One of the best pieces advice I received when my stepdaughter came into my life is that in parenting the days are long but the years are short.
I hadn’t thought about those words of wisdom until I collapsed into a heap on Friday and wondered not only where the week has gone but how fast the term seems to be slipping away. How can it already be Week 5 and why do I feel like my class and I haven’t achieved much?
Surely my disappointment wasn’t for lack of effort. I get into school before 7.30 and wasn’t leaving until after 6. I’m often to be found there on Saturday. It was little wonder that exhausted just didn’t even begin to describe my lack of energy.
Yet despite spending a ridiculous amount of time working, I know I haven’t been working all that smart. Every time I sat down to complete a task, I would immediately start thinking about all the other things on my to do list which were screaming like a newborn for my undivided attention. My classroom still looks rather barren in comparison to all the colourful wall displays found in other classrooms, there are units of work that I know we are behind in, parent emails to respond to and wow did that middle session on Wednesday not go in the way I had anticipated it.
Welcome to the mid-first term wall.
It’s the time of year when for Beginning Teachers, or at least this one, that the minute something is not going right then it seems like everything is not going right and it feels like you are the worst teacher ever grace a classroom. Undoubtedly outside events will be colouring my perspective as the end of February has become a time when I find myself lamenting what might of been. But I’m sure I’m not the only Beginning Teacher feeling a lot like the Little Dutch Boy with his finger in the dyke right now and realizing there are many more leaks that need plugging than I can ever hope to stem. Undoubtedly that mindset of the wall undoubtedly creates more anxiety and setbacks.
Even though I knew I had a mountain of work I know I need to get done, this weekend I didn’t go to school. I switched off my devices on Saturday and instead spent time doing some mundane things. I went to the gym, did laundry, spent an entire day meeting up with friends and caught up on my missing hours sleep and wow do I feel the better for it as with distance comes perspective.
I realized that I might have accomplished more in my first few weeks than I gave myself credit for. My start of year assessment has all been marked and I’ve sorted my students into maths and writing groups. We’ve filmed some videos on school norms and the kids know what to do at the start and end of the day. I managed to see all of my writing groups while the rest of the class was working independently and spent time with each individual student in the class conferencing about their writing (by far one of my favourite things to do). Our class blog has had almost 1,700 page views and some of the students are starting to use Quality Commenting Checklist that we developed via our blog. I respond to parent emails usually within 24 hours of receiving them and I’ve made an observation of another teacher’s teaching.
The step back allowed me to identify some tasks to get done during my Classroom Release Time this week as well as prioritize my to do list into manageable chunks so I don’t get so overwhelmed by that wall. It also made realize that perhaps I’m not doing as bad as I think I am. Could I be doing better? Absolutely. If I was in the same space next year, feeling like I was blindly feeling my way around the classroom, then I would be disappointed in myself for not heeding the lessons of the last few weeks.
Because when I look back, I realized I’ve learned so much and I really love my job. But ouch that wall of exhaustion is huge and overwhelming especially when each brick represents another task on my to do list.