This is my 12th year at my school, and by now I’ve learned a few things:
- Period 1 will always see at least 3 kids come in late.
- Use the staff restroom during homeroom, or else you’re going to be dying during Period 2. (By 10am I’ve usually downed two travel mugs of coffee AND a whole water bottle!)
- Say hello to everyone. EVERYONE. Custodial staff, clerks, students you don’t know, staff. It makes your day – and theirs – that much better.
- Laugh at yourself in class at least once a week. If you don’t take yourself too seriously, and show them that you too can have fun, the kids will come to respect you more.
This is, of course, a smattering of the many, many things that a decade of teaching high school English has taught me. But one thing I just cannot figure out, especially after having a kid, is how the hell to not procrastinate about grading.
I wish I could be like some of my colleagues, breezily exiting the building 10 minutes after the end of fourth period, not an essay or vocab quiz in sight. Nor do I want to be like others I know, chained to my desk furiously marking papers until the custodians threaten to lock me inside.
Grading is and has always been my least favorite part of my job. I love being in front of the class, working one-on-one with kids, and curriculum planning. I know grading is necessary – students need feedback on their writing, they need to be assessed, etc. But I really have come to sort of hate it. (Shh, don’t tell them, they’ll revolt!)
While I like reading their writing, I now find every other part of my life so overwhelmingly tiring that I just. Don’t. Have. The. Energy. At school I’m a whirlwind from 7:30-2:30 (or later) – teaching, lesson planning, meetings, making copies, answering emails, collaborating with colleagues, creating curriculum maps, going to PD trainings. Teaching feels like one of the only jobs where we are expected to simultaneously look backwards and forwards and live in the moment. At the end of each school day, I am turned into a human pretzel.
And then, I go pick K up from daycare and (try to) enjoy being a mother and a wife until he’s finally asleep. Do I grade in the hour or two between his bedtime and my own? Not when there are dishes to be washed and laundry to be folded, a show or book that begs to be consumed, a conversation with my husband that isn’t toddler-safe to be had. Do I even deserve downtime?
Today, as I sit here while K naps, I am wracked with guilt. I *could* be grading, but I also really want to start reading Hidden Figures. Watch an episode of Black Mirror or Black-ish or Fresh off the Boat. Take a nap; I’m exhausted, and K was up at 6:30 this morning, and we have friends coming over for dinner tonight.
This life is hard, y’all, and I get that it’s hard for everyone. But I don’t think we teachers should be martyrs. I wish our school could figure out some other system for giving teachers time and space to assess student work in meaningful ways. I don’t want my passion for my profession to be snuffed out in a series in deadening, purposeless meetings, crushed under a vertiginous pile of Gatsby essays and reflective responses and grammar and vocab and reading quizzes.
There has got to be a better way.