One of my longest friendships is with a woman who held my hand into kindergarten over 4o years ago. We wore Brownie’s uniforms together in elementary school; we sported the same Ugg boots in middle school (when they could be had for less than $20 ) ; we suntanned on my roof for senior skip day together; went to college, got married and had babies together. Monthly dinners with my chica keep me sane. She happens to be an elementary school teacher.
And she is tired.
Elementary and early childhood educators are a unique group. They are selfless givers. The culture embraces altruistic behaviors in a magnified way. This can lead to exhaustion if we can’t figure out how to have boundaries within our loving environment.
Catching up on the latest with my friend, I learn that the exhaustion circles around time and the lack of: too much testing; catering to parents of kids who are absent; how to spend quality time with a gaggle of kids ( who show up at her door every day for lunch) and still have time to take care of other needs. Her heart is constantly pulled. The pull is exhausting. When you meet every need for everyone, there is no time for yourself.
What to do?
We talked about putting routines in place to minimize many of the dilemmas listed (save the testing problem). By creating routines, you can still “show the love”, but in ways that keep you sane. Jim Knight hints at this in his book High Impact Instruction in both chapter 12 (Freedom with Form) and chapter 13 (Expectations). A quote from the book:
“Anyone can improvise with no restrictions, but that’s not jazz. Jazz always has some restrictions. Otherwise, it might sound like noise. The ability to improvise…comes from fundamental knowledge and this knowledge limits the choices you can make and will make.” Winton Marsalis
Some suggestions for creating procedures and routines around these concerns
Problem: Kids missing school are missing on the real learning that happens cooperatively. They also miss content delivery, which comes in a variety of formats
- Locate content lessons on-line when content came from alternative sources. Provide thinking prompts for lessons. Put everything on-line with printed hard copies available for those without technology. Communicate policy about late and missing assignments. Teach them the routine
Problem: District required math links in the form of homework do not always come back; parents contact wanting time extensions
- Provide several “free homework passes”. Things come up. Teach them the routine.
Problem: Students from previous years (and those currently in class) want to help before school, after school and at lunch. I have no prep time
- Offer the kids choices about days/times they can come. Reserve days and times for you, in advance. Teach them the routine.
Now here is the hard part: Mean what you say and say what you mean.
Sticking with the plan means you won’t be re-negotiating every other minute. This will tug at your heart, but your sanity is worth keeping!