Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's Wrong With this Picture?

As I have struggled to face this period in my life, with my son away at college and me at home preparing for an empty nest, one of the best pieces of advice I have received is to find a hobby to spend time on. There is only one problem---- I am not getting any spare time to devote to a hobby! I am speaking literally- I don't know if it just my chosen career in education that is creating this problem, but I am finding that more and more of MY time is becoming JOB time.

I am one of those teachers who truly wants to teach. I got into this career to make a difference. I will devote whatever time I need to in order to really do my best to meet the needs of my students. The problem is that there is now so much paperwork that I find myself working all of the time. I am up early in the morning and out my front door usually at 7 AM at the latest. When I get to school I sign in and head straight to my room to begin entering grades, preparing flipcharts, and printing supplemental readings. When my planning rolls around, I try to grade a few papers and enter a few more grades, that is, if I am not in a meeting. In the afternoon when the voice on the intercom says, "All students are dismissed," my students run for the door while I reach for more papers or attend another meeting. I don't think that I have left school before 5 PM on any day this school year and most of them have found me exiting the building at 6 PM. When I get home there is the typical routine: cook, do dishes, squeeze in some time for laundry, and try to help my daughter with some of her work. Bedtime is getting earlier and earlier, simply because I am so tired.

One of my fellow teachers asked me the other day, "So what were the good old days like?" (This is the point where I should tell you that I am the teacher in our building with the largest number of years of experience.) This forced me to compare the two time periods: back then and now. I remember grading a lot of student work back then; I actually probably do less of that now because the student work has gotten more in depth, with more final projects and writing pieces rather than skills worksheets. What I don't remember are all of the extra meetings or teacher paperwork. We had our faculty meeting as needed and we had the professional development sessions, of course, but we didn't have all of the add-on trainings. I think that some of that can be blamed on the extra programming that has been added on through the years. Every time we begin a new program there is a new training. As far as paperwork goes, I remember having a red gradebook and the green "Bird Book" where we kept attendance. We didn't have the several assessment tracking sheets, the pacing guides, and other forms.

You would think that technology and computerization would make all of this paperwork easier, but it hasn't. I find myself spending more time in front of a computer screen: typing parent newsletters, answering emails from students or parents, creating lesson plans, entering grades into the online gradebook, and analyzing student data. Just when I think I have learned a program and I can maneuver it, someone decides to update and I find myself learning something all over again.

I am sure that things will smooth out at some point....... I will get myself organized, I will learn to let some things go, or I will just have to stop and take a breath. I can only hope that the day I am speaking of comes VERY SOON!

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