Now that some kind of routine has been established each day, my new work incarnation as an urban public school special ed teacher has settled into a rhythmed pace, and the stress has somewhat eased up. Or at least become a more manageable kind of stress. Before, it was like fight or flight response high strung anxiety, with moments of frustration so intense that I almost cried. Now, I know that I can handle whatever is ahead in my day, even if I’m not fully prepared.

It’s that last half of the last sentence that still gets me, though. The not being fully prepared thing.

The fact is that at some point, I just shut down. I wake up at 5 in the morning and get to work at 7, where I spend my morning preparing my classroom until school starts at 8:30. Then after school I stay until 5 or 6 preparing my lessons. Then when I get home I tie up the loose ends, like printing out my lesson plans and worksheets or filling out IEP paperwork. By 8 o clock, I just can’t focus anymore on it. I need a glass of Chartreuse, a parsing of Facebook, a reality show on TV. That is, if it’s not one of the nights where I go to class for my graduate coursework.

Same thing on the weekends. On Friday after school, I desperately want to just sit there and take care of all of my planning for the next week. But I need to get out of there. And then I get home and I don’t want to think about it anymore. And on Saturday, I don’t want to think about it anymore. So on Sunday, I force myself to spend the day preparing.

But the things that I need to get done, I should be working nonstop. I should be working til 10 or 11 every night, I should be working every day of the weekend.

That’s what I mean by not fully prepared. It’s like I’m getting stressed out because I’m not working hard enough, but if I worked any harder, I would be burnt out.

The good news is, so far all I get is positive feedback from the administration and other teachers. That’s great, and it keeps me going. But at the end of the day, none of that matters. What matters is whether or not I am truly teaching my students and meeting their needs. They are the ultimate gauge of my effectiveness. And every single day I feel like I have failed them. Because I lose my temper, or I mishandle a situation, or I have not been able to differentiate my instruction effectively. They want to learn. They want to succeed. They want me to be the best teacher they have ever had. And I don’t think that I can be that teacher just yet. I just can’t. That’s the reality.

I wish that I was more OCD and more dedicated and just stayed in my classroom til 8 every night organizing, preparing, envisioning. But I can only learn and develop at the level that I am at. I’m the biggest student in my own classroom.


Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

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