Sunday, November 6, 2016

Life Happens

The great John Lennon once said that “Life happens while you’re busy making plans.” As a teacher, my life is almost entirely composed of making plans. I have to turn in weekly lesson plans to my school, and outside of school, I have to plan out my afternoons and evenings--often times weeks in advance. Then, when I least expect it, life interferes with my plans, and monitoring and adjusting becomes a survival tactic.

It’s been a rough month for me. We all, at times, go through spells where one bad thing after another happens to us. For me, this includes the unexpected passing of my father-in-law and a recent diagnosis that my dog has a bone tumor in her leg that will require amputation. Both of these events have dealt an enormous emotional and financial blow to my family. I have never done anything like this before, but I have set up a GoFundMe account to cover the expenses of my dog’s pending amputation. If you care to donate, the website is

In times like this, being a teacher is both a blessing and a curse. While I’m in my classroom, my job requires that I be present, in every form of the word. I owe it to my students and they deserve nothing less. Therefore, I mentally tune out everything that isn’t important to the lesson. School provides me with a sanctuary where I can compartmentalize. Likewise, my family deserves the same when I am at home--especially now, with these two unfortunate events. The last thing that I want to do at home is provide feedback on student papers and take time away from them. I have been doing what I can while at school, but it’s not enough; the papers have been snowballing in a horrific way.

The home/work balance is difficult for most teachers, and it’s something with which I have always struggled. I realize that part of my job requires me to evaluate my students’ papers. This is also important to my students so that they know how to improve their performance on future assignments and, ultimately, grade themselves at the end of the nine weeks in my gradeless classroom environment. At the same time, when I’m not physically in the school building, my head and my heart have recently been veering away from my responsibilities at work.

I remember some advice that my principal, Dr. Joey Vaughn, gave to the entire school system during our opening day convocation at the beginning of this school year. His advice was, when times get tough, just remember: “Left foot, right foot, breathe.” Teachers are among the most stressed individuals that you will ever meet--especially in this age of accountability and the overemphasis on standardized testing. Add to that mix stressful situations that happen outside of our job, and it’s almost too much to handle.

Cliches are cliche for a reason--they’re oftentimes true. To those who are also experiencing high levels of stress in your life right now, regardless of whether you’re in the education field, just remember to breathe. You are strong, and you will make it through this, and ultimately, I will, too.

In the meantime, I have paperwork, a family, and an ailing dog that all need my attention. With progress reports coming out this week, my focus will be on my students’ papers. I have never really looked at progress reports as being a particularly accurate representation of my students’ progress, but many parents do. I hope I can finish everything in time, and I will give it my best effort because I really hate missing deadlines. If not, I hope that my students and their parents will understand.

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