Saturday, February 25, 2017

Work-Life Balance

Now that there's only one day left in February break, I can look back and see how I did with this whole work-life balance thing.

"Wait, whaaa?" you might ask, "I thought you were OFF! Teachers have so much VACATION!"

Yeah, well.

I may have had a week off, and I did enjoy very much Saturday through Monday without doing any work whatsoever, but it wasn't a week without work.

I did wear pajamas for a good portion of the day, so that's a benefit. Also, not getting up at 6 (who am I kidding? 6:30 and rushing like mad) is another break plus.

However, I still had quite a bit of work to do, and I am feeling like even though I did a lot, I could have done so much more. Teaching is one of those professions where your work comes home with you, your students come home with you in your mind, and your work day is a nonstop circus involving intense 40 minute teaching periods, "planning periods" that more often turn into meetings or fights with the copier or parent phone calls, lunch that rarely gets eaten in one sitting (my poor orange, always left for later in the day after students are gone) and is eaten in about a 20 minute period, and a bladder that makes it for hours and hours without release. I don't have a lunch hour. I typically work from 7:30 to 4:30 and then have more to do at home, or I work until after 5 so that I don't have to bring things home. I prefer that, actually, because I'd rather go home and have that be relaxation time, during the week. I don't really ever have the option to not do work over the weekend.

I don't say this because I am whiny or want a medal for how much work I do. I know all jobs are different in the way things are laid out and the benefits and sacrifices inherent. But I used to have a business-y job (albeit not a high-powered one), and I remember what it was like to leave work after 8 hours or so and have the rest of my time be...mine. I remember what it was like to go out for lunch. I remember taking vacation at times other than prescribed breaks when rates get hiked up. Now I didn't love that job nearly as much as I love teaching -- it wasn't nearly as creative and didn't make as much of an immediate impact on youth, so there's that. And part of why I have so much work is because I set new things up all the time, changing lesson plans and creating new units and new supports for this group of students. Which I don't think is unusual for teachers to do.

It just takes up so much time. My grandmother, who was a middle school English teacher, used to tell me when I came to visit her that "teaching is a jealous mistress." She said it takes all the time you'll give it and more, but it's so rewarding. And hard. It's real hard lately, when a certain Secretary of Education says things like, "public school teachers are just waiting to be told what to do." That's total BS. It is very disheartening to feel so reviled when we care so much and work so hard to do what's right for students.

Anyway. The point of all that is that I had a fair amount of grading, and planning, and new unit packets to put together, and rearranging things, and IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) to write. I did not get to the IEPs, but that's okay.

It's okay because I really should take my break as the restorative time it is meant to be. It's called FEBRUARY BREAK, not WORK FROM HOME LIKE A LUNATIC WEEK. So, I tried to balance it a bit better.

Except I did the thing I always do... I set up appointments on almost every single day, which broke everything up and made it impossible for me to have a good swath of time to read, or work, or clean the house. I made my plans ahead of time for break -- all but two of the appointments and lunches and whatnot were planned at least two weeks in advance. That helps me carve out time for me, too. Sometimes it's nice to have a swath of solitude, to read on the couch covered with cats with nowhere to go.

Here is what I did do though, and it actually makes me feel pretty accomplished to have done all this during break:

