The week of mid-winter break should be a glorious interlude in the school year...the halfway point between September and late (very late...stupid snow days) June. Instead, late February turns into the low point of the year. Teacher despair hits an all-time low and this year there is more despair than usual.
There is, of course, all the problems in Wisconsin. And the proposal in Detroit. And teacher cuts in Texas.
In addition, I have been working on my national board certification, which involves approximately 57 billion words written in a specific format proving that I am, in fact, a good teacher and haven't irreparably harmed generations of teenagers, whom everyone is counting on to Save America, because the Kids Are Our Future. It's been a rough week, and while I am not exactly where I want to be, I am close.
I was talking to a teacher friend last night, a fantastic, committed, professional who has been at our school for quite a while. She told me that she is considering putting in a request to move to to a different school in our district. I asked why, and she said that she felt like she needed to take a break from the kids. The kids at my school are needy. They require a complex formula of hand-holding, coaxing, pushing, punishing, manipulating, and love that should be the job of their parents, but is in fact often up to us, their teachers. This formula is even more demanding for us. As an example, while compiling evidence for my national boards, I realized that in my 6th period, a class with 22 kids, I have 4 kids who read at the 2nd grade level, and 4 kids that read at the college level, and the class average is a low 7th grade level. How do I give them 10th grade instruction when their reading skills are so low? It's hard.
I've often wondered what would happen to my teaching if I wasn't a spinster, if I had a husband and kids...or even just a boyfriend. Teaching where I do is unbelievably demanding. It requires constant focus and effort and doesn't leave much room for a personal life. It's why teachers in low-income schools burn out so fast. Teachers in my situation don't leave because they get better offers from other districts. They leave because they're mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. My co-teacher Clark arrives at school by 6:15 am and doesn't usually leave until 5:00 or 5:30 pm. I often spend my weekends grading papers instead of going out with friends and I spend my summers in classes and rewriting curriculum.
For now, I'm committed. But it's hard to stay so sometimes.