# The past two weeks have been a roller coaster

I don’t know what is up or down anymore. My whole life is taken up by school. Yesterday I said “had a hard day, but hopefully things will get better. feeling like a bad teacher. why can’t i get my kids to learn?!?” I felt like such a failure. My anxiety and stress were through the roof. And today I had just a magical, scintillating, investigatory calculus class. It was on the function $y=sin(1/x)$. (Remember I taught it last year? This year it was even more fun! Because I tied it into the “pretty/ugly” functions thing we did a few days earlier.)

So I keep pingponging from despair to elation. From day to day, yes, but even from hour to hour.

One thing that’s getting to me is how dang hard I’ve been working. And needing it to let up. SOON. So I don’t go crazy.

Recent Tweets from the past couple days:

• today got home at around 8:30ish. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!
• wow i hate this week already. its 9pm and im just leaving school.
• Omg I’m home at 6:20pm. Someone pinch me!
• Just got home. [8:30pm] Argh. This needs to stop.

I have no idea why I’m staying at school so late. I am doing stuff, but what is it I’ve been doing? I just don’t know. Seriously. What could be taking up all my time?!? Well, this blog is for me, and I need to sort through this. I’m going to type whatever I can recall doing in the past week or so and see how it adds up. (Besides planning classes. Obvi.)

1. Organized nominations for the Student-Faculty Judiciary Committee. Met nominees before school to talk about their speeches and what the SFJC is about. Kept in contact with Deans and nominees about this. Elections happen tomorrow.

2. Organized and ran my first SFJC case. Wrote response letter for the case.

3. Graded and recorded grades for calculus. Standards Based Grading. It is taking a surprisingly HUGE amount of time, this grading. GARGANTUAN. And I even started cutting down on my feedback.

4. Wrote reassessments for calculus. And graded reassessments. (So far, there haven’t been more than a half-dozen, but with two skills each reassessment…)

5. Graded an Algebra II assessment.

6. Wrote home to parents of calculus students who are currently struggling. And set up (and starting having) individual meetings (a lot of individual meetings) to talk with students about how they are feeling, what they are doing for the class, and having them come up with a concrete plan of action.

7. Met with three senior students to talk about their college essay drafts which I read and commented on.

8. Planned and facilitated a 90 minute meeting with 14 faculty members on the topic of “Academic Integrity.” (I have 3 or 4 more of these to plan and facilitate. Luckily I have two co-leaders to work with.)

9. Prepared for Parent Night (which is happening this Thursday).

10. Tutored.

On the very near horizon, I have to…

1. Grade the first batch of Multivariable Calculus problem sets.

2. Plan a 4 hour orientation for the elected Student-Faculty Judiciary Committee members (next weekend).

3. Prepare for the monthly meeting with the head of the upper school about the committee.

4. Email and set up times to meet with Algebra II students who are struggling, to come up with a plan of action.

5. Write one or two paragraph “interim comments” for all students in all my classes who are struggling (we do this halfway through each quarter).

6. Write a letter of recommendation.

I don’t know what the point of this post was. It turned into me rambling, and trying to find out where all my time is going. I now see. Everywhere except for lesson planning. Barf.

1. I’m feeling your pain. I go straight from school to soccer each day and get home around 8pm. Then it is dinner, make lunches, and bedtimes (for the kids). At 9:30 I sit down and START my work for the next day. I am usually up until almost midnight but actually finished at 10:30 tonight and am actually excited. SICK.

I loved your first year teacher blog bc that is basically me again this year with new school, new subjects, new grade level, adding sbg, technology, and project based learning. Whew. Anyway, I WAS able to take ONE Saturday off so far this school year (after I spent only a scant hour emailing parents). I thought of your post the entire day whenever I was tempted to open the computer. Taking that day off really did help me so much!! Realistically, I can’t do that though every Saturday or even a midnight bedtime would be a pipe dream.

