When I Grow Up

I never had big plans for my future. I had vague ideas of “it would be nice” but no real sense of what it would look like. I didn’t envision my perfect wedding or my perfect groom. Occasionally, I envisioned children (bright and lovely smartasses with varied interests). I was a little sad to realize I would never have those children, but I never wanted to be pregnant anyway, so that was easier than expected.

I was completely relieved when I discovered (about seven years ago) that my lack of dating wasn’t just due to unrealistic expectations of others or something being wrong with me. After a decade of having students, distant relatives, and occasional friends question my sexuality, I discovered the term demi-sexual. What a revelation! The reason I can’t point to anyone I’ve felt sexually attracted to is because I haven’t had anyone stay single and in my orbit long enough for me to trust them to that degree. Trust is vital to my sexual experience (or lack of). It was awesome to realize that there’s nothing wrong with how I see the world or interact with people. I still have friends who think I should just go have sex; they usually can’t grasp the concept that not everyone has instant sexual attraction.

I’d love to have a snuggle buddy, to have someone to travel with, to have a companion that might get sexual at some point. Despite occasional bouts of loneliness, I’m fine being single. I can and do go to the movies on my own if no one is around or interested. I go out to eat all the time by myself. In fact, I’m the chick who will open a full bottle of champagne, have Brie with half an apple and half a baguette, all by myself in public. When things go wrong in my life, there’s a solid chance that the fault is due to my poor decision-making. When things go right in my life, there’s a chance it’s due to the rare completion of A Plan.

I didn’t love my childhood or my teen years. I was scared all the time; people were awful and untrustworthy, youth group was full of hypocrites who already had a closed clique, and my few friends weren’t always sure I was worth putting up with considering how annoying I was. I loved college. Working food service forced me to expand my horizons and pop out of my comfort zones. I didn’t love my first five years of teaching—they were trials by firebog.

I learned from my childhood about the power of stories. I learned in my teen years that not everyone is as scary as I thought. I learned in college how to pretend I was outgoing. I learned in my first teaching job a whole bunch about what not to do.

In my twenties I finished college, changed locations, wrote terrible fanfic, read and read and read (serious book debt). In my twenties I ate my pain and bought things to fill the holes in my life. In my thirties I fixed some of those problems, but I didn’t push myself too hard, because I was busy coming to terms with the person I turned out to be. I was busy figuring out how to make the best out of some difficult work expereinces so my students weren’t poisoned by my anger and frustration. I also spent some quality time making my own wiggle room so I could teach the way I wanted for the best results with my students.

In my forties, I got the itch for tattoos and I have read a metric ton of questionable fanfic. I still read voraciously, but lately sleep has stolen that time. Sleep is a beautiful thing (in moderation). I spend time with the same friends I’ve had for eighteen years and I spend time with new friends. Most of my social group is related to teaching or education. Most of us get each other in ways those outside of education choose not to.

We vent, we don’t complain.

We help each other figure out how to do better.

We understand that this is a passion for us, not just a job.

We exchange ideas all the time.

We try to navigate all the reforms coming through the world and figure out how to pull something out that will actually help our students.

We embrace the lawyers. We are thrilled by the musicians. We love the home cooks. We appreciate the Brew and Pub crowds.

We try to be there for each other.

We try to be there for ourselves.

The Fear never went away and I’m constantly creating or adjusting my Big Plans. I have pills for the migraines (a solid thirty years and counting). I have pills for The Fear.

I even have a little motivation.

I’m still not sure about this adulting thing.

When I Grow Down

My mother once told me that I inherited my root of bitterness from her side of the family. I guess my heart of darkness came from my dad’s side. The application of this metaphor means I have a tendency to hold onto shit for way longer than I should; me letting go of something takes years and steady work. I let things build and build until I go nuclear which is not a great way to deal with things—my anger becomes disproportionate in those times. I have gotten better about that, but the small improvement has caused its own problematic discovery. I have a quickfire side to my temper; it flares up and then its gone. Balancing these two types of anger with who I want to be is a challenge and it’s one I will continue to deal with until I lose my mind or my life.

We all have aspects of our personalities we struggle with. My laziness is another big issue in my life. I get overwhelmed more easily than I should (and less easily than I used to). For example, I have a stack of papers to grade and I start working my way through the pile; then, I hit that one truly awful paper where the kid has clearly banged it out in five minutes with no thought and less editing and I just want to never grade another paper ever again. So I stop grading for awhile and then I get further behind. It’s a vicious cycle.

