Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Searching for Peace and Balance

St. Theresa's Prayer
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

I received the prayer above in an email from a good friend today, and it really spoke to some frustrations I have been experiencing as I try to juggle all of my responsibilities at home and at school. I am not feeling peaceful nor content at the moment. I know that I am where God intended for me to be this year. I know that the students in my classroom are there for a reason. I have had job options other than the classroom recently, and I know that I am where I am supposed to be, but I don't like it very much at the moment.

Don't get me wrong... I love my students as individuals. I like talking to them between classes. I like listening to their conversations and finding out what is going on in their lives. This is the first group of students that I've taught that are younger than my oldest child, so I feel very motherly towards them. A couple of girls even call me "Momma" all the time. I get hugs all day long. I am seeing improvement in behavior and in learning. At progress report time I had 23 failing grades. Now I just have around 12, and that may improve by the end of the week. This is still quite a lot of F's for me compared to other years, but I think cutting the number of F's in half is a big step in the right direction.

What I don't like is this constant feeling that I am not doing enough. Enough for my students, enough for my family, enough for my church, enough for myself. Whenever I focus my efforts in one direction, something else equally important goes undone. I am tired of spending 10 hours a day at school; grabbing fast food on the way to some evening activity; overseeing homework, chores, baths, and bedtime at way too late an hour for little ones; and then starting on my undone projects like grading papers, responding to parent emails, talking on the phone to my husband, paying bills, laundry, reading (not for pleasure), straightening the house, lesson planning, etc. My relaxation is reading my email and bloglines and looking at the statcounter for my blog. I occasionally post something, but not very often.

I guess I am a classic over-achiever. I cannot do something halfway and feel okay with that. At the moment I feel like I am doing everything halfway (at best!), and it is stressing me out. I know that some of the goals I set for myself are very unreasonable. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the things I enjoy the most and the things I think are most important are some of the extras that I could actually give up. The things that I don't enjoy and that I would like to give up are the things that other people are expecting me to do. And worst of all, the things that nobody insists that I do and that I do manage to leave out (Bible study, exercise, reading with my older children, fixing nutritious meals, relaxing with my family) are the most important of all!

This was all on my mind the other night and I couldn't sleep. So I got up and tried to put my responsibilities down on paper. I first tried drawing a mind map. It was pretty confusing (even with color-coding), so next I tried a list. I had one full page of school-related responsibilities, and another full page of home responsibilities. The list made a little more sense to me, and I would like to share it here. My next step may be to put it in a spreadsheet because several of these items overlap. However, I will save that project for my next sleepless night.

* Source of stress
* Source of help

Alabama Course of Study
  • Teach all content objectives for mastery. Students will demonstrate mastery on the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test in April. Our goal for this year is to have 90% of our regular ed. students perform at the proficient level.
  • Follow our school system's pacing guide. We will have progress monitoring tests (district-wide common assessments) each month.
International Baccalaurate Program
We are being considered for admission into this program. We will have a site visit this spring to determine if we are on the right path for implementation. If not, lots of money has been wasted!
  • Oversee Technology Integration in 7th grade. Each student must complete at least 50 hours of technology (that follows the IB MYP Design Cycle). In 7th grade this will be embedded in the core classes. I think I have to organize and document this. I need to find out what documentation is required and exactly what counts as technology and following the Design Cycle.
  • Plan and teach one (or two?) interdisciplinary unit(s) this year.
  • Incorporate the Areas of Interaction in as many lessons as possible. I need to put these words on my wall and teach them to my students.
Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative
This one is not a source of stress for me. It helps me fulfilling other responsibilities.
  • Teach the three 7th grade units: Stretching and Shrinking, Data Around Us (interdisciplinary, writing and reading in math), and What Do You Expect (great probability unit that helps students prepare for the ARMT)
  • Use technology provided with the kit (graphing calculators, calculator based rangers-no problem...lots of fun, but I don't think they meet the requirements for the Design Cycle).
21st Century Schools Program - Fellow and School Team Member
Great source of ideas and inspiration!
A huge commitment of time!

  • Mentor two new beginning schools. This includes online work and one site visit per school.
  • Decide on a team project. I am thinking of an interdisciplinary, technology-based service project. The one I have in mind will take lots of work!
  • Lead the team project.
  • Grow as a leader through the Key Leaders Network and Powerful Conversations Meetings.
  • Participate in Tapped In.
Expectation for Teachers at My School
We are considered to be an excellent school, and there is tremendous pride in our work. We are constantly striving to be better, and personal growth is encouraged and expected.
We are considered to be an excellent school, and there is tremendous pressure to maintain high standards.
  • Participate fully in all of the above.
  • Differentiate instruction.
  • Remediate failing students.
  • Intervention based on last year's ARMT and this year's ThinkLink scores.
  • Contact parents frequently.
  • Keep behavior in check without involving the office unnecessarily. I have never had students like these before. They are challenging everything I know about being a good teacher. I am not sure that I can be myself and be effective with three of my classes. It is exhausting to try to be someone you are not. Before I can teach them very much mathematics, they are going to have to learn the following behaviors:
    • Enter the classroom calmly and immediately begin working
    • Listen to and follow directions
    • Cooperative learning in small groups
    • Participation in whole group discussions
    • Follow classroom procedures
  • Help prepare students for the 7th grade Writing Assessment by writing across the curriculum.
  • Integrate reading strategies across the curriculum.
  • Integrate technology as much as possible.
  • Document all of this activiy on lesson plans.
What can I give up? What is most important? What gives me the best sense of fulfilling my purpose in life?

I cannot work any harder than I do right now. I can truly say that I am giving everything my best. My best is not good enough. I pray that God uses my weaknesses to show His strength. He will do His part. What is my part? How can I work smarter?

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