A new appreciation for summer.

It’s here … my first ever summer off! I feel I earned it after a challenging year full of a type of stress new to me. I’ve experienced plenty of stress before I started teaching. I served in the Marine Corps. I was on call evenings, weekends and holidays for the sheriff’s office. I raised two kids. I got my college degree at night while working at the sheriff’s office and raising kids. During all of that, I’ve experienced periods of intense stress and managed to successfully ride them out until things returned to normal. But teaching took me on a whole new stress ride. One that doesn’t have a “return to normal” rest stop.

During the first three months I didn’t take a single day off. No exaggeration. I attended several mandatory training sessions in the evenings, stayed late to get work done most other evenings, had frequent meetings during my planning period and after school, worked all weekend every weekend desperately slapping together lesson plans for the next week, and worked some weekends for the sheriff’s office while figuring out how to get school work done as well. Then there was the ever present nervous anticipation with each new school event and new unit to teach. I never, ever felt prepared. Then there were the administrators’ observations and evaluations of me. Then there were the big district tests and the end of course exam for the students. Was my novice, by-the-seat-of-my-pants teaching good enough? Did I somehow manage to teach these kids something despite my fumbling inexperience?

I know some teachers have had even rougher first years; I’ve heard the stories. Mine was challenging enough for me, thank you.

Sometime around winter break I finally started taking Saturdays off but I still worked every Sunday. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get ahead enough to ever relax. I hope when other teachers say the first year is the hardest that they’re right.

I guess the stress finally caught up to me because the last couple of weeks of school I’ve been sick. Fever, coughing, stuffy nose, achy joints. It’s still lingering a bit now. Ugh. But now it’s summer time. I can feel the weight lifting a bit. Not completely but it’s a start.

Summer plans? I have some training lined up for next week and some other online training that will probably take a few weeks to get through. I also want to clean up the disaster area that is my lesson plan computer files. My goal is to turn the plans into a cohesive, consistent set instead of the thrown together hodge-podge they are now. I feel horrible that I put my students through such obscenely inconsistent lessons throughout the year. Who in the world put me in charge of a classroom, anyway?

But for the next few months my weekends are mine again. I don’t have to wake up at 5:30 weekday mornings for a while. I don’t have to iron my work clothes. I even have a fun trip or two planned. It’s the little things in life, ya know.

4.1.1But buzzing around in the background are thoughts about next year. Surprisingly, it’s an exciting buzz. Next year I’ll know better what to expect. I’ll be armed with lesson plans that weren’t thrown together the night before. I’ll have time to do activities that require advance planning on my part. I’ll have some idea of what to do when a student throws up in my classroom. I’ll have a better reaction when a student lies to another teacher about me, telling her that I had forbidden the student to return to my class and that I was working on having the student transferred. I’ll be unfazed when a student tries to use “deez nuts” as his screen name during a test review game. I’ll know how to handle the student who decides to see if the emergency eyewash station actually works.

Next year I’ll be ready and the stress will be knocked down a notch or two.

It will, right? Please tell me it will.

One thought on “A new appreciation for summer.

  1. Congratulations! I won’t lie and say the first year is the most stressful, because there are many factors that can add stress. But if you end the year already planning for how to make the next even better, then you’re doing great. Hopefully, you will be teaching the same thing and can focus your attention on tweaking lessons rather than writing brand new ones (in my first six years of teaching I was given a different prep every year). That way you can work on honing your pedagogical skills.

    Keep at it! You, more than most, know how important it is to have great science teaching who actually understand science.

    And if you haven’t yet, join NSTA and/or NABT. Both have awesome supporting resources. And STEM Tips.

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