The part of my job I love is the planning and the teaching. I love spending time reading articles and poetry and novels and essays and short stories. I love teaching kids, interacting with them, getting them to think, and pushing them out of their comfort zones with literature. I love seeing them get into a story they never thought they’d like. I love seeing them make brilliant comments that make their classmates drop jaw. I live for the times when I get to see the learning happen.

I watch trashy teen television shows to keep in touch with what some of my students might be watching. I read terrible YA novels (and great YA novels) based on student recommendations. I exchange music recommendations with my students which is always fun and sometimes a little painful. I have a tumblr so I can see how that side of the social divide live. A group of my students got me to actually use my Twitter account (granted it’s mostly to let them know about assignments, mostly).

However, I still can’t Facebook. I’ve tried. I have an account with a handful of entries from a few inspired days. I just can’t get past this thing that people do where they try to make their lives look super awesome for a host of people who don’t really matter or they spread everything that should stay quiet and private onto the screen for everyone to see. Some people just piss me off and I shouldn’t let myself get snotty with them even when they deserve it.

I don’t live on the edge or in the middle, so for a long time I thought that meant I didn’t have much to offer.

However, Robert Frost came to my rescue again, because both those roads were equally worn and the woods were lovely and dark and deep.

I may have miles to go and promises to keep—I’ll get there when I get there.

Oh, is that a rabbit with tea?

Do What You Can

I looked over a checklist of qualities good teachers have. I’m always looking to be a better teacher. And, I like to think that I know my flaws.

What does it mean to have high expectations of my students?

I want to see improvement in students’ critical thinking skills (assess and evaluate), their communication skills, and their ability to apply information and skills to a wide variety of problems. I want them to turn their work in on time and to turn in work they are proud of. I want them to participate in class discussions and show they are interacting with the text (getting something out of it even). I want them to disagree with the traditional interpretations of literature and find textual support; I want them to agree with the traditional interpretations of literature and find textual support. I want them to be able to effectively explain their ideas and find support for their point of view from a variety of sources. I want them to become smart consumers of information and various websites or media. I want them to take information from history class and science class and use it in arguments in English. I want them to write solidly built sentences and paragraphs on short-answer tests for science and math and health.

It’s my job to get my students up to the level they need for functioning and succeeding in the world outside of high school.

Objectives and Outcomes: Goals

Currently my goals are tied to Common Core National Standards which most teachers agree are “aspirational” rather than realistic.

We want our students to take in information, weigh its sources, and evaluate its content. We want our students to take examples from the text and explain what those examples show and how they relate back to the answers.

It’s not about hitting every little goal. It’s about hitting the skills over and over from totally different angles until they become a sort of mental muscle memory.

How do we engage students?

We can’t get every student’s attention every day. It sucks, but it’s honest. We don’t always know the struggles they have outside of school or the social issues they may be facing at school. We may not be the type of teacher they learn best from. School is a proving ground for kids where they have to learn to balance their dislike against what they need to learn for some nebulous future.

I try to improve the classroom experience constantly. Every summer I revise my unit lesson plans, tweak the application and the expectations. I read fiction and nonfiction and the news to find new ways into the material or skill sets I focus on. I find different ways to approach grammar or the writing process on blogs or at workshops or by talking to other teachers.

I’m willing to get better.

How do we build strong relationships with students?

I ask questions. I get to know kids over time. I read some interesting things that they’ve written.

I recognize that I see a small part of who they are. They have a face they show at school, a face that can change from teacher to teacher. It isn’t the same face they show their family or their friends. As long as I recognize this, as long as I sincerely try to help the move forward, then I’m doing my job.

Ultimately, students need to be treated like human beings.

Full of Flaws

I fell in with Fundamental Unitarians who preached radical tolerance. —KM

For the last two weeks my EfM group has been discussing Fredrica Harris Thompsett’s book We Are Theologians. Last week, we focused on the importance of every person participating in their local church, supporting each other and keeping each other accountable. While our clergy are an important component of teaching people about their corporate faith, they are not a stand-in for Christ or an intermediary between the average believer and God. This week we are looking at the importance of community, of keeping each other (and ourselves) moving forward in our faith.

