Confessions of a First Year. Part 3.

With the end of the year approaching – 2 more days people! – I found myself missing a blog post last week. I started to get down on myself for ‘falling off the wagon’ already, but then I remembered hey…life happens. If you are just stumbling across this blog, I started a series a couple weeks ago introducing thoughts I gathered throughout my first 1/3 of teaching that I feel are still relevant as year one comes to a close. I have several friends who are teachers and one thing I was warned about prior to starting this career was how during the school year there never really is a break. Throughout life I have always been one where if I am not several days ahead I consider myself behind. While I have been able to accomplish such, for the most part, with my planning… grading I have learned is a completely different beast, especially being an ELA teacher.

I used to get stressed out if I had several items on my list that were waiting to be graded. I would stay up as late as possible trying to be sure that at the end of the day all was cleared and up-to-date. As you can imagine, this took a toll on me. Although I can run on little sleep, everyone has their breaking point. I began to realize that staying on top of grading did not mean that everything was returned the day it was submitted. I developed a shift in my paradigm from staying on top of to staying consistent with. This many seem as one in the same, but the change in words lifted a lot of stress. It also made me feel not as guilt-ridden for taking some personal time for myself throughout the week, which is good for everyone’s mental health!

So what does staying consistent mean? To be consistent is to do something in the same way over time so as to be fair or accurate. This technically could be a very broad idea in the realm of grading, however I decided to create some guidelines to keep myself accountable for my students. For current work, I would make a list at the beginning of the week with all that would be assigned, for each class. At that time I would set a realistic goal for myself based on other commitments and activities for what I felt I could accomplish to have in the grade book by end of day Friday. This broke my list then into two proportions; what to get to and what I would like to get to if times allowed. For late work, I created a plan of action where I would check it at minimum once every 2 weeks. This seems like a large time span, but by saying ‘at minimum’ I was telling myself it would not go longer than 2 weeks yet if I had extra time it could occur more frequently.

Feeling guilty is something I personally struggle with; I hate feeling like I am letting people down, I have a hard time saying no and I apologize pretty much for everything that doesn’t even require an apology. For example, I found myself overtime apologizing to students for not having their late work graded even after I had cleared late work 2 times prior. Like what?! They turned it in late, why was I apologizing?? And while I still would and have pulled several late nights when it comes to grading – just this past Monday I found myself finally closing the computer around 3am – overall these personal ‘guidelines’ helped me feel not as bad if my list was not completely crossed off 100% of the time.

While this post has been teaching focused, personally I feel as if guidelines (boundaries) are beneficial for any walk of life. We all have our limits and it is important to find out what those are and to be respectful of ourselves and of them. One of my teaching friends said something earlier this week that resonated deep, “We cannot help others if we do not first help ourselves. It is not being selfish, it is making sure you are taken care of so you can give your best self for those around you.” So I challenge you with this.. prioritize things in order of importance. say no and don’t feel bad and take that extra time for yourself.

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