, I more than often feel like I'm punched in all the time. I have friends who aren't teachers who are often are in disbelief about the all the time my school life consumes. They say, "Don't worry about it." or "Take the day off." but without being in my shoes, my building, or any other school for that matter, they don't truly realize how difficult that is for a good teacher.

I often get jealous of my non-teaching friends' ability to easily leave work behind when they leave their work buildings, because I'm beginning to think good teachers don't ever really get that privilege. Maybe being lazy sometimes is the only way a teacher gets a break. I don't know. But one way or the other, I'm trying not to feel guilty about taking one tonight. I know my schoolbag is sitting downstairs untouched from where I dropped it when I walked in the front door, but at least it's already packed for tomorrow! ;)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

There is light at the end of the tunnel!

A couple weeks ago I posted a status update to Facebook simply saying: "Is there light at the end of this tunnel?" I felt like I was drowning and overwhelmed with work. But fast forward to today and I'm happy to report that I actually think I finally see the light again!

It's amazing how much can change in 24 hrs. Yesterday afternoon at this time my stress level was still pretty high. There were grades to still finalize, an observation to prepare for, and countless other things on my to do list. And while my to do list is still plenty long, just having the pressure of grades & observations over for awhile has drastically improved things.

The lesson I was worried about ended up going pretty well. My kids were relatively focused (for 7th period) and most seemed to be paying attention, and to be honest, I think it was one of the best reading workshop days we've had in a long time. It was definitely the first time this year when I felt like almost everything finally clicked. I left feeling like knowledge (or at least a new realization of how they read) had been gained by my students during our lesson and even more positive, it was a day when there was still plenty of time left to read and therefore I was able to get around and conference with quite a number of them as well.

Of course, in the back of my head I wonder how much the admin's presence changed the atmosphere. I guess tomorrow will be the test. It will go back to being a normal day (e.g. no visitors sitting watching), and I'll then be able to figure out for sure whether the key is having an observer present OR whether perhaps with the beginning of the new quarter this week, we've finally turned a corner. I'm certainly keeping my fingers crossed that it is the later!

In their first quarter self-evaluations, one of the things my kids (all 4 periods of them) most frequently told me was that they wanted more independent time to read and write. I've got a goal set for myself this quarter to attempt to give it to them. Maybe it's just the simple action of listening to my kids that's had this week flowing smoother than what the past few weeks have been like. I did have one student in my 6th period come up to me today and thank me for giving everyone more time the past couple days. He added, "we like it better". I had to admit to him, "You know what, so do I!"

I'm sure there will be more days ahead this year when the tunnel seems pitch black, without an end in sight, but right now I'm glad there's a glimmer of light ahead and, for at least the time being, I'm going to continue on this path and just hope the light only continues to grow stronger! :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Observation Day!

That was today.....and also tomorrow. One of the drawbacks of changing districts has been that I'm basically considered a brand new teacher again and therefore have to go through twice the observations of most teachers.

I'll be glad when tomorrow is over. It's not that I hate getting observed — anyone is welcome to wander into my classroom at any time and I really don't care — BUT I hate the pressure of formal observations. Admin tells us the class period they want to observe and the week they want to come, and then we're told to pick the day. And it's that choice that I hate! It's like an unofficial command that says: "Be sure you pick your best lesson!"

For instance, tomorrow. It's a reading workshop day. What my kids need is another follow-up lesson on tracking thinking and responding to literature, because the recent reading responses I graded are still suffering horribly from an overload of summary and very little reflection. However, my plans (which I had to submit over a week ago) don't have that as the planned lesson for tomorrow. Not to mention, knowing that my administration is always looking for us to teach a lesson that involves #1) us directly teaching and #2) some new content, such a review day wouldn't really fit what they want to see anyways.

So here I am working on perfecting a lesson plan for a "good" lesson, but one that really isn't targeting what my kids most need right now. Is it still helpful knowledge? Yes. Is it something my students still need to know? Yes. But when it doesn't fit with their current needs, as a teacher I'm left questioning this whole observation show.

The only good part is that today has at least passed and I lived to tell about it. My kids were remarkably good too. The extra stress of having the admin come to observe during the final period of the day (yes, my most challenging class!) has lessened some knowing that my kids proved today that they can behave. Now I'm just hoping for two golden days in a row.....(is that even possible??)....well, I guess come tomorrow, I'll see...