Monday, March 09, 2015

How to Weather the Storm

I'm tired.

I'm tired of students ignoring directions. I'm tired of having to repeat myself because students weren't paying attention. I'm tired of students acting like they should be allowed to do whatever they like (play on their cell phones, chitchat about weekend plans instead of working, sleep in class), and throwing a fit when I attempt to redirect them.

I'm tired of re-re-re-re-RE-organizing my unit plans because they're supposed to be kept up to date and we keep losing days because of bad weather. I'm tired of worrying how I'm going to prove that I'm a good teacher, because the current assumption is that you're mediocre or even negligent unless you can document otherwise. I'm tired of spending my time documenting my good teaching instead of actually practicing it.

I'm tired of feeling like I'm always in a lose/lose situation. If I don't stay abreast of popular culture (or if I keep my mouth shut), I'm ignorant and out of touch and can't relate to today's world. If I do, I'm unprofessional and possibly a creeper. If I point out the ways that teachers are often exploited, I'm a greedy whiner. If I keep my head down and just try to do my job, I'm a sellout.

I'm tired of being tired.

The truth is, in some ways, teachers have it much better now than they ever have. I don't have to come in at dawn to get the furnace started, nor did I have to worry that getting married would torpedo my career. But there is a level of self-sacrifice assumed of teachers that isn't true in other professions; in many cases, the work day extends long into the evening and often covers the weekends.

So what can we do to weather the storm?

1. Develop a support system.   I have wonderful people to help me - my husband is always patient and encouraging when I come home tired and frustrated (again). We both have parents in the area, and we actually enjoy spending time with them. Our friends are creative and interesting people, and we have lots of opportunities to be active in our community.

2. Learn to say "no." There are so many demands made on our time and abilities. It feels like each person thinks that the task they're requesting is the only one we have! If we say yes to everything that's asked of us, it becomes impossible to follow through. For me, going back on my word makes me feel incredibly guilty, even if I didn't mean to. So it's really important that I only agree to do things that I'm absolutely sure I'll be able to do in the time frame given.

3.  Get plenty of rest. This is especially important right now after "Spring Forward." Your body may still be used to going to bed at what it thinks is 10 PM, so you might have to start your bedtime rituals a little earlier. That way you don't look at the clock, thinking it's almost bedtime, and realize that you've accidentally stayed up until 10:50! Being well-rested helps me be more alert and focused during the day. It's easier for me to be patient with students who complain and to come up with an alternate plan if the copier jams, or the fire alarm goes off, or the books have completely fallen apart at the spine.

4. Exercise. I'll admit, I don't do as much exercising as I should. It's really hard when you're frustrated and worn out! Now that our school day is 20 minutes longer (because we missed so many days this winter) it's going to be even more difficult.

5. Eat well. Being hungry puts me in a rotten mood. If I don't have breakfast, I'm grouchy until lunch. There's also plenty of research that shows that eating breakfast also kicks your metabolism into a higher gear so that you're more ready for the day.

Also, it's often tempting to grab fast food after school. As a treat that's fine, but on a regular basis, it's bad for both your health and your bank account. When you make dinner, prepare enough to allow for leftovers to take to school for lunch. If I don't have leftovers, I try to pack sandwiches the night before. The morning is rushed as it is; anything I can do ahead of time to prepare makes it a bit easier.

 6. Count your blessings. Last but not least, take some time every now and then to remind yourself of the good things in your life. Look around you for opportunities to connect with others. Don't try to do everything yourself; remember that by graciously accepting help from others, you can make them feel valued and important.

What suggestions do you have for staying active for the long haul?


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