There are many things that I love about teaching: the kids, the content, my colleagues. This time of year, not only am I excited to meet my students, but I am always excited because I get to start fresh. Just as the back-to-school clothes, notebooks, pens and pencils are all new, so are my students, and so am I. I look forward to being able to start anew, and every year I make the same vow:
This year I am going to improve…
And then I usually write a huge long list of things that I wish to improve. The list usually goes like this:
- I will grade a little bit each night so that I’m not overwhelmed with essays on the weekends
- I will create, plan and copy for my lessons at least 2 weeks in advance
- I will get enough sleep each night
Well, as you have most likely surmised, many of these good intentions get thrown out the window quite quickly. Grading a little bit each night is a fantastic idea. It will make my life better. It will mean that students will get work back from me more quickly. It means that I will not spend my weekends chained to my desk, and more importantly, it means that I will be more attentive to the individual assignments if I am only looking at 10 – 15 at a time instead of 150. Except that most of the time grading drives me crazy. I would much prefer to spend my time planning lessons or teaching the class itself or helping students one-on-one.
Planning lessons in advance is great. I do it. However, stuff happens. One class session takes longer to do something than you had planned. In your 3rd period, the students didn’t quite understand what you were trying to do with them, so you need to go back and reteach the lesson. There’s a fire drill. Half your class is out for advising or a band trip or a track meet, or … fill in the blank. So the copying doesn’t always happen until a few days before, sometimes the day before. OK, and I’ll admit it, sometimes the morning of. You do it too, don’t judge.
As for the sleep thing, I’ve actually been pretty good about that the last several years. I usually get into bed between 9.30 and 10pm, and have the lights out by 10.30 at the latest. Even better if I can get into bed earlier and have the lights out by 10. That’s still 7 hours of sleep (my alarm is set for about 5.15 AM). I get really cranky if I get fewer than 6 hours of sleep. REALLY cranky.
This year, however, I am going to make a point of not making any of the “I’m going to be perfect” this year goals, mostly because of my new position as department chair. Not only am I the head of the Social Studies department, but I’ve switched schools. So I need to learn how to be an instructional leader at the same time as learning a new school, and new department members (whom I am supposed to lead).
This year’s goal is actually to be very zen. I will do the thing that needs to be done now. And then I will do the next thing and the next. I will take many, many deep breaths, and I will make sure that I do more listening and watching than doing.
Oh, and I’ll try to do a little bit of grading every night, because grading 100 essays on a Sunday afternoon really sucks. And I never get the whole pile finished anyway.