Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Plate Runneth Over

If I could propose a buzzword du jour, I think it would be "balance."

I suck at balance. 

I think I suck at balance because I have the chronic problem of trying to balance too many things at once.  Which, now that I think about it, becomes a much larger (and much more delicate) balance between me and The Edge.  Lately, I feel a bit like I'm staring over said Edge...I'm basically holding on by my fabulous heels.  (Yes, Mommy Mimi is back in her heels and LOVING IT!)

As teachers, we have So.  Much. To.  Balance.  (Secretly, I think we'd all be really good at juggling plates or flaming batons...comes with the territory.)  We have to balance what we've learned in our latest professional development with what we think (and know) works for our friends.  We have to balance what we are passionate about with what is mandated.  We have to balance bathroom breaks with learning time.  We have to balance our desire to stop and look at a topic deeply and the constant administrative drive to move on, move on, cover everything, don't stop, don't pass go and (for the love of God) DON'T collect $200, are you crazy?  Teachers are overpaid and get summers off!

See?  That last bit?  That little sarcastic rant?  It's those moments when I think The Edge just may be winning.

In Mrs. Mimi's world, the compulsion to pile things onto my proverbial plate bleeds into my personal life as well.  Actually, if I'm honest with you (which I always am, my lovely readers), I think I function better when I have a lot going on.  When my plate gets too empty, suddenly I find myself in front of the TV watching hours of Golden Girls re-runs and wondering where my afternoon went.  Again, though, it's all about balance.  How much can I pile on so that I stay productive and don't tip the scales over to Crazed Whirlwind of Activity Yet Actually Finish Nothing Town.  That place blows.

I'm currently working with teachers.  I heart me some teachers.  And I'm watching these teachers struggle with balance as well (which is what leads me to think it's one of our occupational hazards).  I'm trying to help them balance new, purposeful strategies for teaching with what they feel comfortable doing in their classrooms.  And I'm seeing them trying to balance new ideas that they are excited about with how much change they realistically think they can handle.

Friends, I think I have had a revelation.

The more we push on teachers, asking them to reshuffle their already very delicate balance, the more resistant teachers are going to become.  And can you blame them?  Forget about having a healthy work-life balance...most teachers are just trying to balance the demands of their work life enough to get through the day without feeling like they just went into battle.  Yet instead of respecting that balance, acknowledging that balance, being real about the balance, what happens?  More and more and MORE gets put on the teachers plate and then, that finger gets pointed when the teacher fails to achieve the perfect balance.  Does it feel like a finger-pointing set up to anyone else? 

If we want things to change, and I think all of us do, the first step may be toward acknowledging what a teacher ALREADY HAS on her plate.  Then, wouldn't it make much more sense to strategically remove some of those responsibilities before adding on even more?  Don't we want teachers to be able to focus their energies and achieve a successful balance?  Because right now, it feels like The Powers That Be are just looking for a plate to dump all their problems on. 

I don't know about you, but my plate is full.  Grab a fork and help me if you want...

15 comments:

rach :) said...

Once again, Ms. Mimi, you speak what is on my mind. Hell to the Yea! Thank you for making me feel less like I'm the one who is insane for not being able to do it all.

jmcarteach said...

There is no balance in the life of an educator these days. I started teaching later in life, and had finally found my professional passion. Unfortunately, after 20 years, it is impossible for me to find balance. I am spending all of my time in front of a computer, "assessing" students and inputting their "data". I have very little time in the day to actually teach, which is what I still love. And after very long days at school, I'm too exhausted at home to do anything but eat and sleep. This is not balance -- and most teachers I know are struggling with the exact same feelings. By the way, those of you out there who know exactly what should be done to make our teaching better, thus also improving our students' learning -- if I don't have time to teach the materials, the test scores are certainly not going to be going up!
This article, "My Plate Runneth Over" is right on -- and the public should take note.

Kellie said...

I agree with you about balance. I am in Mr. Chamberlain's technology class and we had a skype with you last week. I want to say thank you for taking the time to talk with us. We really appriciated it. You shared so many of your insights with us and it was very inspirational.
Thanks!

Mweelin said...

Oh I needed to read this today to make sure I'm not going crazy this year! Thank you....
I've been trying to figure out the balance issue since Day 1 this year, and have almost given up.
I think I dropped my plate today. I have literally been sitting in front of my laptop writing college recommendation letters for early decisions due November 1st. In a perfect world, I would have been strategically working on these all year. No, instead I find myself staying at school until 5, 6 or even as late as 7pm trying to stay ahead of the craziness. The craziness is winning this year, and it's never felt like this before. This is my 21st year. Classes are huge, resources are low and there is never enough time in the day to do it all. Grades are due on Thursday and I still have a pile of about 90 tests to correct and averages to compute.
I need to get me a bigger plate.

