I woke up this morning feeling very overwhelmed.

I’m heading into yet another weekend with what feels like an insurmountable amount of work.

After the hours I took away from my family on Sunday to chip away at the endless mountain of work, I was feeling pretty good about my progress. I tackled a stack of creative writing poetry polished drafts, made some headway on the 42 rewrites I had from my seniors, and took care of some correspondence for the journal that I edit.

I was feeling great on Monday–went for a fast (fast for me is a relative term) run on the trails after school and then attended a district meeting (for one of the several district committees that I’m a part of). I had the highest hopes that when I got home at 8:30, I might make some headway into the 88 personal narrative essays I have sitting there from my seniors that I need to grade.

But no.

When I got home, my daughter was still awake so I spent some time catching up with her. Then I got on my computer and dealt with the email I hadn’t had a chance to touch all day. Then I helped my husband write a proposal for a course he hopes to teach this summer for the local university. Then it was sleep time. I went to bed with high hopes for Tuesday–after all I had my first hour planning period and then my seniors were reading (for 3rd, 4th, and 5th hour) and then I have 6th and 8th hour to work–and then I would be at school with my newspaper staff until it was time to pick up my kid by 5:30 or so, and then once she went to bed around 8 I could grade some more.

But no.

During first hour, I had to run off the weekly reports on my seniors that help me collect data on the flexible attendance pilot I’m running with them (to better differentiate to meet their needs as individual learners). That pretty much sucked up first hour.

I had a blast with 2nd hour, creative writing, talking about how to create believable characters. We told stories about weirdness in people we know, realizing that it is those idiosyncrasies that makes characters believable.

Then 3rd hour hit–as soon as my students started their reading–time for me to grade, right? Not exactly. Some emails showed up that I had to deal with. I had to read the nearly-final galleys of the newspaper (it went to press yesterday) and make a list of the things the editors needed to ponder before they sent it off. I wanted to get the 42 rewrites out of the way before I tackled the 88 personal narrative essays, so I started working on those. Fifth hour ended and even though I had been working madly while my students read, I still hadn’t begun the grading work I had hoped to make headway on.

Sixth hour–time to eat lunch, catch up with colleagues, decompress.

Seventh hour–newspaper class. Tensions were high because they were on deadline. I spent my time helping them talk to each other, checking on progress, making sure they pondered the issues I had seen in my final read of the galleys.

Eighth hour–my only chance to exercise for the day. I walked three fast laps around the lake in the park next to our school.

After school–two hours hanging out with my students (the senior editorial staff) while they finalize the newspaper. Now I can grade? Well first–they’re hungry. We order pizza. I walk through the office and get caught in a conversation with one of my principals following up on the district committee meeting we both attended the night before. I come back to the journalism lab just in time to head out to the front of the school to sign for the pizza that has just arrived. My students eat pizza. I eat my apple. I try to get my mind in a place where I can grade, but it’s very difficult. As they work, we are all talking to one another–about the newspaper staff and how people are doing, about the tensions that had cropped up that day and how to address them, about the beginning journalism class I teach next semester and how maybe they could team teach it with me (how cool would that be?). We have conversations about remaining details on the pages of the newspaper and they talk out any issues that they need to address. I keep reminding them how much time they have before I need to leave to pick up my kiddo. They freak out every time that it won’t be enough time.

And exactly two minutes before I need to walk out of the building to pick up my daughter, they hit “send” on the email with the galleys attached and off the paper goes to the publisher.

I rush out to my car and drive to my daughter’s school to pick her up from the after school program that she loves. We get home and have a dinner of leftover butternut squash soup, fresh salad, toast, and cheese. She takes a bath and I give myself exactly 45 minutes to relax my brain with a magazine before I plunge into work for the evening once she’s in bed.

Lights out is 8:00–she’s in bed by 8:15 so we’re already behind. I always crawl in bed with her for a few minutes to talk about her day. We end up giggling hilariously about what we think is awesome and un-awesome (raisins, the color pink, and flu shots are on her un-awesome list). At 8:47 I leave her to fall asleep and sit down at my computer.

I check email, do some correspondence for the journal I edit, set up my lesson plans for the next day on my class websites (something I usually require of myself to do before I leave the building on any given day, but didn’t accomplish that day). Before I know it, it’s sleep time. (And my husband has just gotten home after working all evening at school–he’s a teacher too who also had an insurmountable pile of work on his desk).

And the 88 personal narratives from my seniors remain ungraded.

Today? Well my first hour planning period (which ends here in about 10 minutes) required some work with Mr. S on our presentation slides from the CLAS conference. We’re doing the presentation in an abbreviated form for our district in a mini conference this afternoon.

Once the bell rings here in a few minutes (at 9:45am), I’m on until about 6pm. I teach 3rd block, then over lunch the department is having an informal brown bag discussion, then I teach 5th, and I teach 7th, and then Mr. S and I have to rush to the district for this presentation. My family will pick me up there at 6pm and we’ll rush home so I can eat quickly and then go to the rec center to lift weights before my 7:15 yoga class. I’ll get home at 8:30 and once again I hope I’ll be able to get some papers graded but…

There are times when I wonder how much longer I can maintain this schedule.

I need space in my day.

I will keep track of how long it takes me to get through the personal narrative essays–all 88 of them. I think it takes me about 15 to 18 hours total, and after hearing about my last two days up there, when do you think I have that time?

Well, I have to take it from other places in my life.

I could stop exercising and get back about an hour a day, but then I won’t have the energy to tackle everything else. I need to hikes and the runs and the yoga to de-stress.

I could assign less writing to my students so I have less to grade, but then they won’t make as much progress as writers.

I could assign the same amount of writing but not respond to it very fully–maybe just slap a grade at the top and not give the kind of feedback that helps push my students’ writing, but then again they wouldn’t make as much progress as writers.

I could refuse to take part in district committees or do presentations at state and national conferences or work with pre-service teachers or edit the journal I’m editing, but then I won’t continue to grow in my career as an educator or contribute to my field at levels beyond my classroom.

I could spend all of my time outside of school grading, but then I’m not a good mom or wife or sister or daughter or aunt or friend and I would miss my family and friends.

I could just do the same lesson plans I did last year exactly how I did them last year, but then my teaching wouldn’t be responding to the unique students who people my classroom each year.

I could teach part time instead of full time, but then I would probably be working just as hard and making far less money for it.

I could ask for my district to consider three or four classes instead of five as full time for a language arts teacher, but we’re already struggling with budget cuts.

So what do I do?

It looks like my next chunk of time is Friday afternoon and evening–this means I’ll miss the annual football match up with the rival high school across town. But the thing is that my seniors are writing in-class essays on Friday. So then I’ll have 176 essays to grade (the 88 personal narratives I have now plus the 88 summary/response essays I’ll have then). And I just can’t face a Saturday morning with that in front of me.

There’s the bell. I’m off.

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2 Responses to Swamped

  1. Mark Beaty says:

    Oh. MY. GOODNESS – and I thought my life was busy… Sounds like you could use Chillbrand for some of that paper grading – maybe put an ad on Craigslist for a student teacher to help you out. I never realized how busy you must have been whenever we turned out papers in – I feel bad for whining about my paper not being graded right away now that I’ve read this. Good luck!

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