Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Teaching and triathlon.

Okay, I don't mean to whine so much. I know that every job has its crazy time. I just use this place to vent. Accountants have tax season; food service workers have rushes during the day. Retail workers have Christmas. Engineers have...what? I don't know. Do they have a crazy time? Is it when the computer is down? The slide rule is stuck?
(I poke fun because there's a lot of engineers in triathlon.)

My teaching year is like a long, hard race triathlon.

I start the year with a combination of trepidation and excitement. This time it will be different. This time I'll do things right. I'll push through the pain. I'll plan the greatest lessons evar.

Report card time is like that long hilly part of the race (for me, it's the bike) when I ask, why on earth do I do this? I'm all alone, at the back of the pack. This is insane. I'm not cut out for this.
Parents and students complain. You must have lost my work, because I know I turned it in. Administrators ask you to explain your Ds and Fs.
Look at all those people ahead of me. It's easy for them. It's too hard for me.

There are the frustrating, hopeless moments. Parents accuse you of picking on their kid. They want to know why you don't stay after school every afternoon. Your admin calls sudden meetings, sucking up what little planning time you have. You have another thing you have to write to justify your position. You get a flat in the middle of the race, and you watch everyone speed by while you're unrolling the tube from your flat kit.

I. Hate. This.

So you talk to other triathletes, or teachers, and find out it's hard for them, too. Your kids might mouth off, but her kids pushed and threatened her. Even those who make it look easy have their difficulties. You pick up a few tips and tricks along the way. Use body glide.
Get the kids to do some of the work.

In between, there are those moments when you crest the hill and get a breathtaking view that you wouldn't have gotten any other way but in that particular race. That kid that comes back to see you that you'd just about given up on. A former student, now grown, that you run into somewhere who says, "Remember when you showed me those statistics about education and income? I never forgot that. I'm going to college this fall." Or, maybe it's that parent (or even student) who says, I appreciate you.

Sometimes you have make your own moments. For instance, when I have a really dark, angry, hopeless moment, I like to pick one or two kids, not straight A students, but earnest, hard-working kids who are nice and work really hard for their Bs and Cs and call tell their parents what great kids they've got. No, he's not in trouble. I just wanted you to know what a hard worker he is, and I sure wish I had a classroom full of kids like him. (If you're a teacher, try this some time. The astonishment and grattitude you get from parents will make you day, maybe even your month.)

Then comes May. The finish line is in sight. There! Whew. Just in Time. Hey, that went by fast...

Of course, summer, is my off season. I lay around and taunt my friends at work who aren't teachers. The difficulties of the race start to fade and soften. I attend a few workshops and think about how I'll do things differently next time.

Then in August, toe the line again. Yes, I hopefully tell myself. This time will be different. I'll push through the pain. I'll plan the greatest lessons evar...



  1. Anonymous7:22 AM

    Keep up the good work teacher and triathlete! There are parents out there who appreciate you even if they don't tell you. And the students will realize later in life how much they appreciate you. They'll talk about their Algebra teacher who helped them with math and life...oh, and she also finished and Ironman!

  2. Make your own moments - good thought!

  3. Those calls to parents make their day too. I know. I got one once and was so relieved that it wasn't another call about my son getting into to trouble (this was in his pre-marching days - band really turned him around).

  4. I graduate in May with my teaching degree. I'm scared now. LOL Just kidding. I really like the comparisions to racing. It's so true. Thanks for sharing. You can always vent to us. :-) Have a great day. You deserve it!!

    They actually told us in one of our classes to make calls telling parents how good their kids are, so glad to hear it from someone on the front lines. You are doing awesome!!

  5. You are THAT teacher, the one who calls me and tells me what a great kid I have on that day that I feel like the worst, most ineffective mother in the world.
    I had no idea that call made your day too!
    Those calls/comments always come on the days I need to hear them the most.

  6. I always told myself that the most horrendous days with kids/parents or in meetings would be great mental training for a long, tough triathlon! So consider getting through a week/day/HOUR part of your training plan!

    We had a couple parents in tears last week when we told them that everyone at school knows and loves their son...pretty cool.

  7. My DH has his stress out moments when a customer expects a chip out. So it's production week. Happens 2-3 times a year.

    What you are doing with kids is awesome, keep it up!

  8. Uh, it's 7:26pm EST...have been working since 5:00am EST...the engine must complete leakage testing today or the forces that be start firing people because we are under contract to ship this newly developed beast to a growing country in Asia...unfortunately we cannot find from whence the leaks are coming....hmm. Oh well, at least the test sites now have bathrooms for women which they did not have 20+ years ago when I started. Silver lining.

  9. From everything you've written, I have a feeling you're a great teacher. You've given me new perspective on my own kids' teachers too - for that I'm really grateful! PS re your previous post - don't feel obliged to leave comments for me - I just enjoy reading you!

  10. There's is no way I coyld ever be a teacher. It's got to be one of the hardest
    jobs ever. Long hours w/ no overtime pay. Students with bad attitudes. Nowadays
    it's even very dangerous. The no child left behind has really made it a
    nightmare also. I truly apreciate what you do Geek girl.

  11. I saw on Oprah yesterday a man from the ghetto that was about to graduate from college for the first time in any generation in his family. What made the difference? A TEACHER!! So you never know what a difference you are making to some hang in there!

  12. A bad day for an engineer is when the bridge collapses and its your stamp on the blueprints.

    There were several teachers who made a difference in my life and I wish I could track them down and tell them that.


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