I saw an NPR ed article recently on how students these days are super stressed and parents are finally starting to realize how bad it’s gotten. And I can’t say it surprised me. I’ve seen students with anxiety severe enough to interfere with their functioning as a student and as a person, and students complain all the time about the amount of work that I’m giving them. (Sometimes, though, I can’t tell if they’re actually overwhelmed or they just think/hope that by complaining I’ll suddenly give them less homework.)
But what about teacher’s stress? I spent most of this weekend grading. I spent most of last weekend grading. I still have half of these service learning projects to grade, and it is stressing me out. Because I can’t seem to make a dent in the pile because of all of the other, regular work that needs to get graded. And it’s not even like I grade everything I have my students do- I stamp in homework and classwork and have them turn in their stamp sheet at the end of the unit. But even just grading quizzes and lab reports is a never ending, Sisyphean task.
I was talking to my sister this weekend, on FaceTime with her and my niece. And she asked me – “how do people with families teach? Because you can’t just grade all weekend when you’ve got young kids”. And honestly, I don’t know. It’s a serious question I have- how am I supposed to balance my work and my life?
I went out for dinner tonight and last night with friends, even though a part of me felt like I should stay at home and grade as much as I could. But staying motivated to grade right now is really hard, and I realize that sometimes I need to remember to take care of myself.
This year has been exhausting for me as a teacher. I’ve been working with 3 other chemistry teachers, getting a collaboration going. And overall, I think it’s been going well. We’re talking about activities, planning common assessments and common activities, and I know my students are benefiting. The problem is that it takes so much time, and I find myself (as the most senior person on the team- how did that happen, by the way?) taking the lead and the work that comes along with that. And then I’m trying to be as available as possible to my students, particularly as we’re doing stoichiometry right now and they’re struggling. So some days I barely get 20 minutes to myself because I’ll have a morning review session, then class, then students will come up early from lunch, then more class, and that is hard as an introverted teacher.
I am hoping next year will be better, because I’m hoping that as a subject team we’ll have a lot of things hammered out in terms of logistics. And I’m hoping to do a better job of helping my students be self-sufficient while also meeting their needs. But I’m tired. And the pile of grading is stressing me out.
Clearly, I’m still trying to figure out how to balance my life. And I think I’m also struggling against this expectation that “awesome teachers” just give and give and give for their students. But there’s a limit, because at some point there’s nothing left to give. This is why teachers burn out, and I don’t want to burn out.
So I’m done grading for the night, and trying to tell myself that it’s ok, I’ll get it all done and they’ll still get the feedback they need in a timely manner. But it’s hard sometimes to manage stress. Yet if I can’t do it, how can I help my students do it?