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Teacher Overload!

Tabitha Helms

For a rainy day, my day went much better than expected. Luckily at recess times, the skies were cloudy but rain-free, so they only came inside for half of a recess. They had pretty good behavior all day too. That was a relief. I think a lot of it pertained to my "talking things up" that we were doing. "If you're good, and do this quickly and neatly, then we'll have time to do an extra special fun craft!" "Yay!" I only wish my boss had chosen today to come in and observe; my lessons were great today, if I do say so myself. I'm afraid she's going to come in next week when all of Kindergarten chaos lets loose with all the celebrations we have going on. The end of my day took a sudden wrong turn though. I had been lesson planning like I always do on Tuesdays. Next week is jam packed with stuff. We have a birthday, Valentine's Day, the 100th day of school, and President's Day weekend. I planned everything fine until I got to my 100th day. I wasn't sure how that worked logistically, and the other kinder teacher has told me she has activities and things for us to use. I told her this morning, I'd be working on my lesson plans and that I'd need 100 day stuff. But she never got it for me. When I tried to ask her at the end of the day what time she does her 100 day stuff since I didn't even know how much stuff she had or how long it would take to do everything, she said she does it during her language arts time. Unfortunately, we're celebrating the 100th day on Thursday (even though it's really on Tuesday). Thursdays, my class has PE, so our language arts block gets cut from an hour and a half to 45 minutes. That means it will probably take my class all of our language arts and our math time. I had counted on math time, but not language arts. LA is the hardest subject for me to cut because of the overabundance of things my curriculum books puts into a whole week. There's not enough time in each day to do everything in there--especially since we have PE twice a week. Due to President's Day, we don't have school on Friday, so my LA is already being cut a day next week. I don't think I can completely swipe out two days, especially if my boss comes in to observe--one thing she checks for is if we're using the curriculum books. I already don't know how to not get points knocked off for not using curriculum for math. We've sped through it so quickly, that we're adding our own stuff to it--drawing out addition for a month, adding in two weeks of money review, before going back to the curriculum for subtraction.

After that disheartening news, I went to my staff meeting. Usually staff meetings are not a big deal. We talk about upcoming school events, get updated briefly on what's going on with accreditation, and are reminded about school policies. This time, we opened our meeting by using the Starboard with a poll about what we're doing President's Day weekend. We looked over our agenda--open house confirmation of literary themes for our classes, student council plans, community service plans, policy for student help in our classrooms, and accreditation update.

The meeting got rolling, and everything was as usual. One of the teachers talked about her plans for student council that will be starting next year. She had listed goals for this year and next year and said she was wanting another staff member to help out. I was actually interested in this one--unlike the other two commitments that were "forced" upon me at the beginning of the year (ASL club and speech meet, which is coming up soon....oy another thing to think about.) I was on ASB in high school, and I really enjoyed it. I think it's a great opportunity for students to learn how to be leaders and have a chance to be poured into. But even with my interest, I kept from vocalizing it to the teacher because I don't even know if I have a teaching job yet next year. If I do have a teaching job next year, then I have to go back to college--taking online courses through UCSD. I also don't really know any of the older kids. I feel like I should know them and their names because it's a small school, but I don't have a clue who they are. I would feel weird leading people I don't know that know me. When you're a teacher, every student knows your name and says hi to you. You say hi back and just avoid calling them anything. It's a very awkward position.

After the teacher finished sharing, we went into our accreditation update. That would've been fine if it was like our other updates have been so far--this is what we did, this is what they said, now we're doing this. Instead, we were told all schools that do accreditation have multiple committees to getting everything done. Every teacher serves on a committee. This is so every teacher "feels included" and has "personal involvement" on the school goals. They then proceeded to hand us not one, not two, but FOUR packets of accreditation applications, WASC response forms, example action plans, and committee involvement information papers. They said, "You have to read this, make notes, and pick what you're interested in helping with. We start next month. Oh, and this isn't just something we're doing this year...when you're accredited, you keep revisiting these things and making changes and reassessing every year from now on. I flipped through it and saw to my chagrin that it was in legal jargon. It made me think of tax documents and bank statements that I get and can't decipher. I have to hand it off to my dad and find out if it's something important that I need to do something about.

I felt like I was back in college on the first day of school where your professor is listing off the litany of everything you have to read, every assignment you have to complete, and every project you have to do in the next few weeks. I started having a panic attack in the middle of the meeting as I looked wide-eyed at the ginormous stack of papers in front of me wondering when on earth I was going to find time to read it. I was getting lost and overwhelmed as they were pointing out this page and that page and "if you look over here" and "this page has an example of what this will look like" etc. etc. etc. Then I felt it coming. I tried to focus on my breathing and chill out to no avail. Two big tears leaked out and rolled down my face. I cry when I'm overwhelmed. I was horrified that it happened during my meeting. I started chiding myself that I was so unprofessional.

Then my mind started spiraling as I made my way back to my classroom once the meeting was adjourned. I cloroxed tables and thought,

So much for helping with student council next year, good thing you didn't say you were interested!

Now your extra time is going to be spent on accreditation committees because supposedly you "will find things you have to contribute" by being on one of them. It doesn't matter that you never contribute in large group discussions, you just listen. You have to do it anyway. It doesn't matter that you know hardly anything about this school or what is important to it or how you can help change things because you don't know how things work. You have to do it anyway.

Don't even bother wondering when all this is going to happen. You'll be in your second year of teaching--still a year considered to be part of your "settling in" for your new career. And on top of that you'll be doing your own homework and online coursework. Who knows how time consuming all that will be? What if you have to meet on campus with professors or go get paperwork completed? Will you even have time to be driving to La Jolla to do that? It doesn't matter, stop making excuses, you have to do all of this whether you like it or not.

And while you're at it, why don't you question how it is that the other new teacher seems able to go from teaching 2nd grade to junior high, plan a creation of student council, project ideas and goals for community service, and get married in her second year of teaching and you can't even manage your bare minimum of teaching and taking some college courses? You obviously are not very good at this teaching thing. It's involving more than you can handle. Your stress levels are off the wall, and your anxiety? Well, we don't have to talk about how bad that's been. You have no social life, why can't you deal with all this?

I'm 23 years old for goodness sake! Why is so much expected of me? I'm just a kid! I can't do this! I just got thrown into this career, and I'm too young for it. It's too much to handle; I'm still ruled by my emotions. This much shouldn't be expected of me. I can't do it. That's what's really different between me and the other teachers--I'm extremely young, so I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know how to be a teacher. I'm no good at this.

Then I drove to my hair appointment only to find that it's tomorrow not today.

On my way home, Switchfoot's "This is your Life" came on. I found it very ironic in this overwhelming feeling of inadequacy about the place of life I'm in right now, Jon Foreman was reminding me that right now is my life, is this place in life and this person I am right now who I want to be? No, this isn't where I wanted to be when I was in high school envisioning this season of my life. This isn't where I want to be today when I don't feel like I can do everything I'm being asked to do because I'm so young and inexperienced.

I got home to watch Smash that I had recorded from last night--surprised that I didn't miss its air date, only to find that it wasn't a new episode, it was the premiere that I had already watched online.

Not my day.

I know in my head that the emotions will pass, and that when things calm down they won't be as hard or challenging as they seem to be right now. I just have to keep telling myself that it's my first year. First year is always the hardest. Next year will be better.