So I’m reading this Atlantic Monthly article about “What Makes a Good Teacher,” and thinking about the finding that good teachers spend a lot of time preparing for their classes. And each morning lately I have had trouble getting through everything I need to do, so time is on my mind.
I understand why spending a lot of time on preparation helps a teacher be a good teacher, and I feel bad about not spending enough of my own time on preparation these days. It’s harder for me to be willing to do it now — back when I had little kids at home and little kids at school my whole life and all my time was about little kids needing me. Now my children are older and more independent, and I’m ready to claim some of my time back. It’s hard to keep coming in to work early and staying late, and so I just don’t do it as much anymore. I guard my private time fiercely — I think I’ve earned the right to read some novels, and I know that if I devote all my time to the needs of all the different children in my life, I will become stressed and unhappy, which won’t be good for any of them, whether they be my sons or my students.
Then when I’m at work, time is an issue. There is so much that I’d like to do — or need to do — each day, that it is hard to get to it all. Today we watched a clip from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and we visited National Geographic kids to watch videos about fish (we particularly liked the one about the mola), and we visited Starfall to learn about the letter L, and those were just the things we did using the video data projector. We also had gym class, and centers time (of course), and morning meeting. In my role as mentor teacher, I am supposed to be assessing my kids for writing workshop (a pre-assessment to gauge their progress as we get into the writer’s workshop process, which is next up on our staff development plan), but I decided to put it off until tomorrow, and do an intro to writer’s workshop instead of reader’s workshop. Or maybe try to do both, if I shorten centers time. Argh.
There’s also my internal to-do list. A person from the early childhood department came this morning to do a letters and sounds assessment with my class, because I’ve been to busy to get it done myself. (It was great that she came — I know I’m lucky to have that kind of support.) I remembered to track down the social worker who speaks Spanish to talk to the child I’ve been worrying about as a possible case of neglect. I forgot to get any portfolio assessment done at centers time. I almost forgot to write the morning message or teach the class about the letter L. I ran out of time for story time. And I have lots of things to do as a mentor — books about teaching writing to kids that I need to read, and observation reports that I need to finish.
At the end of the morning, however, there was extra time. The bus was late picking up the children. We huddled inside the door, waiting, and we sang songs, practiced counting in English and Spanish, and then talked about lunch. I told them I was going to have chicken and rice for my lunch — and then the children helped me remember the phrase arroz con pollo to describe it. The Latino children’s faces glowed, and they told me, “I eat that, too!”