Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reflecting on the year so far...

One thing I’m looking forward to over the next few months is finishing work.

I feel guilty saying that. I really love my job - I feel like it’s important and rewarding and intellectually stimulating, and therefore it gives me lots of satisfaction. And my job at my current school is really great - it’s a lovely school, with lovely kids, and very smooth systems.

But it has been exhausting this year. No school in Christchurch has been exempt from post-quake disturbances. Even a state school with a ‘good reputation’ that parents all across Christchurch are clamouring to get their children into cannot escape the disruption and upheaval; last year, for the second year in a row, we had a CAPNA. And then this year there needed to be further budget cuts. So, Assistant HODs, such as myself, were no longer teaching 4 classes, but 4 and a half. Fortunately, I’m sharing a lovely, top-stream senior class with a fabulous colleague. Having said that, an increase in workload is still an increase in workload. So my colleague and I had to decide how to split our time teaching this class, and we agreed to do it term by term (which is much less disruptive and disjointed for the students than taking 2 periods each a week). I decided to begin the class off for the year - so I took them on for Term 1 (a 12 week term this year).

And then, exactly 3 weeks into the term I discovered I was pregnant. A week later, the horrible morning sickness kicked in. I felt so incredibly sick all day (especially in the mornings and evenings), every day, for well over 6 loooong weeks. But even if I hadn’t felt like vomiting all day, I think I still would have found the jump back up to teaching five classes really, really hard. I had not taught five classes for over three years and, to be honest, I forgot how bloody hard it is. Five classes meant I had 20 hours of ‘contact time’ a week. And then there’s all the planning and marking  and report-writing for 5 classes,  and formtime and meetings and duty and extra-curricula activities that make up way more than 20 hours a week and aren't counted as ‘contact time’.  Five classes is just so many. Too many. I don’t think any teacher should be on such a huge workload, whether they are unit-holders or not. Four classes/16 hours ‘contact time’ a week should be the norm for all non-unit holding teachers, I say.

I felt pretty guilty about how sub-par I was being as a teacher, yet I still kinda had to put myself first. I regularly ate in class (which my students now think was a wise decision - they’d rather their teacher eat in front of them than spew in front of them). I was exhausted and often made students come to me at my desk, instead of wandering around the classroom and checking on who might need help. I didn’t set my extension class enough homework. I didn’t make my Year 13s re-write their really crappy essays, when I really should have.  I even forgot to turn up to class one day - I’ve never done that before. Fortunately, I walked past my classroom 10 minutes into the period and saw my class, as was all “OH ****!!” inside my head, but then nonchalantly apologised for being so late and began the lesson - not a good look when you just lectured the class on being on time the day before.

Anyway, I survived that first term, somehow (I haven’t even talked about the horrendous anxiety I felt the whole first trimester, but that probably goes without saying), and so did my students. And term two was…better…? Mostly. It began well - I was back down to 4 classes (Yahoo! Though I had to catch up on a huge pile of admin stuff I didn’t do in Term One), and I felt like I had energy to do my job (no more sickness, yay). By the time I told my students,many of them had guessed, and 99% of those who guessed had not let on that they suspected, which I really appreciate. And now my students are super-cute about opening doors and picking things up for me and offering to push the sets of laptops around. Whoever said teenagers aren’t thoughtful and don’t have manners? They are all so much more polite than the goober  teacher who asked me, “Was it planned?”

But now that I am getting further and further into the second trimester, I must admit that I am getting more and more exhausted again. Term Two is always a biggie - so many assessments! (So much stress and agro amongst the teachers, and sometimes parents too! Ugh!) And whilst I don’t feel super huge yet, I am slowing down  - I had to leave the staffroom with a good 6 minutes spare to ensure I get to my classroom without rushing and pulling a ligament/slipping on ice. By each Wednesday I felt like the week should be at a close. Sleep has begun to evade me - terrible dreams + sore hips + foetus kicking my insides (+ horrible noisy road works) = very little quality sleep, even though I go to bed at 8:30pm at the latest and don’t get up until 6:45am. So the end of this second term was rather challenging, and I am a little alarmed at how thing will go next term; no doubt ERO will come see me period 5 and observe a forgetful, overly-tired zombie attempting to engage a bunch of Year 10 students in an English classroom.

So, for the sake of my health (physical, mental and emotional), I look forward to finishing work. And I am REALLY looking forward to not spending 8 hours of my weekend doing school work.  

But I am nervous about finishing work too - what will it be like, after 9 years in an all-consuming job in which I interact with well over a hundred people every day, to suddenly be at home with a single, tiny human being who can’t talk (initially) and will rely on me for the basic necessities of life?!? It is a truly freaky prospect. And then I think about returning to work in 2015 and having to teach AND parent…

Never mind. I’ll deal with that later. Only 7 weeks of school to go!







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