One of the reasons I transitioned from the Evangelical and Baptist churches I grew up in was the shift in those churches (the ones I was exposed to, not every one) from a thoughtful faith that challenged itself and sought out information about the history of the church and the ancient cultures at the heart of the early followers of Christ to a blind and thoughtless faith where critical thinking has become “questioning God”. The place where I landed eight or nine years ago, Episcopalian, has a foundation in Christ’s teachings and three elements that share importance: the Bible, reason or thoughtfulness, and tradition. I appreciate that the larger church and the individual communities encourage people to learn about their faith, its origins, and its changes over the centuries. I do wish it had more of an emphasis on each person becoming familiar with the Bible by reading it instead of (often) reading only the excerpts found in The Book of Common Prayer.

I greatly admire Cranmer’s move toward making scripture and theology accessible to the common person who didn’t have the money to spend on an entire Bible; I also admire his insistence on keeping the language at the level of the common people. However, like with Shakespeare, that drive to speak the language of the people rather than the language of the wealthy or academics has been lost in the “keep it pure” movement. Part of what made these men and their works so popular was their genuine drive to meet the masses where they were. The Book of Common Prayer became a way for people to learn to read and to learn to think. Shakespeare’s plays, like modern cartoons, work on multiple levels, hitting the humor of the masses and the subtle jabs that could be appreciated by the upper and more learned classes.

The other thing that drew me to the Episcopal church was the way the local church members involved themselves in various aspects of our community and helping those in need. Many of the churches in my community come together to man and contribute to the local food bank, set up and run warming stations in the heart of winter, and practicing loving their neighbors by accepting everyone as “a child of God.” Much to the consternation and sincere concern of the more conservative Christians, many churches have openly ordained women and accepted into their congregations those who are openly gay.

In the end, I believe that each person’s relationship with God is between that person and God. I also believe we are called on the keep each other honest instead of hypocritical. We have a duty to God, ourselves, and our neighbors to practice taking care of one another.

Things I’ve Learned

1. No two kids are the same, even if some do seem to be echoes of others.
2. It’s important for teachers to apologize when they are wrong or to correct misinformation they have accidentally passed on.

3. It’s amazing what people will believe.

4. Variety and flexibility are the two most important qualities any teacher can have.

5. I love developing curriculum, using it, and modifying it.

6. I hate grading.

7. We have to change as we experience new things and take in new information.

8. Trust my instincts.

9. Being true to myself means I must be willing to change.

10. There are pills for many of my problems.

11. It’s totally okay to be alone.

12. I’m friendly, not a flirt. It’s not always my fault how people interpret me.

13. Sometimes I come across as a grade-A bitch and it is rarely on purpose.

14. I’m not nearly as sarcastic as other people think.

15. As long as I’m invested in the characters and there aren’t too many egregious language issues, I will read the trashiest stuff.

16. I’m not cut out for a life of leisure.

17. I’d rather sit on a deck or patio and read that “be out.”

18. I really do need to write every day to maintain my mental health.

19. I have to stick to my plans if I want things to work out.

20. People are infinitely fascinating.

21. I like fall and spring more than summer and winter. I’m a between kind of person.

22. Fairy tales can teach us everything we need to know.

23. There are two really important commandments and ten that we should try to keep.

24. Everything comes around again.

25. Thirty years of migraines is too many years of migraines.

26. I’m much more a why than how person.

27. I’m a little too good at avoiding things, at making messes, and I regularly fail at adulting.

28. I’m so lucky to work with teenagers. Some are awesome, some are terrible, and they are all in the process of becoming “real people.” It’s an honor to watch that process and influence it.

29. The best teachers practice their crafts.

30. The best teachers constantly adapt and change.

31. The best teachers are willing to ask questions to get information.

32. Every “new” education reform is 20-50 years old, dusted off, and renamed

33. I’m not a great teacher because I ramble, I hate grading, and I hate it when things are too quiet.

34. I’m not the best Christian for a variety of reasons.

35. I love how language is constantly evolving.

36. People will die and sometimes those deaths will feel like wasted lives; other times those deaths feel like a release.

37. I am blessed with some great friends.

38. I appreciate even the worst moments of my life, because they have shaped who I am today.

39. Failure will happen and failure is worthwhile if I learn something from it.

40. I can’t make everyone happy.

41. I am responsible for the things I do.

42. Not everything is about me.

Smart. Safe. True. And kind.

Classroom management has always been my weakest area as a teacher. I don’t like for things to be too quiet and I am a bit too quixotic (or mercurial) due to some mild ADD. It’s difficult for the kids who need strong boundaries and a strict routine to like my class or to thrive in it. Over the last twenty years I’ve gotten much better about providing basic structure to my classes and to the assignments—I no longer take the approach of “push them in and see who sinks” to determine what kind of gaps my students may have. For all the very real flaws in my approach to teaching and to students, or perhaps because of them, I do best with kids who are middle of the road.

