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- Common Core – An Initiative Gone Wrong? - January 22, 2013
- Why Do You Need Algebra? - January 3, 2013
For the past 9 years, I have been a full-time mother, wife, teacher, student, psychologist, therapist, maid, taxi driver, personal planner, party planner, reminder service caller (is there such a thing?), etc. The list goes on and on. There is not a minute in the day where I am free to do what I please. Time to sit down with a good book…not happening! If I want to watch a movie that is rated R, there is a 100% chance that it will only occur after 9pm, the time in which I am pretty much exhausted and wanting to fall asleep. There are days when I wake up still exhausted, only to dread what I know is coming and will lead to more exhaustion. The thirty minute drive to and from work, along with my short shower time, has become the only free time that I experience. It has become a time for me to reflect upon everything that I have to do during the day, which ultimately leads to more thoughts of exhaustion. I’m EXHAUSTED, but I wouldn’t change a thing!
The double duty job of being a mother and a teacher is something that someone cannot even come to comprehend until they have experienced it themselves. The combination itself would leave many people running after just one week. It is a job that is meant only for those with skin of steel and a heart of gold, well maybe platinum. There are days of complete and utter defeat, the days in which you feel you have failed at life and the will to go on is slim. Then there are the days of complete and utter joy that would leave you wanting to cartwheel down the hallway if it was not for a fear of breaking your wrists! These are the days that make the constant stress, endless work, and horrific nightmares of failing lesson plans all worth it.
To give you an idea of what being a teacher and a mom are really like, take a glimpse into one of my days. This is a normal Thursday evening, but please don’t ask me about other days which involve school events, late meetings, Girls Scout meetings, softball practice, and more. I know that there is more to come as my three little ones get into more extracurricular activities, but for now, life is crazy enough.
5:15 – The first alarm rings, followed by several snooze button pushes.
5:30-6:30 – Time to get ready for work, while thinking about what I need to have ready for my children for the day. As I dry my hair and apply my makeup, I run through my lessons for the day, think about the lessons and potential issues, what students will need accommodations, what I can do for Johnny and Lilly to keep them interested and focused, and what emails I read last night and need to reply to. I wake up my 3rd grade daughter to get her into the shower. I make sure I tied all of the loose ends from the night before and take off for my 30 minute drive.
6:30 – Leave for work, still thinking about the above mentioned items. During the drive I continue to plan for the day. But don’t worry, as soon as “that song” comes on, I am that crazy lady your are driving next to that is jamming and dancing!
7:00 – Arrive at work in time to cover all of my bases for the day. I respond to any emails that I read the night before, make any additional copied for any bright ideas I had in the shower, and write my objectives on my stick-on chalkboards and bellwork questions on the whiteboard.
7:20 – Enter the hundreds of teenagers, walking like zombies due to their late night of technological bliss, otherwise known as Twitter.
7:35 – Class begins! I take attendance, hot lunch count, and go over the bellwork. The lesson begins and time for students to practice. I walk from one student to another, answering questions, modifying work, checking for understanding. All done in heels!
8:29 – The bell rings and my prep time begins. This time is spent in a team meeting, preparing future lessons, answers more emails, calling parents, entering grades, writing emails, filling out paperwork, etc. No matter what the outside world thinks, it is not a free period!
9:11 – Enter the next Pre-Algebra class. It starts again, teaching, assessing, checking, and questioning. Repeat, repeat, repeat…
10:01 – Lunch…yes, that is correct. My lunch hour starts at 10:01. I am a teacher that takes advantage of the extra 42 minutes of time. During that time I continue to work on lessons, create projects, communicate with parents, plan interventions, enter grades, grade papers, etc. Most days, you will find students in my room eating their lunch while working on missing work for me or other teachers.
10:47 – Enter team taught Pre-Algebra class #3, repeat, repeat, repeat…
11:33 – Enter Pre-Algebra class #4, repeat, repeat, repeat*…
*The repeat does not indicate that everything about these four classes is a repeat. It simply means that my job as a teacher repeats The lessons, assessments, practice, and application are all different. They are different because of the various levels and students in the classrooms.
