Today I feel inspired to share what a typical work day in my life feels like, because I’m curious about whether or not other teachers experience it the same way. On second thought, I should retract the word “typical” because my days are only typical in their untypicalness. Every day at least two things happen that sincerely make me think, What the fuck… is going right now. (And sometimes it purely involves teachers.) When you show up at school in the morning you just really can’t predict what events could transpire.
I arrive a little bit early to work for the sole purpose of enjoying the sweet, sweet quietude. There is something so peaceful about empty hallways and silent classrooms. (Probably because it’s in such stark contrast to the screaming shit show that’s usually going down.) If you’re not a teacher, you probably think that there could be no worse feeling in the world than your morning alarm going off. But I can tell you that there is, and it’s caused by the first bell of the school day. When I hear that first bell, the quietude insta-drains from my soul and is replaced with surging levels of cortisol.
I can hear them coming long before I can see them: the thundering of their winter boots, the swishing of their soggy snow pants…. The yelling. The so much yelling. Because for some reason when it’s 8 am and you haven’t seen these people since yesterday, you need to yell at them about what’s been going on in your life.
Then they come stomping on in to the room and start to strip off their soaking winter gear. They leave it strewn about in damp piles wherever feels right. They ignore most of my hellos and pleas for them to hang up their coats and they just keep on yelling. It takes some of them a good fifteen minutes to take off their crap, find a chair, and take a breath. It takes another fifteen minutes to get everyone to come to terms with the fact that it’s time to start learning.
Trying to get through a lesson feels like trying to convince 25 dogs to lie down all at the same time. You can get about half of them to do it just by asking, but another quarter of them are unwilling to do so without a figurative treat. They require some kind of gratification. But they all like a different kind of treat, so you have to give each dog the right one, or else you are a bad teacher. And the last quarter of the class just doesn’t give a flying f— about your treats or any of it. They don’t want to lie down because lying down is BORING! There’s life to live! And it’s best lived over at a buddy’s desk! And why is everybody lying down!
In the rare moments when I do manage to get everyone to do the same thing at the same time, someone will inevitably lose a tooth. Or explode a pen. Or fall off a chair. Whatever it is, I can expect a ten-minute recovery period.
Recess is anything but relaxing because the children are all released at the same time to free their pent-up little souls. It goes without saying that it’s a gong show. Even if I don’t have yard duty, at least one student manages to impede my break by not finding their gloves, having a meltdown, or just needing to stay in as a last resort for squeezing out a drop of work. Sometimes the students indirectly infiltrate my break by requiring me to call a parent or make alternative work. And yard duty is such an eventful time that I have a whole other blog post reserved just for it. Suffice it to say that it’s my least favourite part of my day.
What’s probably the most draining at work is the number of small person complaints that are directed my way. It’s thoroughly exhausting to be problem-solving for twenty-five irrational people all day long. Especially when their problems are usually outrageously petty or sometimes even imaginary, but I have to give them my (mostly) sincere attention nonetheless.
I think the end of the day is the most stressful for me because it’s when I have to get the twenty-five people organized all at the same time. Homework needs to be reviewed, but those who need to know about it won’t listen, and the only ones who write it down are the ones who would have remembered anyway. Forms and hand-outs attempt to make it home but somehow end up all over the class instead. Copies of things must suddenly be produced. And certain students will just remember when packing up that they have something in their backpacks that requires my attention. Throw in a behavioural situation and it’s all a very busy time.
There’s a period of exhaustion for about ten minutes after the final bell during which I just sit in my chair and stare at things. Then I remember that there’s work to be marked, lessons to be prepared, materials to be located, calls to be made, and I sit for another ten minutes. Then maybe I’ll do the least offensive item on my list. Then I decide that the rest can be done in the morning in the fifteen minutes before the first bell and I peace out of there.
I usually spend the rest of the night thinking about work. That’s just how it goes for me.