I type when I can’t focus.

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed lately. It’s that frustrating phase when work and grading piles up while my life hops on a roller coaster. Students turned in research papers last Thursday. Please don’t ask how many I’ve reviewed yet. The answer is not enough. I need to tackle them soon, though, because I’ll receive another wave of assignments this Thursday, and we’re also trying to finish up Hamlet.

That’s enough to swamp any English teacher, but compounding everything is the fact that my own future is still up in the air. Decisions will be made soon. They haven’t been made yet, and until they are, I’m living in a constant state of distraction. I don’t know yet if I have my job next year. My students know that much already, so I can safely say that on the internet without discussing the details. I doubt they know how hard it is for me to stand up in front of them every day not knowing if I’ll be able to stay. I doubt they know how hard I’ve tried to keep myself from becoming attached to them, and how miserably I’ve failed at that. I doubt they see the number of times I swallow back my emotions while I teach.

How am I supposed to effectively grade research papers when my thoughts are constantly down in the administrative office, where the decisions will be made? Adding to my distraction, I received an angry-parent e-mail today, too. About the research papers, of course. The ones I haven’t finished grading yet. I wrote her back this morning, and I think I handled it well, but we may still need to have a meeting.  Things like that are seriously distracting.

This is the side of teaching they don’t tell you about in college. Or if they do, you can’t really comprehend it. I knew I’d have to check my personal life at the door. Home problems belong at home; work problems belong at work. But these aren’t “home” problems. They’re professional. They’re related to my job.  They’re personal, too, though.  At least, the next-year’s-job-situation is, because it impacts my personal life in a big way if the decision isn’t in my favor.  Yet I still have to put it all on the mental back burner while I stand up in front of students and teach each lesson. I hide my frustrations from my students because none of this is their fault. They don’t deserve a grumpy teacher just because I’m frustrated, overwhelmed, and distracted.  So I put on the show of the prepared, happy teacher, and I hope that somewhere during the lesson I’ll actually forget the problems for a while.

But now, during study hall, which should be the same as a prep period for me, I can’t silence the distractions in my mind.  I should be grading papers, but instead I’ve logged into WordPress and opened a new draft in the hopes that the mental catharsis will help me to focus once I finish this.  If I get it all out in print, it won’t be running around in my brain anymore, right?  Maybe then I’ll be able to look at a research paper and actually see it for its content and format, not as a page full of words dancing in front of me while my mind wanders through the e-mails of irate parents or downstairs to the offices where decisions are made.

I need to get a handle on this, because when you’re a teacher, work problems can’t stay at work. They come home in the form of 300 pages worth of research papers that need to be graded before Thursday.  The more I get done now, the better it is for my sanity.

Thank you for allowing me to get that out of my system. Hopefully now I can dive back into all that grading and actually accomplish something.

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13 thoughts on “I type when I can’t focus.

  1. Been there and done that. Even when you have a job (know you are returning to it next year), Spring becomes a problem too. Just like the students, there are many other things that you would rather be doing than grading those giant essays you assigned.

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  2. Being a teacher is very much so being an actor. We have to put on happy faces when we are feeling no where near happy. I always try to remember the good I’m doing. When I can’t get myself out of the rut, I always watch “What Teachers Make” by Taylor Mali. (Youtube it, and read the book if you can!!) It’s the hardest job in the world and no amount of schooling can ever prepare you. Keep breathing, and good luck 🙂

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  3. Reminds me of the grind when I was a teacher. Fortunately of the seventh grade so the quality of work was not like college. Yet the work load was enormous. I taught six periods, had numerous meetings, conferences and the like. After work I taught tennis, then showered and went back to school to teach a night class. The weekends were grading, lessons plans and some sleep. It was how to pay for a house, a car, three kids and the stroke I would have thirty years later. Do not let it get you down. If you are given the okay for next year great, but if it is not you will find something else. You are good. I can tell in your blog and your bits to me. Hang in there and good luck. Sincerely, Barry.

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  4. How can any one function with that hanging over your head? What an inefficient use of human capital. It is so dehumanizing. Never mind, someday maybe the tables will be reversed. You will have the power, but you will also possess the wisdom of what this does to the spirit.
    Leslie

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  5. Sorry you are going through all that! I can totally relate to the grading and work piling up! It is not easy (or always realistic) to always separate real life from work. Sometimes they just blend together. We just do the best we can sometimes. We are human.

    But I know how it feels to have those papers looming over your head, staring you down. Ugh.

    Praying you get your answer soon – and it is in your favor!!

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  6. I am procrastinating grading via WordPress right now too. Add to all of the other stuff the fact that it’s just plain hard to stay focused at ALL during 4th quarter. One of the hardest things we as teachers have to do every day is leave our personal lives at the door. We set the tone for our classes. If we’re out of sorts, they will be too. On the other hand, it’s also important to be honest and authentic with them. After ten years teaching high school, I am still trying to find that balance between being professional at all times and being authentic as well. Kudos to you. Hang in there.

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    • Finding that balance has been really hard. My students do know that my position is still not confirmed for next year, so they often ask me about it in class. Clearly there are details that I’m not at liberty to discuss with them, and I still need to maintain a positive, professional tone in class, but I’ve never been one to flat-out lie to my students, either. I say “I don’t know yet” (which is true), but there’s not much more I can say without crossing professional lines or completely dragging down the class atmosphere.

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  7. I’m so sorry! I was sort of going through this earlier this year. A bit different (i hated my job but my husband was getting moved and we didn’t know when or where so job hunting was impossible). I also have a school librarian facing this. It is stressful. It takes away your control and all you can do is hold on and wait.
    Take care, good luck. Getting it down does often help.

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    • I hope things work for you. I’m waiting to get a transfer from my school to another and I completely understand how this time of year can be so completely stressful. And then we have to keep focused on teaching and our personal lives. Sigh…good luck being sent your way. 😉

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