Teaching is Exhausting.

Since starting our student teaching experiences, I have been shocked by how tired I am. Physically, socially, emotionally… (I’m so tired I can’t think of the other realms of exhaustion I’ve felt!) By the end of the day, my body is sore, I don’t want to be around people, I’ve usually cried at least once (sometimes from the sadness of a story or interaction, usually from an overwhelming momentary happiness I call “overjoy”). As I walk through the school parking lot to my car, I feel totally and completely drained.

Most days I drive from school to tutoring, hoping the whole way that it will be a quick session, my posture and expression so obviously saying, “I can’t wait to get home.” The 16-year-old that I tutor always asks me about my day, wonders if I have any more stories from another 6 hours spent with the first graders. I always have stories to share. As the anecdotes start spilling out, as I continue verbally reflecting on the joys and challenges and events and moments in the classroom, I begin laughing. Every time.

Our tutoring session usually goes by quickly. Time flies when you are working one-on-one with a student! While I drive home, I start thinking again about the stories and anecdotes I shared at the beginning of our session. In stark contrast to my drive from the classroom-to-tutoring, my drive from tutoring-to-home is characterized by the definite conclusion, “I can’t wait to see the kids again tomorrow!” Almost every day it seems, this cycle repeats.

Teaching young learners is hard work. I used to babysit 4 kids every day in the summer, which seemed like a lot of labor (at the time :]). Take this experience, multiply the number of kids by 6+, then add on the requirement of actually teaching all of them a (standardized) curriculum, individualizing/differentiating instruction to each child, managing them all and making sure each of them are listening/learning, and fitting this all into a very structured time frame. (Try getting 24+ kids just to eat lunch in 15-20 minutes—that’s only the tip of the iceberg.) Then on top of this direct work with the kids, actually finding the time and energy to design/plan lessons, (re-)organize the classroom space, meet with parents/colleagues, reflect on the day’s practice…. Ay. This is no easy task.

I thought I had a good idea of what I was signing up for when I applied for my K-8 Teaching Certification Program. I had no idea how naïve I was at the time. How am I going to find the time + energy to do the (additional) social justice + public health work I got into teaching for in the first place? This is going to be one of my biggest challenges. I need to remember this focus.

I also need to hold on to the pure joys I feel as I drive from tutoring-to-home, the “overjoys” that greet me every morning as the kids walk into the classroom and I greet each of them with, “¡Buenos días, ______! ¿Cómo estás?” Who knew a 6-year-olds response to this (simple) question would be my motivator for getting out of bed in the morning?

Teaching is exhausting. What good work isn’t?

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6 thoughts on “Teaching is Exhausting.

  1. But isn’t it so fulfilling after a long day? It is exhausting, teaching. You have to be on your A game, all the time, every day. You have to be there long before the students get there, and stay long after (contrary to what the “contract time” states) to plan and make the environment just right.

    And how can’t you incorporate social justice into the classroom? Reaching those kids every single day will have a cascading effect once they formally enter the world – and often times long before then will the kids become an active voice and change in the world.

    • RLT says:

      You are absolutely right. It is incredibly fulfilling. And there are so many opportunities for social justice work in the classroom, much of which is invisible and often overlooked. Much of this work also requires intentional and thoughtful planning, preparation for delicate conversations. I suppose I am also referring to work with families, parents, communities. This is greatly outside the immediate context of the classroom and the contracted responsibilities. And in many ways, it is crucial to our practice (if social justice + equity is the aim).

  2. There are also abundant opportunities for public health work within the classroom! Hand Washing 101: a community-wide campaign.

    • RLT says:

      Agreed! Absolutely. Many many many opportunities through literature as well. To me, this is only the first step. I’m really referring to community involvement/activism/education/…..

  3. teacherbecoming2013 says:

    When we were reviewing my evaluation, my co-teacher told me: “The number one thing you need to do, is take your vitamins! Take care of yourself, this is exhausting work.”
    I got sick the third week of school – sicker than I have been in a looooong time. I totally feel you on the being exhausted front, and I feel like the number one important thing that all of us need to learn is self-care.
    Does anyone have any good health tips? I’m trying to eat my veggies and get more exercise, but am having difficulty finding the time!

  4. ponderinged says:

    I agree that each day is exhausting, especially during this time when we all are continuing our own education process. Overall the rewards in the end will be well worth the time and exhaustion we are experiencing. I think it is also essntial to maintain focus, delgate and work on teams whenever possible and multi-task, multi-task, multi-task!

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