“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning."
- Maya Angelou
I always knew having a full-time job would wreak havoc on my personal life. If you’d care to peruse the archives of my blog (and I know you do), you will find many instances when I say that I should appreciate being underemployed because someday
I will lose my free time.
Free time to keep up with laundry.
Free time to keep up with ironing.
Free time to cook more than a 30-minute meal.
Free time to drop my children off and pick them up from school.
Free time to ride my bicycle.
Free time to blog. (I miss you. I'm trying to keep up.)
Free time to write.
Of course, bringing home a bigger paycheck has its own kind of freedom. And, of course, being an extended term substitute doesn’t provide the same pay as being a regular teacher. Though it sure beats being a daily sub.
Right now, I don’t feel like I do anything well.
Even with all the help from my husband, the house feels a millisecond away from chaos. We keep it going, but just barely.
I’m with middle schoolers in my home or at school pretty much from 7:00 am until 9:30 pm. (Either my son or I go to bed at that point.)
Every single day during the week, my children have an activity after school. Food, laundry, homework – it’s all squashed in between.
While I know there are many, many people in similar situations, I’ve never had to face this reality.
I feel guilt for the time I’m not spending with my children.
With my husband.
And everyday, I stand before my students. Some classes go well. Some go really well. Some go not so well.
Each experience makes me reflect. What can I do better next time?
Everyday is new. Nothing feels like a routine. We’re all still sizing one another up.
Some days I come home. I say, “I can do this.”
Other days I drag myself home. I say, “I can’t do this.”
My daughter is having a really hard time with the change. She misses me coming into her classroom. She misses spending more time with me.
I miss her.
Last night, at 8:30, I got ready for bed. She asked my husband if she and I could have a short sleepover. So we both crawled into my bed and fell asleep. At midnight, my husband brought her back to her own bed.
Many nights, I can’t shut my mind off. I think about the students I’m not reaching academically, discipline issues, lessons. Those nights, I don’t get a break from being a teacher.
My manuscript calls me, but I have to ignore it for now.
Each day gets better. I become a better teacher. The lessons become more interesting because I’ve had more time to find my way.
I know their names. (Believe me, that's a feat.)
I remember how long it took me to find my voice as a writer. For the longest time, I didn’t get it.
I had my suburban high school teacher voice, I had my fifth-grade assistant teacher voice, and I had my substitute teacher voice (which had many inflections based on grade and subject).
But I never had a middle school social studies teacher voice. Each day it gets stronger.
I don’t want to be a pushover.
I don’t want to be a nag.
I don’t want to be severe.
I want to show I care and be in control.
It’s a balancing act.
There are bright moments. One student goes out of his way to greet me and has complimented me to other teachers. Another has given me a hug. Two have asked if I’ll attend 8th-grade graduation even if the other teacher has returned from maternity leave. One student asked me if I’d be going on the 8th-grade trip to D.C.
There are days the class is too noisy.
There are days when my lesson falls flat.
There are days when my class is enraptured (sort of. probably.)
Those are the days when I find my inner-fierce-teacher.
I love those days.
I want each class, each day, to be like that.
But I know it takes time.
Despite my experience, I’m a first year teacher who started six-weeks into the year, and was thrown right in.
I’ve made mistakes.
I feel like I’m getting through my life rather than savoring each moment, but I know it won’t always feel that way.
I’m afraid of what I’ll hear.
All that someday…