An English Teacher’s Sick Day #sol14

Last night, I felt the crash coming.  The past two weeks were finally catching up to me.  I was cold, I kept coughing, and I was losing my voice.  Because my life never slows down I decided the best decision was to call out today and try to let my body rest.  So I did just that.

The plan was to sleep late, rest, have some chicken noodle soup, and hopefully kick this cold’s butt.  I did do some of that, thankfully.  But I forgot that the dogs don’t take sick days, so we still took 3 walks.  Then I remembered I had to leave feedback on freshman rough drafts.  The students are writing their Romeo & Juliet and adolescent brain development essays a little differently this year and it requires more work from me.  The students just submitted rough drafts and rather than grading just the final draft, I am providing feedback on the rough drafts.

Eighty rough drafts.

Three to five pages.

And a works cited list.

I am crazy.  I realize this.

Thank goodness the essays are really interesting and most of them are well-written.  But I spent a good 5-6 hours reading and providing feedback today and I only finished 25 essays. I know this is worthwhile work.  I know this is the best thing I can do for my students.  But oh my word.  So.many.essays.

See you all in 14 more hours.

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Must Teachers be Passionate? #sol14

Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March my students are posting a slice each day on their blogs and I am joining them.
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I’ve been doing a lot of pondering lately.  The topic of most of my thinking has been teacher passion.  This morning I finally shared my questions on Twitter.

I work with a lot of amazing, passionate educators every day at HTHS.  I’m also lucky to have a PLN full of teachers who are passionate and engaged, always seeking new information and honing their craft.  But I  recognize that passion can be consuming.  It means lost sleep and bringing work home with you.  It means you can’t (or don’t) leave your job at the office.  It means spending money and time on conferences, books, journals, professional development.  Granted, if you are passionate about a subject it doesn’t always feel like work.  But it still takes a lot out of you.

My question is, should we expect all teachers to be passionate?  Is that fair?  Or is it ok for a teacher to be in it for the convenient schedule, steady paycheck, and reliable hours? Plenty of teachers enter the classroom for those reasons and do a fine job. And the expectation for most careers seems to be that you go in from 9-5, do your job, and come home.  Passion not necessary.

Business Journal recently looked at passion in the workplace and  discovered that passion is rare in more careers and workplaces.

Two recent discoveries by The Gallup Organization offer insights into why passion is rare in U.S. workplaces:

  • 55% of the U.S. working population is not engaged at work.
  • 16% of the U.S. working population is actively disengaged

 

This pushed my thinking a bit more. Then my friend Teresa and I started talking.

That’s where I get stuck. Part of me feels that it isn’t fair to expect all teachers to be passionate about their career or current position.  But if we aren’t passionate, don’t our students suffer?  If my job performance suffers as a result of not being engaged at my 9-5 job, who is affected?  My company and I will have to deal with the ramifications, but odds are no one else will.  But if a teacher is not engaged and passionate about their subject area or their job, then their students are the first to suffer the consequences.

So what should expectations be?  Is it ok for teaching to be a way to pass the time, get a paycheck, and get to retirement?  Or should we demand that our teachers are passionate about something related to their job? That could be a passion for the subject matter they teach, or a passion for learning, or a passion for fostering the best in kids, as long as the passion is related to their job. Is that the answer?

I’m not sure what the answer is, because teaching is an all-consuming job, whether you are passionate about the career or just showing up everyday.  You won’t leave work at the office, you won’t be able to stay distanced from the students, and you will never be able to walk away unscathed.  Even if you aren’t passionate, it will have a deep and lasting impact on you.  And you can certainly teach students without being passionate, provided you are engaged in the day-to-day activities in your classroom.  When we demand passion, are we demanding too much?

Could passion lead to burnout?  Or does it prevent burnout?  My friend Tony Keefer used the word “play” to describe what teachers can do to spark passion and I love that.  You can play in a subject area, in the field, in reading, in writing, and beyond.  And play is equated with fun, so that’s good!

