New School Year, New Duties–A New Balancing Act

The school year 2021-2022 is in full swing.  In three weeks or so, I will be entering grades for the first quarter.  I’m not sure where the first six weeks of school have gone.  It’s been a whirlwind of activity.

I am still teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth grade English language arts, but this year, due to an unexpected resignation, I am also teaching fifth grade ELA.  I am so out of my wheelhouse with this class.  I am learning along with my students, though, and that is the important thing.

And to top things off, at the end of the summer, I was given the official title of Academic Dean.

Oh my.  Yeah. Forty-one years as a classroom teacher, and I am now an administrator.  What happened to my simple part-time job as a teacher so that I can call myself “semi-retired”? I am still “part-time,” yet I feel like I am working as much at school and at home as I ever did as a full-time teacher. And I love it!  It’s demanding, though, and there are some days that I am so tired that I cannot put one foot in front of the other to keep going.

In this third year of the pandemic, though, I am learning my limitations.  I cannot sustain the teach-all-day-and-work-all-evening schedule. (I am sixty-three, by the way).  I cannot bring home all the cares of the school and take care of my family, albeit an empty-next family. I cannot be all things to all parents, and I certainly cannot be on-call for them 24/7 as some parents might wish.

So how am I managing?  For one thing, I am establishing boundaries between my work life and my home life.  I have been a part of Angela Watson’s Forty Hour Work Week program for two years, and each year, as I go through the program, I add that one more thing to help me manage my work.  This year, I am establishing those boundaries with parents.  I have set aside part of my planning period each work day to take care of the emails from parents.  I put this notice in my weekly newsletter and update emails to parents that I will respond to emails during that time, but not after 4:00 p.m.   And I also state that I will respond to emails received during the weekend on the first business day of the week.  (So far, I’ve had only one parent complain about that policy; that parent wanted an immediate reply to an email sent at 11:10 p.m.–long after I had gone to bed!  Remember the part about sixty-three years old?  Yeah, I’m that “old lady” who sometimes goes to bed with the chickens!)

I am also trying to make better use of my planner(s).  For a while, I tried to use one planner for everything–school, personal, etc.  It wasn’t working very well because the planner became so full that I felt overwhelmed, and I shut down.  Now, I have my personal planner for my home life, and I like to decorate it!  I use a modified bullet journal system.  That’s the teacher in me:  steal a good idea and then modify it so that it works for me.  I have another planner just for school hours.  Again it’s a modified bullet journal.  I block off the times for my classes.  Since I’m not using it on the weekends, I white-out the Saturday and Sunday titles and use that space as my weekly “to-do” list–anything that is not time-specific.  Then I write in any appointments on those days.  I do include any after-school personal appointments so that I know to leave the building on time to get there!  I also pencil in any of the students’ extracurricular activities that I want to stay for.  These personal things also go in my personal planner to share with my family.

Is it helping?  I will let you know at the end of the nine weeks. Right now, though, I feel that I have better control over my work and home lives, and that the two do not intrude so much on each other.  Of course, that may change in December when I become “Nana” to Sullivan (Sully) Floyd Fulmer, my first grandchild!

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