On the verge of burn-out

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Nizigsprisni, Sep 24, 2011.

  1. Nizigsprisni

    Nizigsprisni New Member

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    Sep 24, 2011

    I teach high school math (grade levels vary), and I am in my 4th year. Teaching is all I’ve ever wanted to do. Every kid has an answer for “What do you want to be when you grow up”, but most do not actually become it! There are aspects of my job that I enjoy greatly. Throughout the last several years, I have tried really hard to remain motivated, energetic, and positive. When things got tough, I kept telling myself that one day everything would become more manageable. In my 4th year, I am still waiting for that day.

    My problem is, I can’t figure out a way NOT to work 60 hours a week. I come in super early, I stay late, and I bring work home. And no matter how many hours I work, I still never quite feel as though I am top of things. I am an extremely hard worker, and I’m ok with digging in my heels and giving something everything I’ve got. But for any human being, there’s a limit! I feel like I am exhausted and stressed all the time. I come home and all I want to do is sleep. Even the weekends have become “catch up” time (catch up on cleaning, paying bills, sleeping, grading papers), instead of relax time. I feel like I never have the energy to do anything for myself. My life has become about my job, and trying to recuperate from my job.

    The stress is starting to affect me more and more. I am starting to become more resentful and less patient. I am letting small things or uncontrollable things get to me. For instance, every time a student asks, “Have you graded our tests yet?” or a parent gets upset that I haven’t responded to their e-mail within 10 seconds of receiving it, part of me just wants to scream out, “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW HARD I AM WORKING?!? LEAVE ME ALONE!” I know that sounds terrible, but I can’t help but be frustrated when I feel like I am giving 400% without any ounce of appreciation and parents/students are barely giving anything. I constantly feel like everybody always wants more out of me when I feel like I don’t have anything more within me to give!

    My job is also affecting me emotionally. I have started to feel incredibly depressed, because it appears that the only one thing I’ve had a life-long passion for is starting to eat me alive. Of course the economic situation and all of the recent attacks on the teaching field have not helped. We have been on a wage freeze for the 4 years I have been teaching. I can barely pay my bills (a lot of which, ironically, are the college debt from working toward this career to begin with). One day, I took my salary and divided it by the 60 hours/week I am devoting to get a rough estimate of my "hourly" wage, and let’s just say that I might as well work at a gas station.

    Throughout the years, I have tried a lot of things to help make my job more manageable. I sat down and made a list of all the tasks I have to do, how much time it takes to do them, and came up with a daily schedule (literally, by the minute) of how I would fit everything in (but of course, it never all fits in). I have an excel spreadsheet that I log all of my hours into, and I reward myself when I can stay under a certain amount of hours (this hasn’t really happened yet). I regularly write, reflect, and set goals. I’ve tried thousands of new “systems” of doing things. I’ve read books. I’ve reached out to my coworkers, but they seem to be just as frazzled! There are some who have even told me that after 20+ years, they still can’t seem to get their job under control. I can’t seem to find a way to make things different.

    Granted, I could just refuse to work the 60 hours. But first of all, there are a lot of time-killers that I can’t do anything about (just last week alone, I had three meetings after school, and the other days I stayed after to tutor), and if I worked less I fear that I would feel as though I’m even more behind and frazzled than I already am. I’ve tried to reflect on the things that are taking up the most time, and really, there are a lot of little things that add up to a lot of time. However, I suppose I could say that the two biggest time-eaters are grading and planning (which is the probably the case for most teachers).

    I have really tried to decrease the amount of time I spend in both, but have been unsuccessful. As far as grading goes, I have 175 students. In math, giving multiple-choice assessments is out of the question, and every problem has to be graded thoroughly. It can take up to a 6-hour total time chunk to grade one set of tests. I do not collect and grade assignments, but instead walk around and check them on a daily basis. However, on any given day, I have several students absent, so I have a good stack of make-up work and miscellaneous things I have to grade daily as well. As far as planning goes, I don’t really know. I know there are resources online and such, but using them still doesn’t seem to make my plan time decrease.

    I know this was long and ranty, but I suppose that I needed to vent a bit. I feel like I’m at my wits end. I really don’t’ think that I can continue like this for even the rest of the school year, let alone for a 20+ year career. Has anybody found a way to make the job more manageable? Or maybe is it time to let go of the dream I thought I had and try to find a job that doesn’t kill me? That depresses me to think about but I don’t know if there are any other options! :(
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 24, 2011

    Hi and welcome.

    For starters, in your 4th year, you're working way too many hours.

    What is it you're spending all that time on?

