Friday, October 7, 2011

Exhaustion, Thy Name is Friday

Here was my yesterday (Thursday) after school: photocopying a packet for the next unit I will be doing with my sophomores. We're moving into the persuasive research paper unit, which will take us to Thanksgiving and beyond. The packet I put together was 38 pages (that's front and back, though, so 19 pieces of paper, plus the cover, so 20 sheets of paper). But here's some rudimentary math for you: 39 imprints per student with 126 students = 4, 914 copies made. This photo shows a stack of approximately 2,520 pieces of paper. FIVE reams. And to make a 38 page packet with 19 pages meant that there were 19 sets of masters I had to flip over and copies I had to flip over, etc. I started copying at 3:15 pm. I gave up after my second phase of collating -- our electric collator only holds 8 stacks of paper, and I had 20. So I did two shifts, 8 at a time, to create two sets of collated packets, which took way longer than it should have because apparently the collator is sick and has decided that it needs to spit some of the papers randomly out the back of it... so it had to be babysat the whole time. I heaved all of these packets back to my classroom, cleaned up, and climbed into my car at 5:45 pm. Thank goodness for my mom the short order cook who made me dinner when I called on my way home all stressed out and harried from doing all the copying. Also thank goodness for my TAs -- they've all been so helpful in keeping me sane this year, but three of the four of my TAs worked to finish these packets. My 4th period TAs, Emily and Sean, worked like bosses to actually finish them -- I was going to let them wait until I bought a new stapler because my staplers have gotten worn out this year and have decided to crap out, but they made it work.

So... what's my point? I need a secretary. Or something. But my point in this rather long-winded introduction is that there are things that I think people don't realize teachers have to do, especially these days. When I was first hired at Poway, there was a classified employee employed full time to manage the copy room -- we mostly could do our own copies, but she was there to make copies if we left them in advance, to laminate, to fix and monitor the machines, etc. But now? It's every man for himself. And though I've generally always done my own copies because I don't usually copy until the day before or the day of, it's just a fact of my job that I have to be my own secretary. Taking attendance. Refilling my classroom staplers. Making all of my own copies. Filling out scads of paperwork (this week, it was three Teacher Input Forms for National Merit Scholar Qualifiers, four grade change forms for the Incompletes I gave at the end of second semester last year, one input form for a student being tested for a learning disability, passing out to my classes federal survey forms (which require keeping track of who has submitted them and who hasn't) and suicide prevention cards, and signing my weekly attendance report). And since my prep period is only 57 minutes long on most days, I have no prep on Wednesday, and a 2 hour prep on Thursdays, there's not really enough time to do all of that work within the school day, especially when you want to do something like I did, which is make a packet for an 8 week unit.

Really, though, it's been one of those weeks, where I wish cameras were following me around. (Okay, maybe not really, but maybe I wish a politician who makes disparaging comments about teachers being overpaid were having to job shadow me...). I've spent a lot of extra time at school this week and have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off the entire time I've been at school this week. As soon as I arrive, it's go go go and I barely have time to sit or think or do the human things to take breaks to make sure I don't go completely insane. I've been making copies and planning and adjusting my lessons. I've collected more work than I even want to think about right now because I have to grade a lot of it this weekend, since six week grades are due Wednesday. I've barely gotten to work, barely gotten to interact with other adult humans, barely gotten to really teach properly because my students haven't been progressing the way they need to; I have to keep going backwards and reteaching things.

Plus, I had a bit of a scerfuffle -- which ended up being really nothing more than a poorly-written misunderstanding -- with my student who is blind. It turned out to be not as big of a problem as I thought it might turn into, but it consumed a lot of my brain Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday until I had a chance to talk to him. And it was in my interaction with him on Thursday that prompted me to think that I wish people could be job shadowing me right now. Because it's weird to have a student who is blind suddenly lean in for a hug when I don't *do* hugs. It's a challenge to really communicate effectively when you're someone like me who communicates a lot with my face. And it's a challenge to teach a student to write who can't see -- you wouldn't really think so, but I'm starting to realize how much of good writing is visual. But this is the year when I wish anyone who thinks teachers have a sweet, kooshy deal with our summers off and our zillions of dollars of pay (... pssh ...) was made to job shadow a teacher for a week. You only get to sit when I sit, you only get to go the bathroom when I do, and you'll be up to your elbows in the RISO machines because I'm going to teach you how to fix them because, alas, I don't just get to sit on a chair and discuss poetry with my students; I have to repair damn office machines and do some of my own janitorial work, like emptying my pencil sharpener and cleaning my whiteboards, and clean off the tops of the desks. And all of this is in addition to actually preparing rooms full of swarms of high schoolers to be humans in a world changing so rapidly around them that none of us can keep up. Oh, yeah, and have I mentioned lately that I'm still pursuing the gamifying of education experiment on top of everything else? I'm rolling out adaptations to this theory on Monday; we'll see how much better this works. The theory is totally working; it's the practice that has some kinks. But, yeah, in a year where we're all collectively doing more work than ever, I've added EXTRA work with this experiment.

What all of this boils down to is this: it's only the beginning of October and I'm starting to feel burnt out and am so exhausted that I am useless once I leave school.

Oh, and it also all boils down to this: the next person near me that puts down my profession is going to get a swift kick in the shin, followed by an invitation to come and walk around in my super cute but not that teaching-friendly shoes for a week. And I will tell them to bring ant spray, because the ants are back in the bathroom. With a vengeance.