Thank you to everyone who reached out on my last post. I have been in a rough spot this week, but things are getting better.
Yesterday I spent several hours at the campus of my one shared class. Seeing the rooms we’d be in, making a list of what we physically needed to get started, knowing the exact number of students (36, which is not nearly as bad as the originally quoted 45, and better still than the 40 we were expecting), making lists of specific tasks we will both perform to be ready for the first day of school and Back to School night (which is on our first day of school, I know it’s insane), all of it made me feel a lot better. I’m still surprised by the amount of anxiety I am managing, but now that I’ve laid eyes on some of the concrete details, I do feel better.
I think what is happening is that I hadn’t considered the regular, “beginning of the year” stress and how that would be compounded by the “new shit I’ve never done before stress.” You’d think after 13 years of doing it, going back to school would be walk in the park, but it turns out it’s more like a climb up a mountain. Sure, I can do it and some parts are even exhilarating and fun, but in the end it’s still climbing up a mountain. When you change the mountain, and add a 40 lb back pack, the difficult level increases substantially. So yeah, this is hard, but that is partly just because starting the year is hard, and if you want to do it well, and right, it will always involve a certain amount of stress.
On Wednesday night, after I wrote yesterday’s post, I gave myself a little talking to. During this heart to heart I reminded myself that I am completely and utterly in charge of what I teach at the 6th grade level. There is literally NOTHING guiding that content. At the 7/8th grade level I have to touch on all the Spanish I grammar topics and a fair number of the vocabulary themes, but in 6th grade I can do whatever I want to.
I used to teach 5th and 6th grade together, and I switched up the curriculum every year so the 6th graders weren’t repeating what they’d done the year before. About 5 years ago they pulled the 5th grade from the Spanish program (which I’m thankful for, I’m less and less enthusiastic about teaching younger grades), and I stopped switching the curriculum. Then I gave the year’s worth of material I wasn’t using to a new teacher at the other middle school and it was lost (or taken) and now I don’t really have a choice about whether or not I teach something else, unless I make it myself.
So I don’t HAVE to teach the same boring stuff to the 6th graders this year, but if I want to teach anything new I have to create it from scratch. The thing is, I had grand plans to create some new chapters/units for the 7/8 grade class, and then put them up on Teachers Pay Teachers (a site where teachers can buy worksheets (in PDF or document form) and other materials from other teachers–it’s very cool) to see if I could earn a little extra money. Making new 6th grade material is less energy intensive (I don’t need as much) and I will use it more this year (I have six periods of 6th grade every two days, as compared to one period of 7/8th grade), but I don’t think it would sell well on Teachers Pay Teachers (lower-grade foreign language classes aren’t common). Of course, my other material might not sell well either, but part of putting it up was to see if selling original curriculum might be a way to bring in some extra money.
All this to say, if I don’t want to spend the time making new content for 6th grade I can always fall back on my old chapters. But if I don’t want to be bored I can always make and teach something new. It’s important to remember that–I have a lot of control in that one (massive) area of my teaching day. And I may just take advantage of that to do something unique, because I know that will help me be happier this year. (And yes, I realize the best answer is probably a combination of new and old, which is what I’m currently planning.)
I think I can honestly say I’m doing better today, with my concrete list of tasks, my mental imagine of where I’m teaching, and my realization that I can change things up if I’m really that bored.
In the end it will all be okay. I’ll make it work. And I can probably manage to do that without driving myself crazy. I’m glad I have three more paid days to get my shit in order. I hope I can bolster my enthusiasm in that time too.