With 10 years of teaching under my belt, I could be considered a veteran teacher.
I’ve taught over 20 different math and science courses in Canada, Micronesia, Italy, and aboard a tall ship (without internet!). I’ve taught everything from middle school to college, and I’ve often taken PD courses in the background to improve my craft. I’ve also developed an online course and then taught it on the side.
My point: I’m used to having a lot on my plate and I’m used to being flexible.
This past school year was hard for me for 4 main reasons:
1) I was thrown yet another new course and this one had higher stakes. It required a lot of focus, research, and prep before I could deliver it to students. It was nothing crazy but I knew that I couldn’t dawdle my way through it and hope for the best. A lot of my summer and winter break was spent on it.
2) I was also tasked with being the lead on updating a course under a new framework. I’d taught the content elsewhere and had a lot of personal resources to pull from, but I had to be meticulously organized as I was developing the curriculum for the other teachers to use. Things had to be ready well in advance of when we’d teach the kids.
3) I got engaged in August and married at the end of November! This meant that a lot time outside of school was spent venue/dress/food/décor-hunting. Lots of fun stuff, but our short timeline meant that it needed to be done quickly.
4) We decided to start a family, as I’m no spring chicken! Early in 2020, we got confirmation that Baby XY was on the way.
You may be reading my points above and thinking, “No big deal!” This is the life of a teacher, right? And I’ve certainly dealt with the #1/#2 combo many times before. But for me, part of getting older has meant wanting to find more balance in my life and to expand my identity beyond teaching.
You may notice that the GLOBAL COVID-19 PANDEMIC didn’t make my list of stressors.
Like all teachers, I adapted my courses within a few days to make them fully online. This was a heck of a lot of work but it settled down for me pretty quickly – largely due to my breadth of experience and a school culture that resulted in high attendance. I’ve been lucky to not have had any friends or family infected with Covid-19. So, believe it or not, the pandemic allowed me to slow down a bit.
My teaching wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good within the parameters I was given. I was ecstatic that my lengthy traffic-filled commute was eliminated, meaning that I was able to get more sleep – a lifesaver as I navigated early pregnancy! And there was just a sense that some of the overall pressure to be everything to every kid and colleague was eliminated. I could breathe.
I don’t have a big takeaway from this year other than I know what my limits are in this season of life. I wasn’t drowning, but I was working at my maximum capacity for a whole year. Extras like blogging, TpT products, and visits to my hometown were put on hold. And you know what? The hometown one is the only one I regret.
To the newer teachers out there:
Know that some years are easier than others. Know that you’re more than teaching, and prioritize the other stuff when you can. But if you have a school year where you have less balance, don’t beat yourself up about it either. Life ebbs and flows, and all kinds of things will influence your capacity in a given year. This last one was tough, but I know they won’t all be like that. Give yourself a break!
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