However do you want me, however do you need me?

Photo by Wirawat Lian-udom (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Over the last week-plus, summer ended and we went back to reality here at Casa Iriarte. I’ve been so swamped with things! to get done! immediately! that I haven’t had a chance to come up for air until tonight. Hopefully now things will calm down and I’ll have the chance to reclaim some bits of my life for my own pursuits.

Every year is full of its challenges and things that don’t go exactly right, but from my perspective this has been one of the smoothest school openings I can remember. We got our rosters on the first day of preplanning, and our textbooks within the first couple days. I well remember years where we didn’t get rosters until the morning school began, and where we went two or three weeks into the year without being able to give out books. I was able to pick up the technology I use within the first day or so, and got immediate help on my first technical snafu–a dead tablet battery–as well. I was even able to schedule time in the computer lab on the very second day of school, when last year it was just about impossible to come by all year.

The good support I got from above and all around made it possible for me to be as organized as possible when it came to my own tasks. I was able to get all my student files set up well ahead of the first day–that proves impossible more often than not–and also go through a lot of the pre-year preparation rituals that help me feel ready to be successful. I can definitely remember years when I’ve been a lot less ready to go at the beginning of the year–most of them, in fact.

During preplanning I also got the chance to go to the open house at my kids’ school and meet their teachers and get their supply lists. I swear, I have a hard time believing that some of the teachers out there have children of their own going to school. I spent at least a hundred and fifty bucks getting just the minimum all their teachers asked for, and keeping an eye out for sales at that. And my favorite bit was the enormous binders everybody seemed to want. Pro tip: kids can’t generally fit two 1½-inch binders in their backpacks and still have room for anything else. (1½ inches doesn’t sound that big, but next time you’re in Staples go see what I’m talking about; that just describes the rings, not the whole thing.)

And then the kids arrived. As a teacher, I’m doubly blessed. I teach high level classes filled with motivated kids who are generally very nice. I also teach a lot of my own lead-up classes, so I get to know a lot of my kids for several years. Still, there are always new faces to learn, and it’s a bit unnerving to face class after class with unfamiliar faces, and the unwritten story they represent. What kind of year will this be?

Some summers are better for recharging your motivation than others, and this one was a good one. I had some successes in my non-teaching life, some much-needed and much-appreciated affirmations of what I do in the classroom, and some simple time away. So I’m in a good place going into this year, but as I mentioned in another post, some failures are inevitable, and at the beginning of the year, I don’t know where my struggles will be. Every day is a delicate guessing game of did I expect too much? Review to little? Talk too long? Come across too bombastic? Confront when I should have cajoled? It can take as little as one mistake to close a door, and when you realize you’ve lost a kid, you can spend the rest of the year wondering what different move would have changed things. For now, though, all those doors seem open; I can keep my fingers crossed and hope I can find a way to be all things to all my students.

The last two years have been good ones for me, but they have been extremely stressful ones just the same. It feels like nationwide more and more is being added to teachers’ plates while nothing is taken off and no more compensation is offered, and pundits nationwide are laying a host of failures at our feet. I’ve never worked harder than I have for the last two years, and I spent both of them feeling like I was barely accomplishing the things I was expected to. (A big part of that stress has to do with LFS lesson plans, but that’s a topic that really deserves its own post some day.)

This week began very stressful again, but midweek I felt that stress lift in a way I haven’t experienced in a very long time, and I began to feel optimistic that the foundation my colleagues and I had laid over the past couple of years was bearing fruit. We’ve been working at being more collaborative, which can be good or bad. Collaboration is only as good as you think your colleagues are, but I’m lucky to have some great ones. So I found myself going home at the end of the day having all but cleared my to-do list. For comparison’s sake, that to-do list was never empty last year. Never. I can’t tell you how light I felt riding home, feeling like I’d done my work, and now I could focus on myself for a bit. I’d like to think that having more time to find satisfaction in my non-teaching life can only serve to make me a better teacher.

Hopefully, that sense of well-being will still be around once piles of student work are coming in, and there are e-mails and phone calls to return, and meetings to attend, and so forth.

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