Teach For America does an excellent job of piling and piling and piling things into your planner, teacher bag, pockets, car, house, back… Every moment in your day can be shadowed by what you need to do, what you should do, what you have to do, what you want to do. Then they smile at you and say, “But we know you can’t possibly do all these things. So choose what you can do, and make sure you have time for yourself. You have to maintain a Work/Life Balance.”
Sarah told me the other day that it seems I really have that in check, but honestly I think I’m a little too far on the “life” side. I’m already worried I’m selling my students short, I’m too preoccupied with making sure I run three times — okay, I guess typing that out made me reconsider. My biggest preoccupations (if that’s a word) are running, talking to people on the “outside” a few times a week, and making my living space a place that removes stress, not adds to it. I can honestly, very honestly, say that I devote a minimum of 12 hours a day to teaching every week day. I’ve been sleeping an average of four hours a night, which is incredibly different than sleeping four hours a night in college. In college no one slept, in college I thrived on lack of sleep, in college I did not have to speak for seven hours a day, every day, on my feet, trying to guide the thoughts of 130 12-year-olds.
I can say this all day every day: I love Arkansas. I love my babies. I love teaching. I will be telling the truth. But this does not make it easier. This does not make me a better teacher. This does not ensure my students will do well this year, will get into pre-AP and AP classes, will make it to their dream schools of Yale and Harvard and Ole Miss. This will not make my students excellent writers or, as stated in our class goal, confident communicators.
Today was a “life” day. I graded some exit slips in the car on the way to the Pine Bluff Wal-Mart with Mitch. I graded some diagnostics on the couch while we watched The Outsiders. I ran three miles, slept in until 9:30, and organized my belongings in the bathroom I now share with two boys. I went out to the dinner and had a Margarita.
My nerves are slowly calming. It feels like it’s happening one by one, every day a tiny fraction of me feels more relaxed, more secure, more confident. This week I had a child enter my room in tears, and another leave my room in tears. I had students laughing about my knowledge of pop culture (specifically Ne-yo) and my lack of knowledge of football (juking? jooking? jucking?). I had 100% and 0% exit slips, a lesson I had to literally re-plan ALL of in one 15 minute lunch, two major coffee spills and five great days. Next week we start on Tuesday, but after that week we have seven in a row with no breaks. I’m terrified. I’m thrilled. I’m hopeful.