    Let's look at planning: what courses are you teaching? Are any of them the same as last year? If so, dig out your old plan book and use it as a guide.

    What I do each summer (and suggest you do today) is this: for each course I teach I set up a table in Word. The first column is lesson number, the second is topic. Then I list a ballpark idea of the homework(s) I plan to assign.

    It's not exactly accurate of course. I just spent 3 days (4 if you count the class in which a kid passed out, effectively killing the period) on angle pairs using systems of equations in my Geometry class. But it does serve the purpose of getting all my long range planning laid out for me.

    As far as grading: can you stagger your test dates? I test every two weeks. But there's no rule saying they all have to be on the same day. If you stagger it so, say, your Algebra kids test the first week of October and your Geometry kids test the 2nd week, you'll find it's a lot easier to get through.

    Every single time I do a particular type of problem, it's laid out the same way. On yesterday's quiz, I was able to glance at the circled equations and the final answers. The perfect papers took just seconds to grade. The kids, unconsciously, laid it out exactly the same way I had done over and over again.

    When I grade tests, I grade each class's front first, then turn the whole stack upside down and grade the backs. I find that I'm better able to remember the answers and get through the papers faster that way.

    As far as the makeup work goes: Let the kids know that makeup tests and quizzes are your low priority. You get to them when you get to them, and they're not to bug you. My makeups tend to be a different version of the same test, so I already have the answer key and can get through them at odd times-- before homeroom or during a study hall.

    (Each class gets a different test, so I need to do one class at a time.)

    As far as extra help goes: I'm available each day before school for a while, and after school from 3- 3:40. Then I have to go pick up my kids. But 40 minutes every day is more than sufficient.

    I'm glad you thought to ask. You're simply working too many hours, and need a way to cut back. Doing that to yourself will NOT make you an effective teacher. You know what they say on planes: you've got to put on your own oxygen mask first; you can't help others if your health is in jeopardy.

    Does any of that help?
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 24, 2011

    Here's my suggestion: Today, this weekend, is your planning weekend. Every other priority gets pushed back.

    Do the type of long range planning I've mentioned for every prep you have. Figure on spending about an hour and half per course-- have your syllabus and the textbook in front of you, and maybe a notebook so you can jot down stuff that occurs to you along the way.

    Then take a look at your class notes. Mine are in a binder; one for each course, each sheet in a page protector. Get them done for as far back as you can-- at LEAST through Thanksgiving, possibly Christmas. If you're comfortable with the material, you don't have to actually do each problem, but have sample problems ready to go, explanations, whatever.

    There. You've just spent one weekend saving untold nights of trying to plan. You can do the same thing again over Christmas break, spring break, then for real next summer.
     
  5. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Sep 24, 2011

    I really like Alice's suggestions. I had read your post but couldn't think of any really suggestions since I don't teach HS math, but one thing stood out: you are working way too much! It's great to be a hard worker, but you have to have a cut-off point. Otherwise, teachers burn out.
     
  6. donziejo

    donziejo Devotee

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    Sep 24, 2011

    I'm not a math teacher. The math teachers I know do use multiple choice questions..the kind on the state tests. They use a scantron to grade the test. What am I missing? Grading 175 papers in math on a daily basis seems seems almost impossible. Math teachers are really needed so I wish you the best.
     
  7. Catcherman22

    Catcherman22 Companion

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    Sep 24, 2011

    I agree with Alice.... it'll depend on your situation, but 60 hours a week is a bit much.

    I (frankly, thanks to Alice) also test every two weeks. However, I do put them all on a Friday. I spend 8 ish hours on the weekend grading those tests. I don't let myself get backed up, so I will finish those tests at somepoint that weekend. The nice thing is, it's the weekend, so I have three nights to finish the tests. For example, last weekend I spent 2 hours Friday night, 5 hours on Saturday, and 1 on Sunday finishing and entering grades. I could just have easily fit that all into one night if I had other plans for the other days. Giving the tests on Friday gives me the flexability to grade over 3 nights.

    The non test weekends are the planning weekends. During that time I spend about 2 hours or so planning out the next two weeks ( I am not teaching anything new, so it's just a matter of orginizing what's being done when...All of my notes and stuff are already completed) If I notice something could have gone better, or think of how to better do something from the previous lessons..I'll edit them at this time so they are ready to go next time I need them.

    I also use that time to write tests for the following Friday. I do not recycle old tests and do spend a fair bit of time making new ones. This has gotten easier for me though as I use a worksheet generator to make the questions (kuta software), and then can switch the numbers as I see fit.

