Sunday, September 19, 2010

Busy busy busy

Busy busy busy
Busy busy busy
That’s me these days.

Perhaps you know that we (uh, the United States) are in the midst of a Great Recession. I’m not much of an economics genius and a bit typical: I only see what I see. In Indiana, there have been big cuts in educational spending. Now, depending on who you ask and what his/her agenda is, it comes down to a state government where the head has said. “We’re not spending money we don’t have.”

Refreshing idea, I’d say. (Except for the cuts in education.) Oh my, on my. How can we do with less? That has been the big question since last spring when the word came down that we would HAVE to do with less.

I doubt that my school system is much different from others: we learned that 92% of our budget is staff. It makes sense that in a belt tightening mode, we'd pull in a few notches.
The budget office offered veteran teachers an incentive to retire. Quite a few, close to ‘that’ age, decided it was time to shut the textbooks for good.

Let me take the metaphor in a different direction. At my school, we had to cut out the fat; sometimes that knife has sliced into some needed meat. No matter: school goes on.
We are probably working smarter; I KNOW we are working harder.

Several administrative assistant positions were eliminated. That one person who you went to when the thing broke, well, she’s not longer there. Her tasks have been divided up to still-employed assistants. They have more to do in the same time and for the same money. And for those of us who knew how to solve a problem automatically, now have to regroup and check a hand out for “when your overhead projector needs a new bulb…”

As for us teachers: at my school we have followed a BLOCK 8 schedule for the last 15 years. That meant 90 minute classes meeting every other day. 4 class periods per day. I taught 5 classes, averaging 24 students each; I supervised a 90 minute study period every other day, and enjoyed a 60 minute preparation period every day.

We switch to a more traditional schedule. Now, I teach 6 classes. My largest holds 31 students. No supervised study. The preparation period is a breathless 45 minutes. In my case, my prep period is first thing in the morning. It ends at 8 AM and from there until 2:05, I’m sprinting.

All of my colleagues join me in learning how to change our 90-minute lessons to manageable nibbles. Some have never taught a traditional schedule. None of us has squeezed lessons into 45 minute bites.

That old 90 minute schedule ran with easy-to-remember time periods. Our new schedule contains weird times: 12:38 – 1:23, for example.

Has anyone been in mid-lecture, mouth open, when the bell rang? Uh, yes.

Has anyone found that the supplementary video, 30 minutes in length, had to be stopped abruptly and continued the next day? Uh, yes.

Has anyone learned that those large homework assignments, where the students had two days to complete, had to be refigured to make them manageable? Uh huh.

As there is NO time to compare notes, I’m assuming my colleagues share some of these challenges. We’re a bunch of creative problem solvers so I’m confident we’re learning how to adjust. Personally, even though I posted the schedule on several bulletin boards, none of those spots were near enough to me so I copied out each period’s end time, wrote this on little index cards and have posted those all over my room: on my desk, on my podium, next to the overhead projector, on the table where we place homework, ANYWHERE I might roam during class.
That helps me bring my lessons to some sort of sensible place before the critters pack up to go.

For our students, the changes have been huge. Some teachers, my juniors tell me, continue to load them up with homework. As one student wrote in his journal, “Don’t they understand? We have gotten in the habit of procrastinating. We are not used to getting it done for the next day.”
It’s tough to break that habit; it’s a good one to break.

Again, only seeing what I see, my last class of the day is, um, my most challenging.
I wonder if that’s the way it is for my fellow teachers. Just as the teachers are not used to a 7-period day, so too is that schedule unusual for the students. I see the kids getting more and more wound up after lunch. By that last class, when, let’s face it, the teacher is starting to sag, my students would like to hang from the ceiling and swing from the rafters. Silly stuff, like knocking things off desks, throwing pens and paper, jumping up out of seats, kicking and swatting at each other, blurting out…..seem to escalate in that last class.

I’m working my skills but in this class, so far (4 weeks in) nothing has worked. A sub asked me, “Can I kick everybody out?”

Here’s what’s good about it: I’m really good at class management. I almost never send a student to the office. I can talk to an offender or rely on peer pressure to keep my classes in line. Also, I end up on a fair number of ‘favorite teacher’ lists. I believe I have bragged on this. And you know what they say about Pride coming before a fall. Also, pride is a sin.

So, I will try to be thankful that these squirrely teenagers are giving me nothing to brag about. I am quite certain I will not be remembered with any fondness. I come home most days in need of a nap. Also, the hub reports that I am sleeping deeply these days.

Alas, this busyness plays havoc with time to write. God continues to teach us here and He gives us insight into life lessons that we’d like to lend some form. My goal is to hone my time management skills to set aside some chunks of time for writing.

Mike, by the way, continues to enjoy himself. On most of these glorious pre-autumn days, he’s out on the trail riding 20 miles or more on his bike. The house is clean. He and Zach washed all the windows and painted the trim. A new dining room sideboard is taking shape in the shop.

So, as you continue to pray for us, should we cross your mind any weekday at 1:30 EST, you might remember me as I work with that challenging last period class.

THIS would be Lynne Out.

For now.

Nap time.

1 comment:

  1. Of course I will pray for your last class of the day. I will ask God to give you an unusual portion of His grace, as you teach these teens. And, I will ask Him to restore your stength of body, mind, and spirit each evening to prepare you for the day ahead.

    Knowing you, it won't be long before your excellent skills bring this rowdy bunch in tow.

    As for Mike, may he continue to enjoy the blessings of total healing and the opportunity God has given him to breathe deeply of God's goodness after so many "nose-to-the-grindstone" years of hard work.