Birds, beast, trees, flowers.
It gnaws on iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal.
It slays king, ruins towns,
And beats high mountains down.
What is it?
I’ll be the first to admit that I spend way too much of my day focused on school at this point in my life. Like many other teachers my age with my inadequate level of experience I get to school early (about 50 minutes)and stay late (usually about an hour) in order to get my work done or help students. Then, I come home and get back on my computer to grade, lesson plan,and research cool things to do in my classroom. All this shuffling makes me wonder: can I really do it forever (like this guy)?
A good friend rightly commented on my first post, “How can we make this line of work sustainable when those above us are constantly undermining our efforts to serve our students?”
Many of my idols in teaching went through hell in their personal lives in order to be a good educator. Jaime Escalante (of the film Stand and Deliver) was a math teacher in Los Angeles when he suffered from an inflammation of his gall bladder. Erin Gruwell (of the film FreedomWriters) was an English teacher in Long Beach and got divorced from her husband for spending too much time with her students.
With the current demands of teaching and the accountability movement, how am I going to balance my teaching, my family (present and future), my friends, my sleep, and my sanity?
Recently a Teach For America educator protested how the bureaucratic nature of the School District kept her from being the best teacher she could be. The response from Superintendent Ackerman was less than elegant, and did not help the teacher gain the support she needed. If we wantto keep our enthusiastic young teachers in place, we are going to need to support them more than that.
So where do we get that support? In my limited experience thus far, the best place to find it is from fellow educators. At my school we have a program called Critical Friends in which we observe each other’s classrooms, critique, and listen. In this setting we can be frank without fear of reprisal. And, we can share day-to-day experiences with someone who is experiencing them in the same way. While formal observations are important, I have not found them to be as beneficial as my colleagues observing me. With this feedback, I can learn, grow, and become a more efficient and effective educator.
With more of this kind of program, I think it is possible to balance the educational needs of students and my own personal needs. I just hope others get the same level of support.