The time problem

The subject of this piece is time. It is the reason that it has taken so long between blog posts, and it is the thing that prevents most people from achieving everything they wish.

I’m sitting here typing this instead of grading quizzes. I wouldn’t say that I’m behind on grading quizzes, because the students just took them on Friday, but I already feel behind. Tomorrow will mark day 9 with students for this school year, but it already feels like we’ve been back an eternity. Part of that feeling had to do with the time that I chose to give up last week, as well as the time that I had to.

On Friday night, I feel asleep on my couch at 7:30. I know this because my 3 year old was hovering above me asking me a question when I got jolted back to reality. Normally, teachers are pretty groggy on Friday nights anyway, but the first full week back with students was a doozy. Open house on Tuesday night didn’t get me home until after 8, but the real time thief was an event that I love, and am extremely glad that I went to. There’s the rub.

On Saturday last week, we held our back to school bash. It was from 10-1, which means that as a sponsor of a booth at the event, I was working from 9-2; only a couple hours short of a full work day. Our newspaper chose to do a photo booth, and one of my staff members volunteered to draw caricatures of kids. I never really expect to use this day as a real fundraiser, but I feel like we need to offer something. We made $10, which is $10 more than we had in our account the day before, but we weren’t really there for the money. We were there to be seen.

I have a love/hate relationship with this event every year. I don’t like that I spend one of my first Saturdays of the school year out in the sun for hours, but I love seeing all the people who show up. I was greeted by four former students from all different parts of my teaching efforts. A former English student, newspaper staffer, basketball player and yearbook staffer all made a point to come by my booth, say hello, and catch me up on their lives.  It was a validation of all the time and effort that I have put into providing the best atmosphere I can for these students.

Seeing these students and hearing their successes really did invigorate me during the day, but the day itself wore me out before the week even began. I know these kinds of events are important, and seeing these former students really did make a difference, but was it really worth my time? I stepped down from my position as basketball coach this year because of time. I did not have the time to be the best basketball coach, English teacher, Newspaper adviser, husband, and father that I needed to be. Whenever I allotted the necessary time to make one of those activities the best it could possibly be, one of the other areas suffered. When I felt like I was not being the best I could be at home, that’s when I knew something had to change. The problem is, I still feel like  I could have made it all work. I feel like maybe if I just tried a little bit harder, I could push and make everything a success.  This super hero mentality exists in a lot of teachers, and it is something I try to manage in myself every day.

This is not new. I became the head coach of the basketball team at our school (a position I had worked up to as an assistant for 11 years) 3 months before my son was born. I spent paternity leave stressing about whether my assistant coach, who I hadn’t met until about a month before the season started, could effectively run practices. I would spend all day at home, then go and coach games. I even remember one day when my wife was in a class at the hospital after my son was born, I was in the waiting area breaking down opponent game film and coming up with a scouting report.

How do teachers negotiate time? At that moment, I thought I was doing a great job of negotiating time. I was successfully managing to do everything, right? I was there for my wife, I was there for my son, I was there for my basketball players. No matter how hard I pushed or how I managed to negotiate my time wisely, I had put myself in a no-win position. I felt like I owed everyone my time, and I still do.

Time is something all teachers complain about. We never get enough of it over the course of a day, a week, a month, or a school year. If we just had more time we believe that our lesson could have been better, or we could have spent more 1 on 1 time with a struggling student, or we could just take a breath on a stressful day. However, the problem is that even if there were more hours in the day, we still would be asking for more. Being a teacher is stressful, and when you add extra-curriculars to your load, it can get crazy. I cherish those moments I received with my former students at events like we had last week, but I also feel like that tells me that I need to give up more of my time to be a success.

So for now, after a long weekend of fun with my family, I will finish this blog and spend a little bit of time grading. It really can wait, but I know that doing it now will buy me some more time later in this week.  I guess that is what I have learned from all of this. I won’t always have the time I need, but if a little extra time right now buys me some more time with my family, or to relax a little bit more knowing that everything is taken care of for my classroom, then that is the deal that I will take.


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