I’ve hit November.
Like almost every teacher I know, I’ve hit the wall which is November… it’s a wall of exhaustion, a wall of over-exertion, a wall of self-doubt, and this year in-particular it is a wall of both solidarity and bemusement. It’s a wall that beckons with the elusive promise of Christmas and the barbed wire challenge of report cards, and while I hit it running, hoping to scale it with grace and determination, it seems to have knocked me off my feet.
Like it does every year.
I arrive at school at 6:50 am every morning and leave usually around 3:30 pm, (our school runs from 8 am-2 pm) although last week I didn’t get home until almost five every day because of meetings and Art Club and Dinner Theater rehearsals. I’ve spent several Saturday mornings at school, preparing for lessons, marking, plugging marks into the computer. I’ve spent Sunday mornings at school running play rehearsals. We have 30 minutes for lunch, and I usually spend at least 10 minutes with one kid or another who needs one thing or another… and the other 10 minutes moaning with my teacher friend while we inhale whatever carbohydrates we can scavenge at the end of the cafeteria line, about having to pee and needing a coffee and why isn’t there more chocolate? I know that only adds up to 20 minutes, because I do math right good, you. I lose those other minutes trying to figure out where I left my glasses and where is the photocopying I know I did this morning?
I wake up at 5am and do prep, and I do prep after supper, and on the weekends.
What is prep?
You know how they say that public speaking is, like, the number one fear for most people, even above fear of heights, clowns and spiders? As a teacher, I do that all day, every day. The public speaking. And honey, you better believe that you gotta plan what you’re gonna say or 25 teenagers are gonna tune out and log in and swipe left and then what you gonna do about the Provincial Exam, or the common assessment, or the survey, or Powerschool, or the angry parent…?
Prep means linking outcomes to action.
It means questing in perpetuity to find engaging methods to excite them… videos, podcasts, stories, images, new materials… and preparing those lessons, editing them, arranging them, delivering them… and make no mistake, these kids aren’t the kids I taught ten years ago. They aren’t the kids I taught five years ago. These aren’t the kids we were, when we were kids. Remember how exciting it was when the teacher rolled in the movie projector because you were going to watch an educational video about plate tectonics?
Teaching nowadays is like comparing the Cirque du Soleil to earthworm races. If there isn’t a trapeze and a flaming hoop somewhere in the lesson plan, forget it!
…all while making sure that the eight kids with adaptations can follow you and the three kids with autism can feel involved and the five kids with behavioral adaptations won’t lose interest and the kids who can’t take notes have what they need and the kids who have auditory processing delays can keep up and the kids who haven’t had breakfast are awake and the kids who might have gotten stoned at recess are hopefully not stoned and the assessment piece is in order and you’ve filled in the forms on Tienet and you’ve planned your CLT meeting and you’ve photocopied your Literacy strategy handouts and you’ve emailed back the parent with the absent kid and you’ve tried to find the ipad charger (and failed) and you’ve pissed off another teacher because you planned an event when they have a test and if Stanley drops the f-bomb one more time in class…
And that’s only for one class.
And then there are the things you can’t prep for.
So far this year I have talked with lovely wonderful adorable kids, all of whom I want to take home and wrap in blankets and feed hot chocolate to… a kid whose mum has cancer, a kid who’s being bullied by older kids, a kid who is terrified of going into debt if she goes to university, a kid whose drug use is crippling, a kid who is trying to come out but is scared and can’t tell her parents, a kid who is hungry every day, a kid with absent parents, a kid with an abusive boyfriend, a kid trying to hide a learning disability, a kid who won’t take off his hoodie because then he might be visible, a kid… and a kid… and a kid…
And I have twenty-three in one class, and my neighbor has twenty-eight, and his neighbor has thirty-four, and her neighbor has thirty-seven…
I love them all.
Yes. Even the jerks.
“I know what that gesture means, young man. Stop it. Now.”
“You called her a what? Oh dear. Oh no, dear, that’s not a nice word.”
“I don’t care if your boyfriend is an a**hole, you do not need to text him right now.”
I am responsible for them all.
Do we do this job for the money? Of course we do… teachers are human beings with bills and families and responsibilities… but is it only about the money?
It is not.
It is so emphatically NOT about the money… the $500 I spent of my own money last year for classroom supplies… the cakes I buy every time one of my kids has a birthday… the hours and hours my colleagues spend coaching… the tutoring they offer after school… the program planning for individual students… the support and love and kindness offered outside of the classroom… it is NOT about the money.
It’s about the kids.
That’s why we’re here.
And… they are your kids. They are my kids. They are Nova Scotia’s kids.
I’d like to survive November.
I’d like to have all my reporting, marking, inputting, adapting, accounting for, documenting, meeting, debriefing and analyzing completed so that I can…
Just teach the kids.
We all, just wanna teach the kids.
Now, where did I put my trapeze…?