Friday, December 27, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Monograms

It is no secret that teachers love monograms.  After all, our names are a huge part of our identity in this career.  With Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket, I’ve been making a long list of pretty monogram items to spend it on.  Here are a few of my favorites:



Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Teacher Zen: How I Keep from Getting Burned Out

Those who are not in the business of education just don't understand how hard it is to be a teacher.  Sure, school may be dismissed mid-afternoon, but that does not mean that teachers are dismissed.  Most of us arrive to school well before 8:00 a.m. and do not leave until 5:00 p.m. or later.  Sure, we have a planning period, but it is spent grading, planning lessons, making copies, emailing, contacting parents, and in meetings (just to name a few of the tasks).  And during class time, we have to be completely on point, helping one student with their work while keeping an eye on several other students off task across the room.  In a school day, there is not a single moment of rest for a teacher, leaving us feeling drained by the final bell.  But for many of us, we still keep working when we come home, finishing up grading, lesson planning, writing letters of recommendation for students, or whatever else the bureaucracy demands we complete by a certain date.  Or, if there is not some kind of paperwork to complete, we come home and think about what still needs to be done at school or continue to worry about a student that we still haven't been able to reach.  The reality is that teaching can and will rule our entire lives if we let it.  And because of this, many teachers (usually of quality) become burned out after a few years and call it quits.  But I have found that there are some ways to approach these tasks so that this doesn't happen.

First, you have to leave school at school.  I teach 130 seniors and 50 sophomores, and I bring home grading maybe twice each school year.  How is this possible you ask?  I stay late at school.  I usually do not leave the building until 5:00 or 5:30, which is a little painful sometimes, but I am much more likely to get work done in an empty school building with Pandora playing softly in the background than I am seated in my comfortable chair at home with my adorable dog who is wanting to play.  And let's be real, when I'm watching television, I want to focus on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, not the pile of papers sitting in my lap.  Now, I realize that staying late at school is not possible for some teachers because of children or some other obligation, so maybe coming to school early would be a better option; you just have to figure out what works for your schedule.  But I promise, spending a little more time in the school building will make for a happier, more balanced life at home.

Also, let me let you in on a little secret: if you don't get that pile of papers graded before the end of the grading period, no one will know or care.  In my first year of teaching, I can remember working like a maniac, trying to get every little piece of work graded before the end of each grading period.  But then I finally realized that I am essentially my own boss in the classroom and that it was my own deadlines that I was trying to meet.  Since this revelation, I have given myself a bit of a break.  This is not to say that you should let work sit around for long periods of time, but if you've been working on a stack of essays and they still aren't done when it's time to go home on Friday, odds are they can wait until Monday to be finished.

Another thing I like to do is keep a running list of everything I need to do, from grading to planning to little menial tasks.  Each day at school, I tackle the next most important item on the list and focus on just that task until it is complete.  These lists keep me from forgetting what needs to be done and help me to prioritize.  Also, it feels awesome to cross things off.

Although teaching is time consuming, you have to remember to make yourself a priority.  If you are feeling run-down, it is hard to be your best self in the classroom and at home.  What are some things you do to keep your sanity during the school year?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Three Years Teaching: Lingering Anxieties and Other Musings

I have always loved to write.  In fact, I once believed that I would become a famous author one day (could still happen, right?).  A long time ago, when I was barely twenty and had absolutely no idea who I was, I toyed with the idea of becoming a teacher because I thought it would leave a lot of time to be a writer.  This is obviously the musings of a person who has no idea what it's like to be an educator.  But, nonetheless, I made the famous "pro/con" list.  At the time, I was trying to decide whether to be a teacher or go down the family business path and become an insurance agent.  The other day I found this list and, naturally, Instagrammed the silly thing.

In the end, I decided I would become an insurance agent, which almost happened.  After my junior year of college, I decided to drop out and work full time at my dad's agency.  One dull summer of learning about weather perils, collisions, and billing put me promptly back into school in August and I was still able to graduate on time with a degree in English.

I still had hopes of being a writer, but needed to save money for grad school, so after graduation I ironically went to work for Wells Fargo Financial as a--well, I forget exactly what my title was now because it was a bunch of baloney.  Basically I sold car loans and credit cards, masked as a solution for debt.  Three months of listening to my managers and co-workers laugh at others' financial struggle, taking joy in digging them deeper into debt, was all I could take (and don't get me started on their inability to spell or use correct grammar in emails).

Although those three months at Wells Fargo were three of the worst months of my life, I am eternally grateful for my experience for two reasons:

1. It taught me about loans and how to read/avoid sleezy loan sharks.
2. It made me realize that I needed to be in a profession that actually mattered.  A profession that would allow me to help make someone a better person.  It made me realize that I wanted to be a teacher.

I remember the morning before my first experience as a student observer.  I was feeling very nervous because I had not been in a high school classroom since I was a high school student.  I didn't know what to expect.  In the car, I prayed to God that I would like it.  I had already committed to grad school for secondary education, so how awful would it have been if I left that day feeling like teaching wasn't my path?  Luckily, I loved it and I haven't looked back.

I am now in my third year of teaching.  I still have crazy anxieties about lawsuits (that educational law class was scarring!) and often wonder if what I'm doing is working.  But then I look at my students and I realize that I'm not such a bad teacher.  I love them and they know it: isn't that what it's all about?  If students know that you care about them, then an increase in test scores will be a natural symptom.  If you love what you're doing and make an investment in the people you are teaching, good teaching practices are bound to come forth.

So I am looking forward to creating a blog about something I love.  I aim to be real and I hope that my ramblings may inspire in some way.  And I look forward to getting to know more teachers who are keeping it real and fighting the good fight.