12:19 – Enter Advanced Algebra 1 students. This is a very different class from the previous classes. The material is high school level, and the student demands are completely different. Repeat, repeat, repeat…
1:05 – Enter Algebra 1, my class of 39 students! While I know many teachers deal with this large of a class size on a daily basis, my other class sizes are much different. My classroom is full to the brim, not a chair empty. Repeat, repeat, repeat…and hopefully my heals are not under my desks now while I am sporting the latest flip flops!
1:51 – Study hall? Not really, I have determined that Tier I interventions are not feasible to the regular classroom, according to Tier I as defined by my district. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to conduct all Tier I interventions during this time. On Mondays and Wednesdays, for the first 18 minutes, I give Tier I interventions to my groups of students that need help with geometry. The last 18 minutes is for my expressions and equations group. One Tuesdays and Thursdays, my first group is the expressions and equations group #2. The second group is the functions group. Fridays are dedicated to Second Step.
2:25 – The final bell rings. I do my supervision duty and then head back to my room. For the next hour, I stay in my room and grade papers, enter grades, etc. This is the best time for me to complete “paperwork” in order to prepare for the next day. I look at what was completed for the day and how I need to adjust my plans for the following day. Do I go on or do I revisit the topic? I use the copy machine if needed, then I pack my bags and head out!
4:00 – I arrive home to the most wonderful hugs and kisses from four small children, the most important thing in my life. At that time, we start homework for my 3rd grader and I begin to cook supper.
4:30 – I take my daughter to dance, hoping that all of her homework is complete.
5:00 – Dinner time, just in time as my husband comes home from work. We eat dinner together EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. When my oldest daughter is at dance, she will eat when she comes home, but that is only once a week.
5:30 – My husband starts dishes and I start bath time. Boys first! My youngest daughter afterwards. Pajamas go on and we all head downstairs.
6:30 – Time to pick up my daughter from dance. I feed her, and she completes her homework shortly afterwards.
6:45 – Time to complete the dishes that my husband “finished”. I make sure that the countertops are clean, the table is washed, and the centerpiece is on. I check the mail, write the day’s checks out, and lay them out to be mailed. I look in the fridge to make sure that supper for tomorrow will be ready to go and prepare anything that may be needed for it.
7:15 – Time to pick out clothes for the next day! All four children get their clothes ready for tomorrow. It is a small task that takes a great deal of stress off of me and my babysitter. I start a load of clothes and begin the process of teeth brushing and getting them into bed. I know that bedtime is not our forte. It is something that we have had trouble with since they were born. No one likes to go to bed in my house, except my husband who sleeps like a dead animal.
8:00 – It’s lights out…..well maybe 8:15, or 8:30, or 9:00!
8:30 – When everyone is somewhat in bed is when it is time for me to start my work. I grade any papers that I have had from the day. Being in graduate school also has its own downfall, late night homework. I read anything that has been assigned, complete the online discussions, and write any papers that need to be written. My night begins at 8:30, as the homework and grading papers are neverending. By 10, I am getting a little heavy eyed and ready to doze off. I know that no quality work will be coming out of me after 11! Plus, there are 6 short hours until that darn alarm charms its lovely tone that makes me want to smash it with a metal bat! But, I do doze off and wake up to another day!
Let me first state that there are many things that are not listed in my daily timeline. Those include the time spent with my children and husband and the fantastic things we do. The walks through the neighborhood and the playing that is done. We read, we talk, we laugh, we sing, and we dance! There is time spent with my family and friends, time to celebrate birthdays, and time to sit by the campfire while making s’mores. It is the time that I cherish the most, but it is not a part of the grand schedule that is my day.