I got my first advanced class last year and I still haven’t quite figured out how to raise my game to the level some of them seem to want. The advanced class is an interesting mix of the kids who want to step up and learn a little more before college and the kids who wanted to slow down after taking an AP English class their junior year. I am not like the other advanced teachers. I don’t adhere to the same methods; for example, I tend to hate worksheets. I’d much rather post discussion questions on the board than hand out the same old study guide. I’d much rather have students write a lot to figure out what works and what doesn’t than give out a grammar packet. (Of course, all that writing has to be graded and I tend to spend most of the school year two weeks behind on the grading.)

My goals for my students have stayed the same the last twenty years, but I’ve gotten better at articulating them. I want my students to become thinkers, so we have lots of class discussion and we write lots of analytical paragraphs and we read together. We read together because some students don’t do homework and because every student can benefit from seeing active reading in action even if they are seniors in high school. I want my students to become effective communicators in every medium. Effective communicators are thinkers. They have to take in information, evaluate its reliability, assess its value, and incorporate it into their own frame of reference before communicating their knowledge or ideas to others. Thinking and communication are so interwoven that they shouldn’t be separated and I don’t try to.

I suppose these goals are the reason I’m okay with most of the “education reform” that gets lobbed at me. I can find something of value in CIM and CAM (old-school, unfunded Oregon education initiatives), like students collecting a sampling of their work to look at growth and mastery of basic skills. I can find something of value in Common Core, like answer a question/support the answer/explain the support which is at the center of everything in Common Core. I’m sure I’ll find something useful in The Next Big Thing even as I see its flaws—unrealistic expectations, no funding for radical change, no training for paradigm shifts, and an expectation that every kid should go to a university when they shouldn’t.

Twenty-five years ago I managed to get through a state school without loans. Students can’t get through even the smallest state school without loans now thanks to the insane inflation of tuition and other fees. There aren’t enough grants or scholarships to help most of those kids who have been convinced they have to get a college degree. There’s nothing wrong with learning a trade or going to a technical school or taking hands on classes in high school. There’s value in experiencing life before figuring out what kinds of classes or degrees are the key to long-term success.

Education reforms need to focus on what’s really important in this day and age. We need to come back around to holding kids accountable for their time by making attendance matter, making deadlines stricter, and not allowing kids to retake every test. These changes would also help kids improve their work ethic. So many students at the high school I teach at can slack off for most of a semester, retake (or take) their tests at the end, and pass the class with a high grade since our school is one of many that emphasizes tests and assessment over daily practices. We also, like many other schools, allow kids to transfer in and out of classes (or to and away from certain teachers) for too many reasons. Yes, there are times where personality conflicts can affect both the quality of the teaching and a student’s willingness to learn or it can create a toxic classroom environment. Yes, sometimes kids realize they are in way over their heads and they need to drop down a level. However, there is value in failing and there is value in the struggle to keep going.

Grit and perseverance have become big buzzwords over the last couple of years in business and in education. The heartwarming videos, the slew of workshops for teachers, the canned and created lessons for kids don’t seem to be making as big an impact as they can. Grit and perseverance come from getting knocked down and figuring out how to get back up; they come from failing and trying again; they come from a willingness to look stupid in order to master something. Grit and perseverance don’t come from wiggly deadlines (yes, this is one of my issues as a teacher—I’m much too flexible on deadlines) or retaking tests.

Being smart is about a willingness to learn through success and failure. Being safe is about be aware of the world and spaces around us. Being true is about learning who we are, what we believe, and why we are the way we are. Being kind is much more important than being nice (nice isn’t always sincere and kind isn’t always perfect). I’m still learning how to do a better job as a teacher and how to adapt to the changing needs of my students. Over the last few years I’ve added a goal: teach students to become thoughtful consumers of information. There’s so much information out there that it has become difficult to determine what has real value and what is really reliable. If I can teach my students to wade through the information swamp while thinking critically, they will be able to communicate effectively.

Jumping The Line

There are so many apps that “make teaching better” and we all know that most of those apps don’t serve that purpose for every teacher. Just like students learn differently, teachers teach differently. Three or four of the six people in my department use Edmodo which is a good platform for online discussion and work. I used it for a couple of years. Then I switched to Google classroom which another colleague was gung-ho about. It’s taken me some time to figure out the best way to incorporate Google classroom; I’ve ended up pairing it with Twitter for getting basic information out to my students and letting them know when to check their classroom for assignments. I allow students to turn in everything except essays as either handwritten assignments or digital submissions. There is no one true way to teach or to learn, but some ways are more effective than others.