    If I am planning something new, I follow the same format in all of my lessons, so it takes me 30ish minutes to create a lesson. Of course, I am not making detailed lesson plans. I know my material very very well, so I don't need to make notes for myself of anything. I simply need to create the visuals and problems I need for the lesson. Warm up's are SAT or state test questions, then a lecture consisting of said visuals and problems, and then a practice for the kid's. Doesn't take long once you have a routine. So when I am teaching something new I can add about 4 hours every other weekend per class.

    I do not bring work home during the week... period. That's my family time. One of the casualties of this job is working on the weekends. MY wife understands that and my family and friends understand that. My week night evenings however, I refuse to bring stuff home. I get to school 30 minutes before start and stay 30 minutes ish after. I take full advantage of my prep though and use that time to make copies if needed and grade makeup work and enter stuff in the gradebook. Homework is checked in class while kids are working on an assignment or warm up.

    I learned very quickly how to make my classes work so it's easiest on me. That's a part of teaching.. learning what works for you. Experiment with different things you find on here, and see what makes your life easier.

    Again, if you're teaching 3 - 4 new preps, I can understand where you are putting in your time.. but that's a cost of this job.. it'll get easier when you repeat the courses you teach. That's a huge benefit of teaching math.. the material never changes.

    Feel free to ask for help on certain things.. people here are full of great suggestions!
     
  8. CindyBlue

    CindyBlue Cohort

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    Sep 24, 2011

    I also teach math, I test every week, and I second everything Alice said. Also - for tests, I have them put their answers in the answer column down the right side of the page. I can line this up with my answer key and quickly grade the column, based on a rubric. (Note: I have multiple versions of the test, sometimes only scrambled answers or one number changed in an equation, so copying the answer column from another student will be obvious!) Then I quickly scan the work on their page to make sure it was done in the manner I have taught them, and either make a note for them to see the answer key (which I post on the answer key table as soon as I return the tests) or make a quick correction to their work. As Alice has, I have shown them the format I want them to use for each type of question, so this is pretty fast work. I also correct all page 1s, then all page 2s, etc. You don't need - or, I should think, want - to make all the corrections on their tests...they should be making their own, either by checking the answer key you posted or by correcting as you go over the test when you return it.
     
  9. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    Sep 24, 2011

    Yes, you're working way too much. I teach science, not math, but I'm also in my 4th year. This year I switched to high school from middle school, so I am spending more time prepping new lessons than I was last year. However, I have my systems down so that I stay at school until 5:00 every day and don't bring any work home. I spend 3-4 hours on the weekend prepping and grading. Total, that would be 9 hours a day (although 30 minutes of that is lunch), so with the weekend time and without the lunch time it is about 46 hours of work per week, which I can live with. After all, I get all of the school breaks and summer break when I work on school stuff maybe 5-10 hours per week. And if I teach the same classes next year, my work time will be even less then.

    I will say that if you're having this much trouble organizing your time after 3 years, you would probably also have trouble in any other job. You need to stop being a martyr, let a few things go, and streamline your processes.
     
  10. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Sep 24, 2011

    As another poster mentioned, I absolutely refuse to bring work home during the week. I have a horse to take care of and am responsible for the spring play. I stay after for about an hour and catch up on any work I need to do then. I stay about 2 hours on Thursday because a couple teachers and I go out to dinner and then to one of the school's sporting events. I have approximately 100 minutes of prep every day. I have a prep every other day and a study hall on the days that I don't have a prep. We also have a 30 minute homeroom where I monitor wellness walking and grade papers.

    I bring home some things on the weekends but only do work on Sundays with the exception of this weekend because I have plans tomorrow and BF is at the football game now so I'm using this as my work time.

    I have a horse that needs to be taken care of so I have to maintain a balance and *knock on wood* so far it's working! Hope you can figure out a schedule soon!
     
  11. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    Sep 24, 2011

    I agree. There's a lot of great advice here, but you've also tried a lot of things. Your approach to trying to work less has been very rational.

    So if you're still working 60 hours a week, perhaps it's time to reconsider *why* you're doing so much. What goals have you set for your class and are they realistic? If working *the way you think you must work* is causing this unmanageable load, you may have to re-conceive the structure of your course.

    I work like mad, too. My principal says I'm a workaholic. But sometimes I have to dial it back, out of respect for my family, my students, or myself. The thing to remember is that by working smarter you are becoming a better teacher.
     