My point is not that my life is crazy and your life is not. I am not trying to prove that my Super Mom/Super Teacher cape, custom encrusted with pink bedazzling, is just on backorder. The point is that being a mom, taking care of a household, and being a teacher are jobs that demand a great deal. I have been a bank manager, working 60 hour weeks and taking care of a household. I have ran my own business while being a teacher. However, neither of these can compare to the job of being a mother and a teacher. I have four children that are my heart and soul, they are my life, the sole beings that can bring a smile to my face just by passing a little gas while smiling and saying, “I tooted.”
Being a mother means that I only have four hours a day with my children, a time that goes by with a blink of the eye. I do not have all day with my small children to bond with them and teach them about life, while teaching them the ABC’s and 123’s. Many people frown upon working mothers, saying that we do not have time to teach our children values and morals. They say that staying at home with their children makes better children. But I feel that is completely false and that working moms deserve a great deal of credit. We teach our children about having a strong work ethic. Teachers especially, teach their children about the importance of education and working hard to achieve things. We also value our time with our children and take advantage of every moment that we do have with them. Yes, I know that stay at home moms do as well, but my children see me doing these things and the impact that education has had on me. I could go on and on about the stay at home mother versus working mothers controversy, but that would start a very unhealthy conversation that would get nowhere.
However, being a teacher means that I have 160 additional children whose learning depends on me. I have 160 children whose parents depend on me to take care of their child, protect them from harm, and challenge them to their fullest potential. I am put in charge of their feelings, placed before them for their entertainment, and must educate each and every one of them. It is most often a thankless job, but it is the students that make it worth it.
It must be said, though, that there comes a time when teaching becomes a job and it ends at 4:00. During those hours with my students, they are the most important aspect of the day. However, when it is time to go home, my mom hat comes on and they get my full attention until they are sleeping.
My Uncle Jim, an elementary school principal for many years, used to tell me that teaching is a job. You always go home, leaving your job for the day. Becoming a parent has made me realize the truth in what he was saying. Yes, I think about my students often when I am at home, but my life and my family come first when I am at home. I used to sit with the kids in front of the television, grading papers while they were watching. One day, I thought about what my uncle said, looked up at my children and realized what I was doing to them. I was putting their needs and their longing to be with their mom on the back burner, just to grade some papers. IT CAN WAIT! Grading no longer occurs around my children. Emails are not checked or written and lessons are not developed around my children. This was a very hard lesson that I have learned in the past 9 years of being a mother and a teacher. To this day, I do not “work” while around my children. I want them to know that they are the most important part of my life and that when I come home I am there for them. IT CAN WAIT!
So I have set out to develop a set of guidelines and strategies for myself that help me to enjoy my children while being an excellent teacher at the same time. It has taken me 10 years to figure out and still needs some adjusting, but these things have helped me along the way.
Work hard while at work. There is no shame in working your ass off. Work it baby, work it! Utilize each and every moment to grade papers, copy, assess, plan and throw in an occasion chat session with a coworker. Don’t bring it home with you, get it done!
Do work at work, or at least while the kids are sleeping. Please do not make the same mistake that I made and do your work while your children are awake and with you. I know that sometimes we just need to get those papers graded, but do it after bedtime. Trust me, sacrifice a little bit of sleep for your children. They will thank you for it!
Prepare and plan ahead at home. Prepare everything that you possibly can. Prepare your meals ahead of time. Prepare your children’s clothes the night before. Have the book bags ready to go well ahead of time. Do not think to yourself that you will do it later. When you think of it, do it. There are many programs that I use to help me prepare myself. I am not paid to endorse any of these companies. I am just a proud user and want to share these fantastic resources!
1.For meals, we use emealz. Emealz is a company that creates a week of meals, gives the complete step-by-step recipes, creates a shopping list that utilizes store sales, and customizes meals to any dietary needs. Currently, we subscribe to the clean eating menu that uses limited boxed foods. Most of the items are fresh. This means that I spend a great deal of time chopping and preparing healthy foods for my family. I take a weekend day to chop everything for the week in order to prepare for the meals ahead of time.
