In the past three years of working in a high-needs school, with the added pressure to succeed on provincial assessments ‘by any means possible’, I have found myself so physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted from trying to meet the needs of ALL students in my classroom, which usually spans at least 3 or 4 grade levels even if it is a straight class.
I have put my head down on my desk after the last bus has gone and on several occasions I fell asleep like that. Most days I needed about 2-3 hours to get a second wind and have something decent to eat because recess, lunch and prep times are spent in formal or informal meetings or dealing with student emotions or behaviours. Usually 2-4 nights a week (sometimes including weekends) I would go back to school for 2-3 more hours to plan and prep for the coming day(s). It was easier to go back to school instead of trying to haul home everything I might need, plus there is no photocopier at home.
And still, almost every day, I would wonder what I could do better or more of; what resource could I find somewhere that would help me … And so on. I know many colleagues who put the same time and effort into providing the best lessons, resources and activities that will engage and motivate and challenge our students … Whether the extra time is spent at school or at home matters little, the point is the hours are rarely by choice anymore because what needs to get done in the run of a day at school far exceeds the regular school day.
Everyone in this scenario is losing out – our families because we take time away from them for school work and activities, ourselves because we are running on empty most of the time and are probably our own worst critics, and finally our students who are not having their emotional, mental and academic needs met to the degree that they should be. I wanted to be a teacher my whole life, because I wanted the work that I did to make a difference to my community by helping prepare tomorrow’s citizens for the world they will be soon living in as adults.