One of my experiences in school today pushed me to think further about this topic.  My awesome student-teacher set up a Skype call today for my seniors, who were able to speak with a local news anchor about her life in the industry.  The anchor was so passionate about her job but she made it very clear that it’s a 24/7 job, which reminded me a lot of teaching.  She said you are always “on” and always representing your company.  As a teachers, we can certainly relate!  She pointed out that if you don’t enjoy the job and you aren’t engaged and passionate, then you wouldn’t make it.  Should teaching be the same way?  Maybe it’s the responsibility of administrators to filter out teachers who are not passionate, to make sure they don’t end up stuck in a career path that they despise to the detriment of students.

All of these questions are still swirling about in my mind.  I’m not sure there is an answer, but it’s fascinating to think about.  I’ve been coming back to this question of passion since I wrote my post “You’re Too Smart to be a Teacher”.  That post inspired conversations about teaching as a backup career and way to get by until something better came along and whether that was fair to students and colleagues.  I won’t pretend I haven’t met teachers like that in the past, so I know they are out there.  But that might be true in all careers, so is it fair to expect something above and beyond that in teaching?

What do you think?
 

Check out my friend Katherine’s response to my pondering, too!

A Day in the Life #sol14

8am Wake up

8:05am Walk the dogs .75 miles

8:40am Leave for SAT tutoring

8:55am Stop at Starbucks because it’s Sunday which means I can have a frappucino!

9:10am Arrive at SAT tutoring.  Make copies, get organized, find my paycheck, get kids signed in,

9:30-11am Critical reading SAT class.

11:00-11:10am Break.  Make more copies

11:10-12:30pm Writing SAT class

12:30-1:00pm Run errands.  This means stop at the TJMaxx down the road and browse.

1:05pm Drive home

1:30 Arrive home and get ready to take the dogs for a walk.

1:40-2:50 Walk the dogs two miles at the local county park.  It was much colder than I expected it to be!

2:50pm Drive home and drop the dogs off

3:00 Food shopping and various errands

4:20pm Clean up around the house, watch some March Madness, check my bracket

5:30pm Eat dinner.  Thankfully, it’s leftovers so I don’t have to do much,

6:30pm Feed the dogs

7:00pm Walk the dogs another mile.  This is only around the block so it’s easy.

7:30pm.  Shower, do laundry, get the house straightened up.  Watch the end of the Iowa St/UNC game.  Check bracket.

8:15-10pm Work on comments for student research essays via Googledocs and answer email.

10:00-10:30pm Prepare Kongs to keep the dogs occupied this week.

10:30-10:45 Read for a few minutes.  Not enough minutes. :(

10:45-11:00pm Write blog post

11:00-11:30 Finish checking student teacher’s plans, leaving comments on students’ Slice of Life blogs, and plan what I am wearing tomorrow.

11:45pm Publish blog post and head to bed!

Honored #sol14

I’m still on cloud nine and it’s late so this will be short and sweet.

Today I spent my Saturday at the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English annual conference at Montclair University. I heard author Jeff Hirsch speak, I met great colleagues from across the state, and I got to hang out with Chris and Michelle (my amazing colleague).

Why was Chris at an English teacher conference?

Because this happened:

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Thanks to a nomination by Michelle I was named the NJCTE English Language Arts Teacher of the Year. Michelle gave a beautiful speech that included a letter from one of my seniors and I could barely keep it together.

I feel silly accepting an award like this because so many people make me the teacher I am today: my colleagues, my students, Chris, my family, my friends, my PLN, and so many others. So I share this award with all of them

Thank you. ;

Reminiscing #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hTonight I chaperoned the school semiformal.  It was a little bittersweet for me, as it was the last non-prom dance for my seniors.  But it was adorable because everyone was dressed up and we even had a few promprosals (one of which I was able to participate in).

But the best part of tonight was when the student DJs played Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie”.  Immediately I was transported back to college.  Without hesitation I pulled out my phone and sent a text to my college girlfriends.

love you girls and miss you!  the dj at the school dance just played shakira’s “hips don’t lie” and it made me think of you! *szeretlek*

I wasn’t expecting a response as it was 9pm on a Friday night. We are spread up and down the East coast now and some of us have babies, new jobs, new friends, and other things that keep us occupied on a Friday night.  But almost immediately I got a response.

ahhh!  I’m having flashbacks!

