Better

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.

4 Comments

  1. You are so right in that Beginning of School Year is ALWAYS stressful so it makes sense that Beginning of School Year + Many Unknowns would be even more stressful. Last year, I switched grade levels and schools after being in the same grade level at the same school for the previous seven years. Also, I had partially switched schools because I didn’t want to teach Inclusion anymore — and then I was assigned to teach Inclusion (just for my first year at that school). I had a tough summer because I was so anxious about all the changes and I was especially on edge around this time last year. It took a while to settle in but in the end, I had my best year of teaching ever and even loved my experience teaching Inclusion (though not enough to “loop” up to the next grade as an Inclusion teacher! 😉 ). When I have major life changes — moving, new job, etc. — I try to remind myself that in a few weeks, the new will seem “normal” again. Fingers crossed that the school year starts smoothly and that you settle into your new normal quickly and calmly.

    Also, I have been experimenting with selling things on TPT over the past six months, after spending A LOT of $ on the site! I’ll caution you that if you want to do it the “right” way, it is time consuming. For example, you’re really not supposed to use fonts and/or clip art from Microsoft in products you’re selling — so you’d need to convert your old items using fonts and images that are okay for use on commercial products. There are a lot of blogs that provide basic tips for getting started and once you sign up for a Sellers Account, you have access to a message board with endless advice. I put up one product (a packet of about a dozen math worksheets on the same upper elementary school topic) last Christmas break just to see what would happen and 11 people have bought it since then! I had grand plans to put up, like, 10+ more products this summer and instead have added only two. But I’m hoping to slowly add more as the year goes on. It’s been a fun creative outlet for me and if I put enough time into it, I think it could at least offset the money I spend on TPT, classroom supplies, etc. If you ever have any questions for a fellow newbie who’s a little further along than you are, don’t hesitate to ask. (Oh, the other thing that I didn’t realize until I started reading the message board is that it’s best to sell stuff anonymously. Some school districts will interfere and say that work you do for your classroom is property of the district. Unless you know your district is ok with teachers selling on TPT, be careful…)

    1. Thank you so much for the TpT advice. I actually don’t know anything about selling on that site so I REALLY appreciate hearing what you have to say. My big thing is clip art that I use (foreign language teachers rely a lot on visuals), so I’m going to be drawing my own stuff when I plan to sell it, which will definitely take a while for me (drawing is not exactly my strong suit). I don’t generally use Word’s fun fonts but so good to know that is a no-no. And the anonymous seller stuff! I had no idea a district could do that (seems like they shouldn’t be able to if you made the material on your own time). Anyway, I will definitely be hitting you up for advice and suggestions. Thanks again for the intro info.

  2. Hoping that in sitting down and talking and planning with the co-teacher you are going to be making a new close friend over time. Also hoping the new co-teacher has positive energy and ideas to share. Both of these would be helpful for this year.
    Sometimes just venting all the anxiety and worry and pressure helps because it becomes concretely labeled and calling out the names you are feeling is empowering. I ‘know’ this, but being reminded over and over really does help me hold on to it when it is wriggling away like a greased piglet on a hot day…. or a toddler that has gone boneless when you need to pick them up.
    Sending the very best wishes and so much support!

    1. Labeling and naming things really does help to process them and get them out of the way a bit. I’ve been finding that a lot this week.

      I’m lucky that I really like the co-teacher I’m working with. She has been a colleague and friend for a long time and she will definitely teach me some things this year. I’m so fortunate that that is the case.

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