Wednesday, September 21, 2011

English Department Meeting

I love our department chairperson.  I love my colleagues.  We are so awesome and powerful, and we mean so well.  And we would never deliberately trash an agenda.

But today at our meeting, it disintegrated into a general despair, a desperation arising from two weeks that have gone something like this:
  • 156 English students to get to know, whose writing I need to read, who I want to be okay and believe that I know not only their names, but their styles, their reading tastes, what skills they have at this point.
  • 23 advisory students I'm supposed to be tracking and getting to know personally so I can become their advocate.
  • National Board Coaching Saturday
  • Open House
  • Freshman commits suicide
  • Parent Teacher conference night
  • My own children's parent teacher conferences
  • Professional Growth Plans due
  • Progress Report Grades Due (not to mention the grading)
  • National Board Workday (include:  making sub plans)
  • Evaluating opportunities to earn extra $ tutoring for AIMS or teaching after-school classes.  Deciding it's just not possible, even though funds would be helpful.
  • My own son gets kicked out of school and I have to interrupt teaching to go pick him up
  • Multiple real estate transactions we are working on
  • Conference time with students replaced twice by a) pep rally and b) PSAT proctor training (rgh).
  • Computer lab taken over by another teacher who went there on the wrong period; lab not available another period because the office doors are all locked and nobody is anywhere to be found.
  • Planning, grading, planning, grading and planning and grading for three separate courses.
  • Trying to track down and help several individual students who worry me.
  • web development on seven separate wikis.
  • flat tire on the very warm roof of the parking garage.
  • tech work orders for network connections, software installation, etc.
  • National Board candidate support meeting.
Well, that's my list anyway.   About every other item could be replaced by every other teacher in that room with their own personal troubles and obligations.  Several expressed that they feel like first year teachers again with the class loads we have.  I have been feeling that way, but I thought it was because of National Boards, which is really causing me to look closely at my students and what they are learning or how they are developing as readers and writers.

No, it turns out we are all feeling the pressure.  Classes start so early this year it is hard to meet with students individually.  The bell schedule is all wacko.  We are all trying so badly, as we always do, to compensate for the difficulties of the system-- it's the nature of being a professional in the educational system.  You are a trooper.  You go for it, despite...   You care, despite...   You can't stop trying out new instructional ideas, despite...   You make field trip plans, despite...

It's a wacky time, folks.  I'm feeling alternately exhilirated, refreshed and re-energized in my teaching and also exhausted, overwhelmed and helpless at the same time.  It's a cliche, but it's true that the students keep me going.  And it's only week 6.  How long until we all catch bronchitis and stay home for a few days?

Well, that thought-dump really helped.  I'm off to bed.  To sleep?  Perchance to dream?  For more than 5 1/2 hours?  A pleasant thought indeed.

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