Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Worker Bee me

You may have noticed that I didn't post much over the summer. I guess I was too busy sunning myself and reading in the hammock and pickling fresh okra and being bossed around by a very cute three-year-old dictator with "fishtails." (That's what she calls pigtails.) I was making indulgent lunches for the adults in the house because given the option, I will always choose to make and eat a hot meal. I was enjoying having BD home with us for the first summer ever.

The thing is, not being alone in a tiny house with four kids all summer put a little dent in my usual readiness to return to work. Add to that a room change plus a new and much harder schedule, and well...I just didn't want to do it. Couldn't I just stay home all the time? Haven't we won the lottery yet? I went around muttering those questions in between the litany of gross injustice: "More kids, less time, same material, less time to plan." It seemed I'd run all out of Pollyanna Sunshine just when I needed it most.

Week one was rough. I went to my week of teacher in-service and three of the kids in the household started their new schools. Did I mention that the six kids in this house started four new schools this year? At Monday's training we learned about the frequent random walk-throughs we could expect as often as twice a week in our classrooms. On Tuesday I worked registration while simultaneously de-funkifying my new (to me, but in fact not in any way resembling new) classroom from 8:00 in the morning until 8:30 at night, not counting a two-hour dinner break that involved forty minutes of driving home and back, while my family went to our Neighborhood Night Out without me. Less than twelve hours later I was at my district English training where I learned about the new, huge and multi-faceted "Capstone Experience" project my seniors all have to complete and that I, of course, will be completely responsible for. And so on. And so forth.

But then yesterday, I got to do my job. I taught four 90-minute classes back to back with only a half-hour break for lunch. (Three more minutes than last year!) I talked about supplies and class expectations and played "Two Truths and a Lie" with each class, wowing them with my big finish in which I go around the room and recite all of their names from memory. I was exhausted by the end but also invigorated. It reminded me that, oh yeah, I'm good at this. I can do this. I like these kids. A lot of them like me. Of course there was the kid who told me incredulously when I assigned the descriptive one-syllable word paragraph "It's the first day of school! We're not s'pose to do nothing the first day. I didn't even bring any paper." But there were also a lot of others who shook their heads at that kid and got eagerly to work and then volunteered to read what they'd written out loud. There was the girl who told me "I'm supposed to be in honors but I'm not leaving this class" and the boy who said "I was going to need this block for another class but I'm going to stay here. You seem like an interesting person." For every slack-jawed stare there were more kids smiling at me with wide-open faces and eyes that showed the unmistakable spark of engagement.

I still feel like once I get home, some internal switch flips to "conserve" and I sort of fold up in order to expend the least possible energy. I don't know how elementary teachers can survive being "on" all day every day. At least I know that eventually I'll have days when my students are writing or when I'm only there to facilitate their activities. Hopefully now that I have finally, finally finished the endless daily trips for additional, freshly requested school supplies that must be brought tomorrow, I can finish each day slightly less exhausted and my evening energy levels will balance out a little.


Rita said...

You deserve a medal. I wish I'd have had you as an english teacher in high school. I had great english teachers in junior high and in college, but I had no english teachers in high school that came even close to you! (they were all burned-out, sixty-year-old men with their eyes on retirement). I love hearing what you love about your job, too.

Mel Spillman artwork said...

The first week back with middle schoolers has been great too. I am exhausted from teaching but am really enjoying my students. They are already drawing 3d shapes with graphite and shading like masters. One 8th grade kid told me today (the 4th day of class) that he has never drawn so well in his life...that he did not know he could draw!

Teachers like us rule.

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