teachers and time

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!”

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6 thoughts on “teachers and time

  1. Thanks for posting this article. I just read it all the way through and I was fascinated by the findings about the teachers with the highest “life satisfaction” seemingly having the most high-achieving kids. We’ve all thought this, but to have data backing it up is very interesting!

    Also, kudos to you for being willing to take time for yourself. You’re exactly right about the demands of the job. As a (hopefully) soon-to-be mom I worry about being a teacher with kids. I like my alone time – how will I do it all? So enjoy your “me time.” 🙂 But if you have any advice please pass it along.

  2. When I was full time in the classroom – I was full time:) Daylight to darkness dedicating myself to creating an awesome environment but now that I am older, like you, I guard my personal time a bit more carefully. I don’t have the energy like I did back in the day so I use my energy wisely!

  3. Time is an issue for me too. During preschool hours you are there for the kids, so even getting little bits and pieces done is difficult. My work day officially starts 1/2 hr before the children arrive, and ends 1 hr after they go home – all of this time is devoted to preparing the learning environment for the day, and I still find myself coming in 1/2 hr early just to give myself time to this to a standard that I’m happy with.

    I do try to get everything done within school hours, because I have kids that need my attention at home and I’ve learned to prioritise and to see that everything doesn’t have to be done RIGHT NOW. If I have a plan, and can take small steps to achieve goals I find I do less and less at home. I do find it hard though – there is so much I want to do!

  4. Thanks for the link to the article! I need to read it more deeply – and pass it on to my colleagues.
    I loved the description of the teacher who is constantly “blowing things up and starting over.” That’s me – I’m glad someone is saying it’s a good thing – I tend to worry about it, but I do see positive results when I respond to the needs of the students.

    I can relate to the struggle to balance work life and home life. When my kids were little, my husband worked swing, so I felt like I was on tap 24/7. Bedtime became absolute just so I could have some “me” time.
    Now that my kids are out of the house, I have more stuff that I love to do and am involved in – but being 53, I have to attend to bedtime so I have the energy to do it all!

  5. There’s an article….and for the life of me I can’t think of the name, but it suggested removing clocks from the classroom, and just following the children’s natural clocks. What time would that free up during the day? And what preparation / assessment would no longer be necessary – and what new prep / assessment would become important? It’s an interesting question.
    (the teachers are our school debated it. We changed our schedule and planning quite a bit, but kept clocks).

  6. Personal and private time will also make you a better teacher, and probably keep you from burning out. I’ve been trying to guard my private time with more intensity this school year. I needed to do that.
    I scramble at work also. I’m always forgetting something, LOL. I’ve just started working on my assessments. I need to get my rear in gear though, since conferences are coming in March.

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