Wednesday, November 27, 2013

58, or 60, not that I am counting

Today marks the first weekday where school was closed since we were closed for Rosh Hashanah in early December. That means 58 consecutive days (excluding weekends) that we have had school. We are now 60 days into a 184-day school year. Toward the end of this grueling run I could sense how I was running out of steam, how it was becoming hard for me to spool up the creativity to put together compelling lessons. The students, too, I could tell were worn out. 

I work with good students. They're adolescents, though, and as such they exhibit behaviors that frustrate. And toward the end of a 58-day slog they have less ability to suppress those frustrating behaviors. If a student were writing this blog, they would probably be noting how teachers were having a harder time suppressing their grumpy behaviors. 

Teaching is an intense job when it's done well. The teacher is consistently on the spot, with somewhere between 20 and 30 eyes on them at all times, with the pressure of making every minute of a 90-minute block count, acting with the knowledge that you must measure the words you use with the children of other parents. Compound this with the mounting list of proscribed strategies and mandates our higher-ups (in building and in Harrisburg) mount onto our task lists, and it creates a pressure cooker. 

There's a little bit of a woe-is-me tone to this post. Let me step back. One can infer from my words that I'm trying to vindicate the great aspect of my job that is summer vacation, and those eight, nine, or ten weeks in the summer serve a therapeutic purpose in the educational orbit. I think it's more important for me to consider the way in which the pressures I see in my field exist elsewhere, too. Working too long, too hard, too intensely without a break has a tolls. It wears down the deliverers and the receivers. It takes a toll on judgment. Those of us fortunate to have jobs are working harder and with fewer colleagues than before the Great Recession. What kind of quality does society get from us when we don't have the time to think and take a breath? 

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