Fatigued first-time teacher needs advice.

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by HudsonJ, Oct 30, 2008.

  1. HudsonJ

    HudsonJ New Member

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    Oct 30, 2008

    Hello!
    I'm writing this on behalf of a friend, in hopes that someone may have some advice or suggestions for her: my experience is with primary-school music, and it's not quite relevant to her situation.

    Which is this: a first-timer teaching college-prep english at a private high school. She's had no prior teaching experience, which likely contributes to the circumstances, but she has spent the first two weeks on the job managing maybe 3-4hrs sleep an evening, if that, returning late from the school and immediately beginning work on lesson plans, grading, and letters to parents. This has been absorbing literally all of her time: she's found none left-over for things like cooking, leisure, rest. The weekends have been no exception.

    I know this is a very loose description of what is surely a complex issue. But any advice or words which you could share would be very welcome. At this point, she is quite certain that she cannot make it through the rest of the semester, let alone a whole school year, and while the sheer amount of paperwork that high-school teachers are faced with is vast, I find it difficult to believe that three-hour 'naptimes' each evening are typical of a teaching body.

    Thanks in advance!
     
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  3. forchange

    forchange Rookie

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    Oct 30, 2008

    You would probably need to give us more information about what her current practices are. For starters, I would say that she doesn't need to grade every piece of paper that a kid touches. I give kids practice papers, which I don't ever look at except as I roam the room and then that practice later appears on homework, quizzes, etc that I *do* grade. Also, not every paper needs to be graded all the way. For instance, a math teacher at my school grades only three problems (random) out of those she assigned. She picks one easy problem, one medium problem, and one challenging problem. She does this while the students are working on their Do Now (this is a level of efficiency that I have yet to be able to reach). However, for me, as a Literacy teacher, I'm not correcting every grammar/spelling mistake I see on every homework. I look to see if they've demonstrated the skill I taught (i.e. wrote an analysis of a character). I grade them on that. Also, I have quick marks for the most common mistakes that I just can't let slide (like a big circled F for fragments). I grade a class set of homework in about 10 minutes.

    As far as lesson plans or creating your own handouts, I follow a pattern of what I teach, so I introduce new vocabulary words the same way each time. I do *a lot* of cut and paste of handouts and plans.

    I spend more time than I think is necessary and more time than most teachers at my school, but I certainly don't try to teach on 3-4 hours of sleep per night. She needs to realize that even if she makes the most brilliant lesson plans, she won't have the energy to execute them, so it will all be for nothing. She needs to pick and choose what she can and can't do. Ultimately teacher To-Do lists are never-ending -- something I found difficult to adjust to.
     
  4. MizDubya

    MizDubya Rookie

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    Oct 30, 2008

    Unfortunately, I don't have any advice for your friend, except to say that I feel her pain! I'm pretty much in the same boat: I'm teaching MS/HS English at a private school, but with no prior experience or teacher training to help me. For the first 3 or 4 weeks of school I was a complete mess--working around the clock on both weekdays and weekends, exhausted at the end of the day, only to wake up every hour or so at night with unbearable feelings of anxiety and panic. I also started gaining weight and losing my hair. If it weren't for my lovely husband, who has picked up nearly all of the household slack, I'd have no clean clothes, no food to eat, and would be wading through a disgusting dirty mess at home.

    So...why bother writing? Well, I'm on week 9 now, and things have gotten just a *tiny* bit better. I'm still crazy busy, but I decided to try to create unit plans for the literature I'm teaching, which helps me at least have some idea of where I'm going. I've only managed to do it so far for my 9th grade classes (we're doing The Scarlet Letter, and it seems to be helping. Today I'm working on one for my 11th grade class and A Streetcar Named Desire/I]. I've also resigned myself to being the kind of teacher I used to hate, at least for my first year teaching--the teacher that takes 2 weeks to hand back papers. I spend too much time commenting on papers, which is part of my problem, but I've stopped beating myself up for not returning them instantly (I figure it's a good lesson, in a warped way, to kids who have grown up in a world of instant gratification!).

    Anyway, I hope your friend is able to make it through this. Please encourage her to join this forum, because I've found the people here immensely supportive and helpful. And if she does join, please tell her to feel free to pm me, and I'd be happy to commiserate with her, and try to work with her to help both of us come up with ways to survive our first year! :dizzy:
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 30, 2008

    It sounds as though she could be getting more support from the members of her department, in particular either her chair or the others teaching the same courses.

    Why on earth is she writing numerous letters to parents at this level?

    Have her talk to her chairman tomorrow and see if she can get some help. Since she appears to have it so together at school, the people in her school may have incorrectly assumed that she's coping better than she is. Have her ask for help.
     
  6. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

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    Oct 30, 2008

    It would be worth her time and money to purchase teacher guides and canned units, then doctor them up. She will know what she is doing, why she is doing it, but still have the freedom to modify it as needed.

    The beauty of canned units is, for the overwhelming majority, they are proven to work.

    In following years, she will have the time to rewrite her own plans.

    This process will still be time consuming, but she won't need to do all the background work that can suck up every ounce of creative energy leaving little for the act of instruction.
     
  7. MissEducated

    MissEducated Rookie

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    Oct 30, 2008

    What do you mean by "teacher guides and canned units"? Any specific examples? Where do you even buy these?
     
  8. Canadian Gal

    Canadian Gal Habitué

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    Oct 31, 2008

    You buy them at teacher stores. They are like between 20 and 30 a unit, depending on the subject, and they come with nearly all the materials (for English, that usually means you need to provide the book).
     
  9. MizDubya

    MizDubya Rookie

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    Oct 31, 2008

    Canned lesson plans and teachers guides are a *great* suggestion!

    You can also buy them online, and some will let you download them in PDF format immediately. I recently bought one for The Metamorphosis, and although it wasn't anything groundbreaking, it certainly helped me quite a bit. Depending on the novel, there are also some teacher's guides available for free online; for instance, I've found ones for The Scarlet Letter, which I'm currently teaching. The only problem I find with them is that, as a new teacher, I could really use more day-to-day stuff, actual plans for what to do in the classroom, and the one's I've used don't really have that.

    I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say the names of the companies I've used on the board, so please PM me if you want to specific names of the few places I've used.

    Also, googling the name of the novel with lesson plan, teacher's guide, or unit plan (e.g. The Scarlet letter lesson plan) may also turn up some good sources.
     

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