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It Goes from September to June

February 17, 2011

The beginning of a school year for many new teachers can be compared to building a house.  Each September, we begin a new house.  With each successive year, the house is better and stronger than the one before.  Throughout the year, the builder/teacher/carpenter/architect is free to make renovations, additions here and there, and do patch-up work on places that need regular attention because of ware and tear.  It’s much too taxing to  really tear everything down in the middle of the year and try to begin the house again.  Once we’ve established those foundations in the first few weeks, that’s what the tenants/students know and are used to.  It’s inconsistency children do not like.

It’s true what they say, the first year of teaching is about survival.  Create a house you can stand, that’s livable, and hopefully the roof doesn’t cave in or the power doesn’t go out while you’re teaching a lesson.  This year I’ve “built” a better classroom.  My attempts at teaching technique, classroom management, etc. are much more deliberate, experience-based, and purposeful than they were last year.  Not unlike many classrooms with young teachers, I’ve sprung a few leaks so to speak and have had to make some changes in the way my classroom is run.  This, and a combination of several other factors have made this winter…tiring.

Flying through February, and as we approach March, I’m realizing that my body doesn’t have the kind of endurance veteran teachers have.  The beginning of the year is so full of optimism and energy that I don’t feel this at that time.  Like a baseball season: for rookies, come August and September their bodies lack the endurance to play such a long season (Jeez, a baseball analogy…real original, R.J.)  Fine, that’s simple enough.  To put it another way, I’ve felt tired at times when I don’t expect to be tired.  But is it just because of the longevity of the teaching season?  Short answer: no.  Luckily, I’m at a school that allows me enough flexibility to use a teaching style of my choice.  It’s really up to me how good of a teacher I want to be.  I set generally high standards for myself, which means when something in my classroom doesn’t work out, I can take it pretty hard.

In western-style education, each minute of every teaching day is planned to some degree, but the the potential for flexibility is always there.  There are those unexpected events during the school day that are not planned that tax your brain (e.g. calling three parents in one day all for separate reasons, a student breaking a vertebrae going down the BIG slide, or having a parent meet last nearly two hours when is it was originally scheduled for 30 minutes) And of course the additional things to classroom work like professional development that need to get done…curriculum mapping, self-reflecting, goal-setting, etc.)  But these are things I signed up for…of course it’ll be tiring.

The reasons for any apathy or fatigue can also stem from having Rheumatoid Arthritis.  My symptoms ebb and flow, and despite a very debilitating first few months…the disease has been relatively under control…more or less.  The balance beam I have to walk is trying figure out how much of my week’s behavior and health is attributed to the arthritis?  How much is it not?  It’s an easy pity card to play, really.  One I play only when I 100% positive about it.  Something that works against me, however, is ignoring it.  I’m realizing as I get older, my body can’t do things it used to do…can’t endure specific lifestyle choices.  As I was reminded about this a few weeks ago, I thought it was time again to inquire, and re-educate myself, more from other people that also have RA.  I’ve often avoided this because doing so it can get real depressing real fast.  Instead of me rambling on about it, I recently came across this rather accurate guide to the disease.  Go ahead, open it up and read it.  Should only take a minute :)

Done reading?  Good.  The point of this blog is to kind of help me analyze the what and the why of how my body’s feeling from day to day, from week to week.  Why I suddenly feel fatigued at work? or why this time 7 hours of sleep didn’t really cut it?  Doing things like reading RA forums and blogs gives me a chance to better understand my health in the context of being a teacher.  I need a certain amount of energy to keep up with my class.  I can afford very few days of teaching tired…particularly with such a long season.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2011 11:34 am

    Hey Buddy,

    Love your reflections…thanks for sharing. Teaching is a marathon not a sprint and January – March is miles 18-20. Everyone hates them but they’re probably the most important. You’ve covered the review of last year, you’re over the winter holiday slump and there are no big break until Spring break to think of…so you’ve got a long stretch of deep learning. I would even go so far as to say these are the biggest months of learning in education and the most exhausting.

    It’s also good to know your body. I’m s Spring guy…I always have more energy in the Spring think clearer, am more motivated, more on top of thing, but research points to that being rare. Most people are Fall people in education, the newness the excitement. I think mine has to do with baseball as well…..Spring was when I had to work the hardest to make sure I maintained a 2.0 GPA to make the team. I also think for me it has to do with sun light and in Spring with each day getting longer I feel like I get stronger.

    It’s a tough time of year…and then Spring Break hits and you think to yourself how did we get here already, and then you look at your curriculum and you realize you’re never going to finish it all, and then comes the sprint to the finish line and the last day of school when you stand there saying goodbye and after the last student leaves you sit at your desk….reflect…and wonder if you really taught them anything at all this year.

    That’s being an educator……the part of the job that never makes the advertisement, or that we talk about…but we all go through it in one form or another. Thanks for sharing…and take care of yourself…it’s a long season. :)

  2. February 19, 2011 6:31 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, Jeff. You’re exactly right…something about these winter days that can take the energy out of you. But the Spring for me too always seems to perk me up. The last “big” thing for us this year is student-led conferences, then after that I’m really looking forward to how fast the time will fly. Hope all is well…say hi to Daneah for me!

    -Ma salama

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