It's October. And this is the first blog entry I've done since June. So much for teacher-writer, huh? Thank you to some of my favorite fellow Iowa English teachers/sporadic bloggers/world changers: Jenny, Kim, and Allison. You remind me of why I'm teaching my best when I'm adding more work to my load by writing here. Thanks also to Te@chThought for their #reflectiveteacher Slo-Blog approach that I'm using to kick-start myself back into gear.
It's been a stressful start to the school year. I knew it would be with my new role as Head Cross Country Coach for the entire CGD school district (boys and girls), but it overwhelmed me anyway, even with months of preparation. August and September are crazy enough for any teacher, and a fall sport ensures that there's little breathing room in those precious months. I'll make it through this first season of chaos, and then I'll improve, just as I've done with teaching, just as I do with everything. And then maybe each year, I'll find a better balance.
I never wanted to be a coach when I was in school. I probably would have laughed at anyone who predicted that I'd be one, not that anyone would have. Oh, my English-teacher brethren are full of extracurricular responsibilities: speech, drama, journalism, yearbook; you name it, they take it on. Let's face it: responding to and grading student papers is enough extracurricular work to keep our time filled from August through June. But sports coaching? I only know a handful of other English teachers who also went the athletic route. And it scares me.
I don't ever want to be the teacher that's here to coach. I knew those teachers; I had those teachers; I've seen those teachers. The people who blatantly care more about their sport and their athletes than they do about their classroom and their students. There's nothing wrong with coaching. I know that coaches are some of the best role models for student-athletes, and coaching carries just as many responsibilities as being a classroom teacher. But I believe people should go into teaching to be the best teachers they can be, and coaching often interferes with that. I've always known I didn't want that to be me. I didn't know how hard it was to prevent that from happening.
The constant phone calls. Emails. Print and radio interviews. Entering rosters. Managing injuries. Roster changes. Insurance and liability forms. Training. Explaining the training. Defending the training. Meets. Missing uniforms. Team t-shirts. Happy parents. Doubting parents. Fast runners. Slow runners. Walkers. Bus rides. Complaining. Reconnecting with former students. Lectures. Recaps. Fun. (That's right. We were supposed to have fun, too. I said I was going to be fun. Damn.) I'm busting my butt to be a successful coach and it's exhausting.
And all of this action and distraction is outside of my real job. My main reflection each day focuses on one thing: am I still teaching to the best of my ability? Is the learning in my classroom still the most important part of every day? Are my students still first? Am I still a good English teacher?
I hope the answer is yes. I am still working my magic, but with less sleep at night. I am still creating writers, but with slower turnaround on comments and response. I'm still having meaningful conversations about writing with kids, but with less after school time for writing conferences. I am still doing my best, but it's harder than usual.
The struggle is worth it. It has to be. I like coaching, and I want to do it for as many years as I can without sacrificing my true love. I'm an English teacher, and that always has to be my most important job.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.