This week I decided, for the first time in my 16-year teaching career, to NOT send home a monthly newsletter for December. Preparing the lessons for the monthly news report activity takes considerable time each month, as does writing the curriculum update and photocopying the neat little newsletters my students create, filling one out for each student, with personal comments, sending it home, and following up who returns their signed tear-off portion, and who doesn’t.
No longer being able to stay for several hours after the students leave each day, I am finding I can barely get my “core” lessons planned and prepared each day. “Extras” like the monthly news report have to go.
I am also finding it challenging to determine which “voluntary” activities to continue with, and which to leave. For example, once a week since my arrival at my current school, I have volunteered with the breakfast club program. It was just a short little shift, serving food from 7:45 – 8 a.m. each Tuesday morning. But since we are not supposed to be in the building before 8 a.m., I would have to move my shift to then, meaning I have even less time to get my classroom ready for the day, to count out math manipulatives, to put the finishing touch on lessons, and to otherwise prepare materials.
It doesn’t help when a student comes up to me, and says, “my dad says the teachers are mad at the government because you want more money, right?”
Perhaps the worst part of all this is the change in collegial climate in the building. The stress of months of battering of the profession in the media, of uncertainty in terms of contract changes, and now of having less time to do a job that there is already never enough time to do properly on a day to day basis is wearing on people, and increased stress is rampant. The tension in the staff room and the halls is thick enough to cut with a knife. People look tired, are short tempered... colleagues who were once jovial are short with one another... people are justifiably concerned about the financial impacts of cuts to wages and benefits on their families, and are tense about how to balance the necessary federation solidarity with professional commitment and enthusiasm.
The crowing glory was when a parent asked me if there was going to be a “holiday” on Tuesday (our now-confirmed strike day). It was all I could do to smile woodenly, and walk away calmly.
I have always found teaching stressful, but it has also been great fun. Right now, though, there’s considerably more stress and considerably less fun. :-(