I am drowning. Drowning in writings I haven't responded to in my usual timely manner. Drowning in Cross Country season obligations. Drowning in TLC meetings, PD days, professional conferences, presentations, and 504 meetings. It is one month into the school year, and I am adrift in an ocean of responsibility, barely treading water.
I cried alone in my car yesterday on my way home from hearing Diane Sweeney during our teacher work day. Cried. Alone.
I'm not writing this for pity, or to complain. Almost everything that is on my current list of stressors is something I actively chose to do. I am the person choosing to respond to student writing on a weekly basis; I'm the person setting (and sometimes breaking) my own deadlines for that. I wanted the Cross Country coaching gig. I applied for TLC positions, wanted an active role in planning PD with my administrator, and sought out opportunities to present at the ICTE Fall Conference.
This is not because I have a problem saying no. I say "no" all the time. I am the best at saying "no" to people. I want to do all of these things, and that's part of the reason I feel so overwhelmed. My desire to do as much as possible with the highest level of quality is making me feel like I'm not doing any of it particularly well.
Oh, yeah. And I'm trying to have a life, too.
After the crying yesterday in my car, and the XC meet that meant I didn't get home until nine (meaning no time to catch up on papers), I had low expectations for today. Tuesday is my duty day. That means I have even less time to be productive during the school day because I have to guard the morning entrance for 20 minutes, and go out for recess duty for half of my lunch. The mere thought of Tuesday felt like weights around my ankles in the middle of the ocean of my own creation.
Why do I forget that my school life is full of safety rafts? I'm so stubborn that I forget to ask for them. Thankfully, today people threw them to me.
The Monday duty teachers wrote a card for my duty partner and me. They wanted to cover recess for us since the PD day yesterday and Labor Day earlier in the month gave them two Mondays off. I couldn't stop from hugging both of them as I carried my laptop around, commenting on papers while walking the hallways for morning duty. My principal had to mark the occasion of my affection with a photo since I am notoriously not the hugging type at school. The smile you see is pure, genuine relief. Within ten minutes of arriving at work, I was drifting closer to solid ground.
Minutes later, I went back to my classroom for my planning period. A visitor was sitting in my chair.
A third grade Harry Potter fan (younger sibling to former students; son to the teacher next door) passes my room every day on his way to the elementary school. His older sister told him that I love Harry Potter, too. He decided to start sending me messages by clipping them to Hedwig's feet and throwing the owl at me as he walks by my room. If I'm not there, he gently sets Hedwig on my chair.
Sometimes Hedwig shares unfortunate news or pictures from the most recent chapters the young fan has read. Sometimes Hedwig just knows that I'm addicted to chewing gum and could use a fun flavor.
If you have never received a message by Owl Post, you might not realize how life-saving mail delivery can be.
I caught up on my comments tonight after practice. I am slowly responding to emails. I am starting to breathe again. I can see the shore. Next time, I'll try not to let myself float so far out before asking for a life raft. They're all around me, if I take the time to notice.
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.