Another tool I’ve taken to using this year is Flipboard. I’ve been using the app for myself for a couple of years. It’s a great place to store articles that I might want to use or reference or share later. This year I set up a magazine for my Honors Research Projects. Everything they sent to me got a brief read-over and the articles that were reliable were put into a new magazine for students to reference back to and pull from. I have everything in one place and it’s helped me figure out the process for future years. This is only the second time I’ve done the Honors Research Project.

Two years ago I got certified to teach WR115: Introduction to College Writing as a dual credit class (students get both high school and college credit). This is a foundational elective class that works on getting students ready for research, analysis, and argument at the college level. It fits perfectly in the high school classroom. Every year I tweak what we do to improve the skills sets students will have available at the end of the year. I am confident that any student who does all the writing assignments will become better at writing and be ready for WR121. Unfortunately, not every student sees themselves as college-bound, not every student enjoys writing, not every student is motivated to do more than get a C. I can and do push at them, but they don’t always respond well. Sometimes I let them make those choices for themselves with little argument from me. It’s their time to get used to making those choices.

Last year I got certified to teach WR121 (not an elective) through a credit-by-competency program with Eastern Oregon University, Blue Mountain Community College, and a wide network of rural high schools. Even though I was coming on board teaching the class a few years after its inception, there were ongoing issues with the process and with the shared grading. The passing rate wasn’t high across the group and it was even lower for first year teachers in the program. I spent a lot of time thinking about what to do differently this year. Unfortunately, WR121 is pretty easy for students to pass at the college level for several reasons: it is a truly different environment, one professor grades all their work and can see their improvement, and one professor versus three anonymous graders. I have been totally honest with my students about how challenging it is to pass the class; I also have a senior who took WR121 over the summer and told everyone what they did in class, what the assignments were, and why he thought it was easier. One big project versus six to eight smaller ones. The class time to focus on critical thinking and verbal analysis. The lower number of students in the college classroom helps too.

This year I reworked how I do everything in an effort to help students learn how to write and think the way they would need to in order to pass the portfolio (which primarily rests on the Research Project). I have fewer students attempting it, because their colleges won’t honor the credit, or they know they aren’t ready for the WR121 credit, or they’ve heard from various sources how much easier it will be to pass next year. We have spent so much time pushing students into this idea that they have to have college credit. We are in some ways retarding their growth. So many of the kids who are in upper level classes are afraid to branch out on their own in case it makes them look stupid; a fair share of other students hold onto “their knowledge” of “how things work” so that they too are locked in a shell. Teachers aren’t supposed to give too many Fs (as if we give the grades instead of recording the level and quality of work turned in) which means students get extended deadlines or chances to retake tests.

I keep thinking back to Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Speech at the University of the Arts in 2012 and his three important lessons for getting and keeping a job (forgive the paraphrasing)—1. Do good work. 2. Get the work done on time. 3. Be a good person to work with. He said that anyone who had two of the three would be fine. I tell my students they need all three, plus 4. Be willing to get help/learn something for the job. And, 5. Take responsibility for failures, learn from them, and the next time fail differently or fail better or don’t fail at all.

Why, not cookie, should have been my first word.

When I first started teaching, I was trying to impart information. I was doing what I was told for reasons I hadn’t really thought about. I used standard types of literature study guides that focused on details to “make sure the students were really reading.” My vocabulary tests were spell the word, define the word. The essays were graded on the State Scoring Guide (six traits).

Five years in, I made a sad little poster that focused on the key ideas and skills in my classroom. I had decided that whenever a students asked “Why do we have to do this?” I would give them a real answer.

 Ten years in, I mentally changed comprehension to critical thinking. I realized somewhere along the way that I wanted to create free thinkers. Instead of giving loads of quizzes, I had loads of discussions. We talked through all aspects of stories, characters, plot development, symbolism (to be fair, not every class can handle a discussion heavy environment, so fresh quizzes do get written more for certain groups). Because I wasn’t putting it into a practice test, most of my students had an easier time grasping the concepts and cementing specific examples in their minds. This helped my students when it came to standardized tests.