I feel your pain with the kids who don’t get it. I used to think I was a pretty good teacher. I am trying to teach negative integers to kids and OMG, it’s crazy. I have done several different models, tons of problems with them, and even made up a song so we could just finally memorize the darned things and I still have several kids who are having trouble. HOW can I get better???

Anyway, ((HUGS)) to you and just wanted to let you know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

2. You are definitely not alone.

This is my twentieth year as a teacher and the 50th year of my life. It is the year I hit the wall and confronted my own very finite limits.

I’ve gone from being a “Super Teacher” (in my own eyes) able to change the world overnight to a very ordinary man limping from day to day.

I want to keep teaching but it will have to be with much humbler goals.

3. Lois Burke says:

Not that it helps… but same here. Just substitute Algebra 2 Honors, department chairperson, Gear UP duties and student teacher in for some of those and you have my same days. Just know that you are making a difference and others are watching you and are inspired by your dedication!

4. This is why I haven’t jumped on with other people who are making Meyer feel guilty for leaving the practice. When done correctly and with passion, I don’t a think a person can survive more than 10 years, unless they turn into a zombie, which would mean they aren’t doing it correctly or with passion.

5. I feel the same way sometimes, especially when getting home around 9pm and getting up for work at 6:30am the morning after.
However, I’m trying to figure out how to handle this from a cognitive/emotional perspective as well as problem-solving about having too much to do.

Ultimately, high ambitions are necessary for high achievement, but maybe not all ambitions are as necessary? Writing letters to parents and scheduling talks with students is probably great, but it takes long time and is it AS important as good lesson planning? Is it AS important as you getting enough r&r? What is important anyway?

I make these tables, priority tables, where I have important/unimportant as columns and fun/no fun as rows. Then I fill in work and other activities. It helps me prioritize.
It also helps me shift the way I think about work. Sometimes people (myself and people I know anyway) think that if it’s work, it’s automatically at least partially straining. But let’s say I dance salsa all weekend in workshops and late night parties. That’d be fun, even though it also requires significant effort, but we wouldn’t call it stressful or straining.
My point is that if we love our work, we don’t have to think about it as stressful and straining. Of course some elements are, but much of what takes up my time are things that I choose to do because they are fun – planning lessons or figuring out good feedback on assessments for instance.
My motto for this year is “it’s not work unless you’d rather be doing something else”.

Sorry for the long reply. I had written much more, but eventually realized this is YOUR blog. :) I’m continuing this comment on mine.

6. Lisa says:

I was speaking with my mentor about this topic. How do we get everything done and still say sane? She is an amazing teacher that somehow still has time for her grandson’s soccer games. Her advice was this:

Two nights a week make yourself two lists. One is a HAVE TO list and the other is a WANT TO list. She spends no more than an hour and a half on the HAVE TO list on those two nights and never more than 30 mins on the WANT TO list. Her theory is that an ill tempered professor is far worse in the class room than an ill prepared professor.

I’m not sure if I completely buy this method yet but she IS a great professor and HAS been pretty powerful for over thirty years in the field. Either she is superwoman, or there is something valid in forcing yourself to take down time.

7. This sort of thing can happen to college profs as well. For me, the answer was simply to put hard boundaries around the time I am willing to spend at work and STOP WORKING once those boundaries are crossed. And learning to say “no” and not feel guilty about it. This has gotten me on the bad side of some colleagues who stay late and work all weekend who want me to behave similarly, but sorry, that’s just not for me. (I have the additional emphasis of having a wife and three young kids.)

In order to pay for these hard boundaries, I’ve had to learn how to be almost superhumanly efficient and productive while at work. The Getting Things Done (GTD) system was revelatory and quite literally life-changing in that regard, and following GTD rules each week has helped me keep work on a short leash. I sometimes have to do some work in the evenings or weekends, but on the average I get done everything I need to get done between 8:00 and 4:00 MTWRF and can produce a lot of useful things in that time frame, as long as I’m disciplined about productivity and efficiency. GTD highly recommended for these purposes.