And before I could respond, another text came in:

Hahah! Just leaving the gym and “slave 4 u” and “toxic” both came on my ipod!

We proceeded to reminisce for a few minutes via text and it was great to share those memories.  Music has played such a huge role in my life and certain songs always bring me back to different moments in my life.  Those three songs we talked about tonight transported me back to Douglass College circa 2001-2003.   I love that we can reach out to each other thanks to technology.  While we may not see each other as often as we did when we shared a dorm, we can still get in touch with the pressing of a few buttons.  Those girls are still my best friends and I don’t know what I would do without them.

Now if only we could find some time to hang out!

Not-so-free Italian Ice #sol14

I’ve spent the past four days dreaming of my free Rita’s Italian Ice on the first day of spring.  It’s a tradition for Rita’s to offer free ices on the first day of spring and I’ve been going since college.  When I was at Douglass my girlfriends and I piled into a car for the short drive down Ryder’s Lane.  We’d wait on the line and shoot the breeze, enjoying the beautiful weather.  Then we’d sit at the picnic tables overlooking Ryders Lane and eat our Italian ice, sampling the flavors everyone got.

After that, Chris and I used to go after he got out of work.  We’d head to the closest Rita’s when he lived in his apartment after graduation and there was rarely a line.  It was glorious!

Then when I started working in Manalapan my friends and I would head to Rita’s immediately after school on the first day of spring.  We’d wait on line, usually behind some of our current or former students, and we’d eat our ices in the parking lot.  We’d decompress from the day at school and start counting down the days until summer vacation.

Now we all work at different schools.  Chris and I are on opposite sides of the state during the day and while there is a Rita’s near his office there isn’t one within 15 miles of my school.  Chris sent me a picture of the Key Lime Italian ice he enjoyed during his lunch and I waited patiently to get mine after school.  What flavor would I get?  Lemon? Mango?  Maybe pay a dollar for the dollop of soft serve on top?

I came home from school and took the dogs for a quick walk.  Then I got them into the car, figuring the outing would be good for them, and headed to the nearest Rita’s.  The parking lot was a bit of mess but from my vantage point the line didn’t look bad.  I’d probably have to wait a few minutes but I had time.

Then I walked around the other side of the building and saw the real line.  It looked something like this:

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It had to be an hour long.  And I didn’t have the patience for that.  Neither did the dogs that I had foolishly brought with me for the supposedly short trip.

I went home sad and still craving Italian ice.  Dinner came and went and couldn’t stop thinking about the water ice I missed out on.  I’d been waiting for it all week.

That’s when I decided I was going to get that water ice and I wasn’t going to wait on any lines.  Chris and I hopped in the car and made our way to Ralph’s Italian Ice, a local staple that I prefer over Rita’s.  Sure, it cost me $3 for my chocolate mousse creme ice but that was a lot cheaper than my time!

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Dublin is in the background, hoping he can have my Italian ice. I don’t think so, buddy!

Saying Goodbye #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hMy brain is shot, so this will be a short slice of life.

In between the myriad of things I have to do this week, I also wrote a goodbye letter to my seniors.  It will be published in the yearbook so it’s due tonight.

It’s the hardest piece I’ve ever written.

This is “my” class.  I started teaching at HTHS when they arrived as freshmen.  When I signed on as the Class of 2014 advisor it seemed like 2014 was light years away.  Suddenly, it’s here.

The kids are in the middle of planning prom and graduation.  Some of them have senioritis.  There are days when I can’t wait for graduation.  But those days are few and far between.

Who will quote Mean Girls with me next year?  Who will send me frantic emails about baked goods in the middle of the night?  Who will make me laugh?  These seniors are amazing and I can’t imagine the school without them.  But I’m so proud of them and I know they are going to accomplish great things in the years to come.  I just wish it didn’t mean saying goodbye to them.

 

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