2.For communication of events, my husband and I use Cozi. Cozi is an app that can be used on IPhones, IPads, IPods, and smart phones. The app allows us to add to our shared calendar, color code each event according to the person in which the event applies to, and more. Each week, they send us an email that contains the week’s events that are color coordinated for each person in our family. In addition, this app has a grocery list on it that allows everyone in our family to add anything to the list, allowing everyone to see it. When someone purchases the item, it is simply crossed off and visible by all.
3.At home, we utilize two forms of communication to prepare and inform everyone of event. We use a whiteboard calendar in our mudroom. Everyone is able to see each and every event that is happening. It is updated once a week on a rotational basis. In addition, we have a decorative whiteboard plate that sits on our kitchen counter top. We keep two days worth of events on the plate, along with the meal for the day. Our babysitter leaves notes on the board when something is needed or she needs to remind us of something. We also leave reminders for her and each other on this board.
4.Harness the power of the Post-it! I often say this to my students, but it is something that I truly believe. Post-its were invented for me, I am sure of this! However, I use them for everything. In order to prioritize your to do list, write everything on a post-it. Put them in order of importance. Not only will this help you to eliminate one thing at a time, but it will also make the list less stressful. By only seeing one thing to do, you mind is tricked into concentrating on only one thing, not the page long list that is your to-do list!
5.Do not use technology around your children! Sometimes having access to the world’s most useful technology can be a downfall. Put your phone away or on vibrate. Do not check or answer emails when at home with your children. Turn off the television and read. Play games or set out puzzles for your children to utilize instead of watching TV while you are cooking dinner.
6.Involve your children in everything. My children love to cook. I involve them in cooking all of the time. It allows me to spend quality time with them while completing the important tasks that a mother must do. When folding clothes, I involve my children. They help me fold clothes all the time. This allows me to have conversations with them while getting the necessary jobs done. And always sit down for supper together. Breakfast and lunch are usually not a time that working moms can share with their children, so make sure to eat while you can with your children!
7.Pinterest….that’s all there is! When looking for a lesson plan online, do yourself a favor and please use Pinterest. The best lessons and ideas for teaching that I have found this year have come from Pinterest. Hours can be wasted looking for the best lesson plans on a Google search, but Pinterest only has the best of the best ideas! USE IT! SHARE IT! CONNECT!
8.Don’t leave things a mess. One of my goals for the last two years has been to leave work and home clean. While my desk is a pretty hard task, I try to leave school each day with a clean desk. This year has been a pretty big failure on this aspect, but I’m working on it. There is no better feeling than to walk into your classroom and see a clean desk. It starts the day off right. In addition, never go to bed with a messy kitchen. I make it a point to make sure the dishes are done, counters are clean, and the table is presentable. Waking up to a clean kitchen is a great feeling. And the bed…make your bed! One piece of advice that my grandmother always gave me was to always make my bed. MAKE IT…just MAKE IT!
9.Leave things a mess! I little contradictory, but let some of the mess go. Concentrate on your children, not the mess that they have made. Children make messes…get over it and let them have fun! Randy Pausch, writer of The Last Lecture
, made a great point when he said to let your children paint on the walls. His book made me think of “messes” in a whole new way. Is that dust really going to kill you if you wait a few days to clean it because your children asked you to play Twister? Nope…leave it and don’t feel bad about it.
While my list does not include everything that helps me to get through the day, it is a list of goals that I am working on to make sure that my time with my students and my time with my family are special. It has made a world of difference in my life, and I hope that you have gotten at least one pointer to help you get through your day with your students and children. As parents and teachers, we must realize that we are not just sitting in a classroom all day and then going home to our children. We think about all of our children, biological and school, all of the time. Why not make the time with each of them better? Try something…who knows…you may just make a change that will put a smile on someone’s face!
Did you try something in this article? What was it and what were the results?
What are some things that you do to cope with being a parent and a teacher? Share!!!