Do you ever feel like you are just making it, or perhaps even faking it, from one day to the next?
I admit that I am going home tired even though I teach part-time now. The last month has been especially exhausting. The entire varsity girls’ volleyball team has been in quarantine: two of their coaches were diagnosed with COVID-19 and three junior girls were diagnosed. Then other students were quarantined after contact tracing. Other students went into quarantine after their parents were diagnosed with COVID-19. It took me two weeks to figure out how to teach virtually AND in person at the same time. There are so many “complications.” First, I teach in four different locations: the reading lab is in the library; sixth, seventh, and eighth grades meet in three different classrooms. I have three minutes to get from one building to the next, set up the Chromebook, projector, AND sign in for a Google Meet. Sometimes, I need to set up a document camera as well or connect my external mic. (I probably should have found a blue-tooth mic so that I can carry it around the classroom because I am a pacer when I teach.) Then, I have to make sure I send the materials to my quarantined students.
Teaching in the 2020-2021 school year is like nothing I have ever done before.
And I feel that I am just “faking it.” I see the attraction of using premade units and materials from Teachers Pay Teachers. But that feels like cheating. The lesson plans and unit materials in these published kits do not always fit my style of teaching. And yet. . . .
It’s not only that I am tired. I am emotionally tired as well. I think all good teachers are concerned about our students’ well-being. We are concerned when they just aren’t themselves, or we see them worry and hurting. We go out of our way to be there for them. And we put ourselves last on the list for that social-emotional health–for self-care. Even as I am writing this, I am battling a migraine–and feeling guilty because I am not making my weekly lesson plans, reading the next novel for the reading lab read-aloud, writing my unit plans for two new novels I’ve added to my repertoire, grading last week’s RACE paragraphs in all three academic classes, entering attendance and grades into the electronic gradebook. . . .
You get the picture.
So what do we do? How do we meet the very real needs of our students AND take care of ourselves?
These are the things I’m trying to do for myself:
- Get a life. I know that sounds sarcastic, but it’s true. I am working on getting a life outside of school. For me, that means spending some time with my husband after work, watching classic TV shows (“Adam-12,” “Andy Griffith,” etc.) with him, and knitting or crocheting. It means getting out and walking around the ponds on our property and maybe taking the camera out with me to capture the natural beauty of “God’s Country.” I read the books I want to read. Sometimes it is pure escapist reading; I confess to being a Regency romance/historical fiction junkie.
- Get active. For the last two years, I have been working with a personal trainer at a local gym. My budget won’t allow more than a once a week session, but that session really helps. Perhaps it’s more because I get to be with another adult for thirty minutes whereas at school, I spend break time and lunchtime with my students. Because our middle schoolers are now “self-contained” and the teachers change classes to go to the students, teachers do not have the opportunity to share that fifteen-minute biscuit break or thirty-minute lunch break when we don’t have duty.
- Get a hobby; learn something new.
- Set limits. I have told my parents that I will do my best to answer emails, text messages, and Remind messages until 5:00 p.m. At that point, I am off the clock, as it were. I will do my school work until that time (unless I get myself into a jam). I don’t check my school email. If I receive a Remind message through the app on my phone or iPad, I will wait until the next day to respond. It is a promise I made the parents that I would respond during school hours the next school day.
These are not magic bullets. Even with these things in place, I still get tired each day. After forty years of teaching, though, I realize that I must take care of myself before I can take care of my school family.
I hope you find something useful from this article. I would like to know how you decompress after a day at school.