- I saw the chiropractor
- I got my effing third TB test in three years so I can prove to the adoption agency I'm still not tuberculin.
- I got my effing TB test read two days later, TB FREE AGAIN! What a surprise.
- I had a therapy appointment in the middle of the day. (Video chatting with my lady who moved out of state is working great. The miracle of technology!)
- I had lunch with a friend who I haven't seen in a while and played on the floor with her adorable nearly-11-month daughter. We had adult time while she napped, and then I got to play and dance and sing and watch the weirdness that is 21st century Sesame Street. It was glorious.
- I had lunch with a friend who is also in the adoption process, who I've only hung out with a handful of times and yet there is this bond that is delightful. We can cry and laugh and spend three hours having lunch and walking around the shopping center, and tackle everything from well-intended comments that piss us off to considering alternatives to how stressful making a profile book is...and then things that are totally not adoption related, too. It is nice to have a friend who is new and who gets it to share these things with.
- I had book club, where we had read The Couple Next Door -- I really recommend it unless baby abduction is a big fear for you. Then it's a bad, bad choice. It was twisty and at first I thought it was kind of stupid and predictable but then it changed my mind fairly quickly. It was a fast read. It was in present tense and pretty detached as far as narration goes, but I actually loved that part. It was a lively book group, and almost everything food-related was gluten free. AMAZING! I love these guys.
- We had dinner with a good friend who spoiled us with Cornish hens and wild rice with pecans and vegetables and a cheese spread with a choppy guacamole with chickpeas and then raspberry sorbet with chocolate chips. Mmmmm. She's a wonderful friend and the conversation was beautiful. She understands loss from a different standpoint and is just the most REAL and compassionate person I think I've ever known.
- I ended up having an impromptu midday hike with the same friend on Friday, because of something that needed revisiting and the fact that it was a gloriously warm late February day. It was muddy and her dog's paws probably needed a lot of washing off after, but it was a lovely surprise.
- I made my graphic organizer packet for Touching Spirit Bear, a novel I'm teaching for the first time in my Reading class. Bryce helped me select the statements for the Anticipation Guide (basically 8 strong statements related to theme or issues in the book that you rate agreement with 1-5 before reading and then revisit after reading and rate again to see if your thinking changed, and you can use them as short essay topics). That was fun to collaborate with him, even though he's not read the book.
- I did all my plans for this week for Reading and English, including mapping out where we are going to be with Out of the Dust, a novel we'll be reading in English. Always interesting, doing two novels at once, but Spirit Bear will be all in class so I think it will be okay, and they are TOTALLY DIFFERENT especially since Dust is written in free verse. We'll see how this goes...always an adventure.
- I graded the "12 Angry Men" essays using my highly detailed rubric (when you have 6 students in your self-contained class, you can do that sort of thing) with lots of comments. They were WAY better than the last ones for the last novel we read. That always feels good, to see improvement halfway through the year. I changed my approach on this one and it seems to have paid off for everyone!
- I reread Touching Spirit Bear.
- I finished reading Calvin, a YA book about a young man with schizophrenia who starts seeing a real life tiger, Hobbes, as part of his delusions and decides to take a walk across frozen Lake Erie to Cleveland (he's in Canada) to convince the author of "Calvin and Hobbes" to write a strip without Hobbes in it, since maybe that will cure him. It was beautiful. It challenges the difference between Real and True, and what it means to be human. Gorgeous.
- I read Adrift (intense YA survival novel of five teens stuck in the ocean on a tiny fiberglass boat where not all survive), Mosquitoland (an amazing upper-YA novel involving a road trip, possible mental illness, dysfunctional family, knowing who you are, and realizing that the way you thought things were...isn't...HIGHLY RECOMMEND), and I'm almost done with People I Want to Punch in the Throat (hilarious and honest essays). So that's not too shabby.
- I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. I am going outside my comfort zone and writing a piece for something more public than I normally go in for, and the audition is next weekend. It is HARD WORK. It swallowed up IEP time. It was okay that it did that. I wrote a piece in January and revised it a whole bunch of times, and then didn't love it anymore and felt it was forced, and so rewrote it entirely just the other day. So that's been taking up a lot of time. It's good to challenge yourself. It's good, hard work that I had time to dedicate to this week.
- I brought Thai food to Bryce in his office at the college where he's getting his PhD. It was fun to sit in his office with its giant windows and eat lunch together in the middle of the day.
 - I had lunch with my sister, who was in town last weekend, just the two of us -- which was lovely. And, the Reuben Crepe is back at the crepe place here, so that is amazing news for my tastebuds but not my cholesterol.
- I had lunch with family today, since my nephew (my sister's oldest stepson) was doing interviews for positions at colleges here.
- I finally got rid of the bags of Clothes to Donate and Books to Donate that have been sitting by the door or in the upstairs nook for WAY too long, donating them to a city library and Goodwill.
- I went through the mail pileup on the table by the door, tossing junk mail, making some more donations (St Jude's! Southern Law Poverty Center!), recycling catalogs and refreshing the ones in the bathrooms (I know I'm not the only one to go through catalogs on the throne), and recycling a whole lotta paper monster. It felt so good to clear the space. I wish donating to causes didn't result in SO. MUCH. MAIL. though.
- I went into school today (SATURDAY) to get some copying done so I have less to do on Monday and everything's ready to go. Man, is an empty school creepy as hell. But no copier lines.
- I went for lots of walks by myself, with no music, just me and my thoughts.

So, that's not too shabby, right? I did a lot of work, but not all of it. I managed to do fun things and see people I haven't in a while, do some home upkeep, spend time with family, read, and work. I wish I didn't have to do so much work, but that's life. I probably should have done some National Board (or, you know, written some freaking IEPs since now I have to do a LOT this week on those), but I chose other activities instead. Things that nourish my soul, take care of my body, and provide connection with others.

I suppose I didn't do too bad of a job with work-life balance, while on vacation. I hope I am rejuvenated (and planned) enough to feel refreshed for the weeks to come!


  1. Weird...this post didn't show up in my reader until today!
    So...whew!!! You got a ton done! So glad you got to do so many food for your soul things.
    I think it's interesting you get a February break...we don't have that here. When the marking period is up there is a 1/2 day for students, and when the semester changes there is one full day off, but no week.

    1. It was good! I'm feeling stress about not doing the IEPs already, but I'll get over it. They'll get done. Yeah, not even all districts in NY get February break -- it varies area to area and state to state. I think it started with the oil crisis or something, so they shut down schools for a week to not have to heat things? I could totally be making that up but I thought that's where it originated. I'm not complaining, it gives you something to look forward to in the drab month of February! My best friend's kids had Friday and Monday (President's Day) off, but school the rest of the week. They get a zillion snow days though. It all balances out I guess! :)

  2. You did get a lot done!! It's good that you're taking a step back to recognize both what you did and the fact that you needed to do things to feed your soul. It's something I don't do and it always ends up biting me in the butt when I become tapped out.

    And this secretary of education is by far the least qualified person to be speaking about education, let alone public education. Teachers are under appreciated in our society. They deserve so much more recognition than they get. Thank you for all you do, despite having people who have no business commenting running you down.

  3. Wow! I'm impressed that you got so much done!

    We keep Entertainment Weekly magazine next to the toilet in our bathroom. It's not a catalog, but I do keep up with my entertainment news! :-)

  4. Whew! I'm exhausted at the thought of your vacation week. lol It sounds like you had a good mix of really enjoyable, social activities. And great food too! Perfect.

  5. All I can do is echo everyone else and say "Wow" - you got so much done! Teachers work really, really hard. I've been amazed watching some of the teachers in my family work through all kinds of breaks on grading and planning things to help their students, and it's ridiculous when people try to act as though teaching is simply confined to the hours of the school day. I'm glad you got to strike some work-life balance during your week.

  6. Sounds like it was a great mixture of getting stuff done but also doing fun stuff! I've lots of teacher friends so I'm well aware of how hard it can be and how much you have to bring your work home with you, even during the holidays. Good luck with the writing project you mentioned!