Stu said...

Well said, Mimi. Balance has always been a problem for teachers and now it's worse than ever.

I'm retired, but I still "hang out" with my teacher friends (and starting second semester I'm going to go back to the elementary classroom...no more of this Community College stuff for me) and the conversation hasn't changed.

I understand that other people work hard as well...but everyone knows that firefighters risk their lives every day to save others...everyone knows that construction workers need personal power to tote heavy loads...everyone knows that health care workers work long hours...

But most people who have never spent time in a classroom (including the US Secretary of Education, btw) don't understand the energy necessary to teach, the strength necessary to keep coming back day after day to the same frustrations, the dedication needed to do something...try something else...then try something else...and then try something else again that it takes to be a classroom teacher in the United States at this point in time.

Teachers have become the scapegoats in the educational politics of the day. The "powers that be" seem to be ok with that. Until that changes being a teacher, which has never been easy, is going to continue being way too hard...emotionally and physically.

J said...

amen, sister! i always say that as a teacher, teaching is actually the *last* thing you do.

it's funny though. four years in a public middle school teaching the same subject, and i got pretty good at knowing what to do. crazy days yes, but i left right after school. someone asked me in an interview about work-life balance and i was like, it's great, woo!

then i started at a charter school. all work, all the time, no balance. exhaustion and misery.

then i taught at a charter school elementary school! holy workload, batman! even when i spent twelve hours at school i still felt like i got nothing done because there is always SO MUCH to do. after a super long day of CONSTANT VIGILANCE in the classroom, it's a wonder i had any energy whatsoever to do any lesson planning, organization, data crap, parent contact, etc. i just always felt like i was just barely treading water, about to drown at any moment. i started keeping massive to-do lists every day and out-loud talking to myself to get through it. yikes.

i really wanted to have a balance. i felt that it was unhealthy, but there is just no possible way to get around the mountains of tasks that must be done. let alone the things you *want* to do that are on top of that. again, yikes.

ack, sorry for the novel. :)

Mimi said...

Loving all your comments- glad I'm not alone too!

Stu- you're going back?! Details, please....

Kellie- hope we can do it again sometime!

Ariel McNamara said...

Hi,
My name is Ariel and I am in my third year of gaining my bachelors of education. I was really interested by your blog. It doesn't just talk about all the cool things that goes on inside of a classroom. It was a refreshing perspective, although I must admit it's pretty daunting seeing all the work that goes into being a teacher. Especially in the balance that you talk about. I am excited to see both sides of being a teacher. Thanks for posting, I really enjoyed your blog.

Jess said...

I find that I agree with you on this one- I do better when I am busy, too. But the second you get that ONE thing that tips over your cup, you are overwhelmed and stressed. I can function on a heavy load but one thing I feel can always tip me over.... It's a delicate, well, you said it, balance. Try yoga. and Wine. Maybe even together! hahaha!

Stop on over if you haven't!
www.theartofeducation.wordpress.com

Jessica
The ART of Education Blog

MsJessicaReeves said...

So happy to read a post that echoes my feeling day-in...day-out. I NEED BALANCE but feel like a whiner when I say I am overworked--I am! I am so exhausted everyday and see it getting no better. Thanks for your humor...I needed it=)

Sandy said...

Ms. Mimi, I totally agree with your thinking about balance. Teachers are so stressful doing many things at the same time and need some help. I am a Crowder College student and my major is Teacher Education. I had the opportunity to talk with you last week by skype in Mr. Chamberlain’s technology class, and I want to say thank you for share your time and knowledge with us, it was so helpful.

Jenifer McGonigal said...

My name is Jenifer and I am in Mr. Chamberlain's class and we talked with you last week. Thank you for talking to us. I enjoy your views on education.
I think we are all a little crazy. I work 40 hrs, go to school, and have three children that I have to run around everywhere. I still look for more stuff to do outside of the home. I am crazy! I like to learn whatever I can. Did I mention that I work at a preschool. Lots of take home work! How do you manage all of everything?

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

Ah yes, I could've written this post. I actually straight out said this to our "intervention specialist" yesterday- I was like look, I don't mean to be unaccepting of new ideas but in my defense, I've been given about 500 so I can't really handle anything new at this exact moment unless you are going to remove something old.

Teachinfourth said...

I usually find myself staying late, heading in on the weekends, and taking home piles of junk to do.

However, I love teaching and couldn't see myself doing anything else.

Snow From Different Cities said...

Excellent. I completely agree with the entire concept behind your blog.

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