Five years ago, Oregon joined the national movement away from state standards and into the Common Core. I had already learned from Oregon’s Certificate of Advanced Mastery (CAM) debacle to take one or two things from Common Core and not worry much about the rest. It became apparent within the first year that Performance Tasks were really hybridized Work Samples (a CIM/CAM standard). When I read through the ELA standards in August of 2010, it quickly became apparent that Common Core was focused on three things (which was reinforced in a variety of “fear the test” and “embrace the reform” workshops). Common Core wants students to understand information, assessed the information, and communicate what they have learned. I would add one more necessary skill—evaluate the source of the information.

 Twenty years in, I give open (handwritten) note vocabulary and reading quizzes. I look to student notes: study guide answers, daily summaries (what was it about? what was the message?), annotations in the text (usually on post-it notes), and various discussion questions to see if the students are reading or engaging with the text. I understand that a percentage of students would rather skim Spark Notes than listen when I read out loud or read the small number of pages assigned as homework. My quizzes focus on application and connection rather than details.

I am a font of weird facts, many of them I acquired reading fiction. It’s funny that I’m more likely to be able to figure out whether interesting facts in fiction are real more easily than some of my students are able to figure out what’s real from blog posts, Facebook, or Twitter. I want them to dig a little and discover whether or not a person, organization, or website is actually reliable. They have so much information available that the details matter less than the ability to assess, evaluate, toss aside or synthesize do.

I still teach my students the skills and language they need to read literature. They still write papers and paragraphs. They still have discussions. What I’m looking for should continue to change. The nature of the questions for study guides or discussions should change as society changes, as education changes, as my students’ needs change.

Guarding Weekends: The Social Contract

Part of teaching is accepting the extra work, accepting that there is work to do outside the contract time. There’s volunteering as a chaperone for various student activities or reading novels, short stories, and news articles with an eye to teaching them. There’s the constant retooling of units and lessons and how to teach information, what skills to focus on, what gaps in knowledge will need to be back-filled. There’s the grading.
I love the planning. I love the teaching. I love class discussions and helping students dig into topics and pieces of literature. I love helping student become better thinkers. I love helping students become better communicators.

I hate grading. I don’t actually know any teachers who enjoy grading. It’s the series of moments where we have to check that students are paying attention, are assimilating information, are evaluating information for value and usefulness, are applying information—some students take pride in their work and even if they have mechanical flaws, their content rocks; other students roll their eyes, punch the time clock, do the bare minimum, and turn in work that is clearly five-minutes or less.

As an English teacher, I have more to grade. If students are going to become better writers, then they have to write which means I have to read through it and comment on it and return it in a somewhat reasonable time frame (that last one is the challenge). I understood that part of my unwritten job description included the 15-20 hours a week I put during the summer, included the extra 10-15 hours a week during the school year that I put in to grading and planning and keeping up on pop culture and the news, so I can keep things relevant to the world my students live in. I understood that part of this unwritten contract would involve me donating a great deal of time in the pursuit of improving my students.

I’m not one of those “If I just have a positive impact on one student, I am fulfilled” kind of teachers. No one I’m tight with is like that. We want to make a positive impact on most of our students every year. We want our students to be better at thinking, writing, consuming information, and producing work they are proud of. We are lifers (or at least dedicated to 30 full years or more).

With all that said and true, I discovered early that I needed to jealously guard time for myself. I need time to read, to write, to sleep or exercise, to hang out with my friends—teachers need time to renew themselves too. We don’t have a job we can leave when we aren’t on site. We don’t have a job we can ignore when it suits us. I have former and current students who work all over my community, who I run into while I’m shopping or having drinks with friends. I love it. I also love my down time. Weekends are rarely duty-free. There’s always stuff to grade, there’re always lessons to refine, there are usually books to re-read. At least one day on the weekend, I don’t work. I won’t work. Whatever hasn’t gotten done by that point won’t get done during that 24-hours.

I sometimes worry that new teachers don’t understand the social contract. They go straight from school to protecting their time. They miss the few years where the rest of us learned how to create a balance between being a good teacher and staying sane. They miss the fact that the balance is in a constant state of renegotiation. They don’t want to understand how much we have to put into our jobs, because they don’t want the depression or anxiety or general “ohmygodI’mkillingmyself” of it all. To be fair, some new teachers err on the side of total insanity and abandon relationships or children for getting everything graded and commented on the next day. Unfortunately, the second kind of teacher burns out faster and doesn’t always last the full thirty (hell, past the first three).

I don’t know if there’s one answer for everyone. Maybe take into account that everyone has difficulties in their job. Everyone has to deal with hoops they don’t always feel like jumping through. We need to be more compassionate with ourselves, our colleagues, our students, parents of our students, and those who choose other paths. All we ask is a little understanding and respect in turn.