A Rock and A Hard Place

This week has been taxing, every single day. My room has been too cold to inhabit for most of the week, so I’ve been squatting in another teacher’s room during periods when she doesn’t need it. This has happened several times this year, because my room is probably the coldest room in the building (I once had my water bottle freeze in my classroom, no joke). Teaching out of another classroom is always stressful, because I don’t have access to all of my supplies, and I’m not that well-organized as it is. Nothing sucks more than needing an office referral form but not having one at your disposal.

I stayed up really late Sunday planning what I hoped would be a monster lesson. All said, I probably put about 7-8 hours of labor into it. How did it go, you ask? Let’s just say it was a learning experience. I typically take notes on everything that went well in a lesson, everything that didn’t go as planned, and what I would do to improve it. When I plan a really ambitious lesson, more usually goes awry, and Monday’s lesson was extremely ambitious. I wouldn’t say it blew up, but one thing I’ve learned is that it’s silly to plan magnum opus lessons up late the night before, without consulting with anyone.

After school Monday, I felt really fatigued. I tried to go to bed early, but did not sleep well at all. By Tuesday afternoon, I knew I was sick. Everyone told me to take a day, but at this point, I am absolutely desperate to keep things on track in the room, and because of this schedule, I simply can’t afford to take days off, unless absolutely necessary.

So, I’ve been working ill all week. At this point it’s not too bad, and I will definitely take time if I feel like I need it medically, but otherwise I need to there. The kids haven’t been making it easy. Not many feel my sense of urgency, and I have failed to effectively convey it to them. I’ve tried to take my classroom management to next level. I’m definitely sweating the small stuff. I’m demanding absolute silence during my instruction. I’m trying hard to cut the turnaround in grading time. But the kids aren’t on board. Tuesday, after having to send about 8 kids out of class at one point or another, I brought the class to a halt while I called parents from the doorway in front of the students. I did the same thing with my nightmare homeroom class yesterday. I’m giving the kids speeches till I’m blue in the face, imploring them to understand what they’re up against. Still, kids still won’t stay in their seats and quiet, and I’m being cursed at on a nearly daily basis. I’m so exhausted by the end of the day that I’m pretty much just coming home and working from my bed.

Why am I so desperate to keep things moving?

Our grade is on an A-Day/B-Day schedule with 110 minute periods. This means that I see 2 of my classes one day, then the other 2 the next day, and it alternates like that, ad infinitum. So let’s say I missed a Thursday. That means that the class I saw the previous Tuesday, I would not see again until the following Monday. By then, everything is forgotten. And let’s do some math–I see each group of kids 5 days out of every 2 weeks. This means that they get an average of 275 minutes of instruction. But we don’t have any passing periods, so you have to subtract the non-zero transition time from that, too. A lot of the schools in the city are giving the kids 90 minutes of math instruction 5 days a week, for a total of 450 instruction minutes of math a week. For this and other reasons, I’m perilously behind on pacing. By my count, I’ve got 25 instructional days with each class left, but by the curriculum pacing guide, I’ve got 44 days of material remaining. Even moving double-time, there’s almost no margin for error, assessment, or the 3 weeks of review also mentioned in the pacing guide.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I spoke with my new assistant principal for almost an hour about this dilemma, and I think she’s up for some pretty radical approaches to the problem. That’s good, because nothing conventional is going to make it happen at this point. Considering where I’m at as it is, I’m not looking forward to how this is likely going to effect me personally. But I’ve got to find the fortitude to make it happen, somehow.

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