  12. Nizigsprisni

    Nizigsprisni New Member

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    Sep 24, 2011

    Thanks everybody for your advice. Hopefully with all of your suggestions, I can figure out how to better manage my work load. You've given me hope that it's possible. :)
     
  13. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Sep 24, 2011

    Loving the suggestions ahead of me. I'm in my 4th year and I've started to get burned out at well. But it is due more to changes in the system. I will take some of the ideas myself.

    One thing I did when I needed to grade math problems within my science tests - I had multiple choice for the majority of the questions. Then I would have some short answer where I looked for steps and gave partial credit. Also, there is no rule that says you have to grade everything that comes from the kids. You can have the kids switch papers and grade each others as a formative assessment. Give them enough feedback from this and you'll be able to give them fewer questions on the tests.
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 24, 2011

    Personally I hate multiple choice questions in math.

    I'm huge on partial credit. I like to see the process, so I know my kids didn't just luck into the correct answer but actually know what they're doing.
     
  15. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Sep 24, 2011

    And that's why I do both. Keeps me from working those 60 hour weeks.

    Of course my school setting is a bit different than yours. No union here to make sure that we don't have to work the 60 hours. And I'm sure you aren't required to give one-on-one instruction to students who just returned from jail. So we all do what we can to give all of the students the best shot at a quality education.
     
  16. Catcherman22

    Catcherman22 Companion

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    Sep 25, 2011

    The only reason I give multiple choice questions is because that's what's on our state tests.

    I'm very careful to word them as close to those types of questions as I can get. They make it in one of two areas.. quarter, semester finals and warm ups. I do not give them on run of the mill tests, because I like to see where kids are goofing and be able to go back and reteach when needed.

    For example, on the last test, I noticed a number of kids had forgotten to switch the inequality sign when dividing by a negative. I was able to go back and reteach. I wouldn't be able to see that on a multiple choice test.
     
  17. donziejo

    donziejo Devotee

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    Sep 25, 2011

    How about a multiply choice test (hopefully on something like a scantron) and the scratch paper they used to find the answer attacted to the questions? When you hand the test back you could ask the class which one's you needed to go over. I liked the idea of them fixing their own answers. My DD is yelling at me to come dye her hair.....so good luck. Stop working 60 hours:)
     
  18. atomic

    atomic Companion

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    Sep 26, 2011

    i only give multiple choice tests for midterms and finals, but I can run a tally of all the wrong responses. If there's a lot of the same ones, I still know what the students are doing wrong.

    Good luck. It will get easier, and then they'll switch textbooks or courses around on you and you'll be back to square one.

    With new little ones at home, I had to stop taking things home with me. Best thing I ever did. Home time is for the family. I stay late to get stuff done, but never take it home.

    Grading and planning will always be your biggest time spent out of class. Especially if you have to do formal plans for the powers that be,and real plans for what you're doing in class.

    I also started putting more ownership of the work on the kids. I used to run around the class always helping. Now that my class sizes have gotten into the 30's I can't do that. Sometimes because I just cant squeeze down the isles in the room. Student work has actually gotten better though. Never thought the less I worked with the kids the better they'd get, but now they need to learn things on their own. i'm not their crutch anymore.

    After 10 years, i finally felt like I had things under control.

    Then just today I got set back again. One meeting about a gang member led to three more...One cutting student that I didn't call home about because I spoke with the counselor first. Counselor said calling home would just make things worse, so I didn't...now I'm being disciplined for not calling...

    Its all part of the profession.
     
  19. Iheartmath

    Iheartmath Rookie

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    Oct 14, 2011

    Here's how I avoid the endless stack of homeworks to check in: Every day, I post a warm-up problem for the kids to work on while I circulate the room with a clipboard. I check to make sure everyone has completed their homework, and they earn between 0-5 points. The clipboard has a seating chart on it, so I can just put the # by their name and enter it in my computer grading program later. Then we go over it together - they are responsible for correcting it and asking questions for clarification. This has saved so many extra minutes of collecting HW and having to pass it back so they see their completeness score! Occasionally I will collect HW and randomly grade 3-5 problems on it, but that is an exception. Every week they either have a quiz or test, so they are assessed for understanding.

    I also have students check in each other's math binders after each unit test. I make up a rubric (it looks like a table of contents) so they know what to check for. My students know they are held accountable for class notes/warm-up problems. And I've also found they can be sticklers when grading each other's binders! Less work for me :cool: When I started teaching, I would check them all myself (looking back...it was insane!)

    Hope this helps...it's so easy to get bogged down with homework papers in math. And my students know that I will personally stand next to them and check that they have done HW, and will get my undivided attention when it's not complete!!

    I wish you the best.
     

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