She looked at me and innocently asked, “What are we going to
learn about in February?”
“How am I supposed to know?” I answered. “It's only November.”
She laughed as I glanced down at my watch and realized it’s
the third week of school. We haven't even hit the end of September yet.
Sometimes I sit back and wonder if those first few weeks of
school ever get easier. As a first year teacher, I was so unprepared and unsure
of what I was about to face. Now, as a third year teacher, I still find the
transition to waking up before the crack of dawn and being on my feet all day
to be a tough one. As an added bonus, I find myself teaching three different
courses this year: U.S. history, 9th grade English and 11th
grade English. As my Freudian slip reveals, it has been a long first few weeks.
My particular situation is comparable to most special
education teachers, I think. I teach two ICT classes with two different
teachers, and two self-contained classes in different subjects. Within minutes
I have to go from being the special education teacher in a 9th grade
ICT class to being a history expert in my self-contained class. The switch is
tough, but not impossible.
thing that has helped me a great deal has been what I term my Systems of
Organization. Our brains work like a
filing cabinet, so in organizing my materials, I train my brain to organize
information. As quickly as I can stop by my office and grab a
stack of handouts, I can trigger my brain into history mode. In my third year,
I found these Systems of Organization to be indispensable.
It helps manage stress as well as materials. Every teacher, especially
in special education, will need to develop his/her own System of
Organization. I've found individual
student folders, where student keep work that has been graded and needs to be
graded, pocket drop envelopes and paper trays to be extremely helpful. Every
class has a place for paperwork, lesson plans and student handouts. Every
student has a place for his/her papers.
I addition to managing paperwork, I've done a really good
job (knock on wood!) of staying ahead of the game. I write lessons a week in
advance and try to stay on top of grading as much as possible. Our jobs are
full of curveballs: a rescheduled IEP meeting, an unexpected coverage, a paper
shortage, a copier breakdown. Do yourself a favor. I know it’s hard, but stay
ahead of the game. It'll save you a lot
of money on Rogaine and hair dye down the road.
In addition to what I've learned to do in school, I’ve
learned the importance of taking care of myself outside of work. During my first two years of teaching I was
taking graduate classes in addition to teaching, so I had almost no time to
myself. My love for running had fallen
by the wayside, so I joined a local running club last year. Don't let this
happen to you.
Find something you love, and do it for yourself. Schedule
time for a yoga class. Try out a new
restaurant each week. Spend 2 hours
cooking and eating dinner. See a movie.
Find time you can dedicate to YOU and not your students or your work. We all
play different roles in life: brother, husband, sister, wife, church member,
volunteer, mother, son. Teacher is only one of them. Make time for those things
that are important to you. If you don't take care of yourself, then you won't
be able to teach.
For those of you, like me, who are struggling to fight back
sleep even only as the sun sets in the evening, a few words of solace: Hang in
there, it gets better. I'm exhausted,
but I'm looking forward to a great new year.