After yesterday's meeting, I had a chicken wrap. It's stunning what a little rest and proper nutrition can do. At 8:30, I came back to the school and worked consistently for a couple hours. I now have hopes that I'll have my marking caught up by Friday. So that's good.
I have nothing else to say.
That's all. I just didn't want such a despondent post to be sitting at the top of my weblog.
So here's to hoping I can get back in the groove.
I saw this link in my Twitter feed:
I read the article, skimmed the comments, and replied to it in my own Twitter feed:
This term, I've been experiencing some of the most mentally taxing teaching of my life. I have five different "preps," English 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. My more senior classes each have between 26 and 30 students. My junior classes feature a "spread" between students who are designated as "gifted" and those who are capable of work at a "Grade 3 or so" level. Simultaneously I'm trying to adapt to BC's new curriculum, which is adding an enormous amount of work to an already overworked mental space. Although I'm sure I'll get through, by my standards things are not going well at work.
Beyond this, I don't have many responsibilities. My children live far away right now. I'm in a play, though, and that takes up 12 hours a week with rehearsals with an additional 4 hours of driving each week. That play will be all done by the end of November, but right now it's pretty taxing. If I'd realized just how large my classes would be this term, I doubt I would have auditioned for the play.
In the meantime, since I'm not doing exceptionally well at planning for my classes, I'm scrambling at work. This is the sort of time when teachers should take "sick days" to catch up on rest and whatnot, but I don't feel like I can do it because I haven't planned well enough for the classes. I'd be releasing a poor Teacher-On-Call to the wolves. It just wouldn't work. But I'm going to have to, probably just after I finish report cards, which are due next Wednesday.
This is nothing new for teaching. Large classes, report cards, parent teacher interviews are the norm. However, I do believe the number of responsibilities for teachers have increased with the advent of technologies like email and the Internet. Students submit their work in a myriad of formats; I am expected to read and understand practically every email that crosses my feed, whether it's from a colleague, parent, administrator, or student. I'm expected to keep up with a website in order to keep in contact with parents. It's just too much to keep track of. I find myself spending hours at the school just trying to get the most basic marking and planning done. It's exhausting.
Many of these roles simply weren't required before the advent of technologies that normalized them. Notes home and face to face interviews tended to dominate the communication cycle. I know it would have been stressful, but I think it would feel more real, more authentic. The fact is that I do an enormous amount of digital work that could very well not pay off and distracts from my work in the classroom. I don't like it.
In response to this stress level, I've started looking into ways to not spend so much time in the classroom in order to decrease the marking and planning aspects. I like educating, but the marking feels more and more futile every year. I'd like to find a side hustle in order to keep things fresh in my life. As much as I enjoy playing at a restaurant on the weekends, I'd love to be able to do a little more.
In a couple weeks, parent-teacher interviews will take place; there's an education conference in the middle of the month on the same Thursday and Friday that open the play. And then the play finishes on the 25th.
But this too shall pass. On the 26th, I'll have nothing but work to do and preparations for Winter Break. And I've treated myself to a birthday present: a nosebleed ticket to the Leafs-Canucks game in Vancouver on December 2nd.
But this month, as exciting as it will be, as many positive, empowering things as there are to do, couldn't end any sooner.
5 different English classes, three of them with over 27 students.
And a play going on at the same time. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
(You can sort-of see my hairline way down in the right-hand row there, my elbow on the table.)
I mean, it's all gonna' be great... but it's gonna' be crazy.
I have jumped on the opportunity to do some housesitting for some friends in New Westminster. I am teaching, if it can be called that, a group of Chinese 11-13 year old students in Coquitlam, so it's good to be able to live closer to that job for time and money's sake, even if it's only or a week.
I don't know if I'm a good city-liver. I may have spent too many years out in the country to handle the traffic, but I genuinely enjoy using the SkyTrain to meander around the city. Tomorrow morning I will take the SkyTrain to work for the first time ever, and I might be practically excited about it.
I'm a transit dork. But transit gives me a chance to read, to think, to not stress about traffic, and a good excuse to walk from one place to another.
A few photos I took today:
The mosquitoes have been brutal up in Agassiz, so I've been doing my runs closer to YVR when I have the chance. I've found running a useful way to explore the cities so I can get to know them better. I've discovered a little foot bridge in Coquitlam, run back and forth over the Pitt River Bridge, and explored a series of parks in New West, all with running. I kind-of hope that this housesitting venture will give me my first chance to run the seawall in Stanley Park, although I expect I will be passed by numerous chiseled, svelte native Vancouverites.
And tomorrow I will return to my sparse classroom in Coquitlam to try to get these campers to speak and listen to some English.
I think it's safe to say that I'm currently working at about 25%. My brain is having trouble taking in new information. It's like my processor has moved into a sort of survival mode, where I'm doing all the things I'm supposed to do to get through hard times... and nothing more.
I haven't been able to sit and concentrate on a YouTube video or television show for months; I can barely take in a podcast; I have no creative or insightful things to offer to anybody right now.
And I have to admit that my students are not getting the best version of "Mr.. Nordstrom" right now.
It's kind-of embarrassing. Understandable, not humiliating, but embarrassing.
I read an article yesterday that summed it up nicely. I posted a section of it to my Tumblr:
Needless to say, I can't wait to get my brain working right again.
The Internet Archive
YouTube: ephemeral ideas