Wednesday, August 19, 2009


That's the eternal debate, isn't it? I didn't get it when I worked in a public school. Maybe I didn't work hard enough or something. Although I remember the despair my first year, when there was just so much to do and no time to do it. I faithfully brought home piles of paper every night for grading or organizing...and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Each day was so intense that I was just too fried.

Charter schools are a whole other monster, though. There's somehow more to do and even less time to do it. Plus extra things--duties, meetings, extra activities--take up the little "prep" time during the day. (Forget about lunch; that was scarfed with one hand while frantically typing, grading, or copying.)

And this year I'll have all four subjects! I'm not shy about admitting how terrified I am about that. Fortunately, there are packaged curricula for each. We haven't had time to work with it yet, so I'm not sure exactly how they work and how easy or hard it will be to implement them each and every single day. I'm hoping it will be a good way to ease into the work and then as I get used to it, I'll be able to work some creativity into the lessons and units. Because somehow it sounds like we are also expected to create interdisciplinary, multiple-intelligence units. Not sure how those two things happen at the same time...but I suppose it's good that the school trusts us and wants us not to just be parrots of the chosen textbook.

It's really something I can't get my mind around. For five years I had to create everything I did. So naturally that's the way that teaching happens in my head. And holy crap! Four subjects! Every day! Yikes!

But shhh, no, there will be brand new materials! Books, teacher guides (GASP!!! those were like GOLD at Original Middle School, because having one was so rare), workbooks, all kinds of stuff. I have to say, I love that charter schools take away the worry and tension and excuse of broken, old, or non-existent materials.

Oh! Another thing that I have to keep reminding myself is that even grading and homework and stuff won't be such a huge chore--twenty-five things to deal with is infinitely easier than a hundred. Right? And elementary schools seem to not assign homework every day in every subject (even charter schools fall prey to the Magical Packet Assignment), so at most I figure I'd have one set per day. Psh, that's cake!

The last, biggest part of this is work/life balance. It was a huge struggle last fall. I got up before dawn, worked my ass off for ten to twelve hours, and trudged home, spaced out in front of the tv and/or computer, and had to go to bed. The weekends were an all-too-short respite from the grind; just as I felt a bit of myself recovering, it was Sunday night and time to worry about the week again.

I really need to not do that again. It took a huge toll on me--I lost weight, I couldn't sleep, I barely saw my boyfriend, I never saw my friends, not to mention all the crying. I had no time to read or do anything for fun, there was no room in my mind or my life for anything other than school.

The sad thing is, there were so many people working harder and longer than I was!

Anyway, so this year I plan to be strict with myself about going home by a certain time. I figure one hour after school per day will be enough. I joined a gym last week, and went twice last week. Yesterday I dragged myself out the door in the humidity, but I was really glad. It felt good to sweat and let my mind be blank for an hour. So I plan to go at least one time during the week and once on the weekend. The BF and I are hoping to set aside one night a week to spend some time together, either at home or maybe going out for dinner. I'd like to have some friend time at least every few weeks too. I'm crossing my fingers that my so-far friendly colleagues will become friends or at least invite me out to happy hour every once in a while. :)

Because god knows I'll be needing a drink!


bun2bon said...

Wow, just reading that made me dizzy. Good luck!

Schoolgal said...

I've never been a fan of charters because of the way the government is trying to destroy public school teachers, but I am happy for you.

You have seen the worst of charters and now hopefully the best. And I always thought you would be good in an elementary setting. But yes, we do give homework in each subject, but in public school we followed a formula--10 minutes per grade starting with Kindergarten. So 5th grade got 40 minutes per night followed by 30 minutes of reading.

Do not check hw by collecting it (unless it's a written assignment). When the children come in, have them put all their hw on their desks. While they are working on their morning assignment, walk around and check that each assignment was completed and mark it off in a large-boxed chart as either a check, zero, or "inc" with an abbreviation of what subject wasn't completed..SS, Rd, Sci, Math, etc. and send off a pre-written form letter. Before each subject, take the 10 minutes to review each assignment with the class and have them mark it. If you are marking Journals, just collect a random table each day. Do not do the whole class at one time. Hopefully your class-size will be workable.

I take it you will have your own room, so that will make it easier.

I wish you the best of luck and look fwd to your blogs on this new venture. And I know you will give an accurate account of the pros and cons of a charter.

Teacher said...

MM..what grade are you teaching? Look out...the grass is always greener. I don't mean to toss out negativity...just the honest to goodness truth. I teach 3rd this year...every year I have been switched to a new grade..but I work ten hours usually 12! I hope this charter proves to be wonderful. I had a similar exp at a charter school that you describe in the top of your note. This was a good post for me to read...bc I have always thought maybe have middle school or high school would have been slightly easier. ..

ms. v. said...

It sounds like you have some initial thoughts about how to protect yourself and still do a good job. I think it's so important to decide what your own non-negotiables are... like, come hell or high water, it's see at least two friends you don't live with each week, and go to the gym twice, and... whatever it happens to be for you. Then treat those just as seriously as you would treat professional tasks. Put them on the to-do list. Good luck! (And I'm pretty reliable for happy hour, btw).

Marianna said...

It's so nice to hear that I am not the only one who felt overwhelmed and fried. I wanted to blame it on my lack of organizational skills, but seeking even veteran teachers stay at work for 12 hrs or more made me depressed. I do want to do a good job, but at the same time I don't want teaching to become my life so that I don't have any time or energy for anything else. Thank for sharing your thoughts and feelings honestly. It makes me feel better. Good luck with finding the right balance fore you!