Cards on the table.
I’m struggling. I’m no longer sinking; I’ve sunk. I’m lying on the bottom of the ocean weighed down by my marking, my planning, the admin, my housework and most of all, my guilt.
I have never been in this position before, at least not to this degree. I’ve suffered the back log of 50 Controlled Assessments needing to be marked on top of everything else and the comeback of daring to have a social life on a weekend and the back log of marking and admin which that creates. But this is different. This time I threw a big ole spanner in the works…
I had a baby.
And now I have new priorities and new drains on my time and energy. I can no longer stay at work until 6 to get everything done. And there’s no way I can dedicate hours in the evenings and weekends to books, essays and power points. Currently, I’m in a position where I need to get the majority of my work done in the 5 hours of non-contact time that I have each week. It’s physically impossible. I simply cannot do it.
I am lost. I don’t know how to solve this problem. And the person I reached out to doesn’t really know either. The solution I’ve been offered is to not worry about marking anything completed before half term. And whilst this is a good short term fix, it does nothing to fix the issue in the long run. Once all of this term’s work is marked more will have been generated; lessons will still need to be planned and resources will still need to be made. Not to mention the reports and emails and mentoring comments.
Logically, I know that I just need to work more. I just need to find the extra hours; these will, most likely, come from the ones assigned to sleeping as I refuse to take them from time with my boy and if I take any more time from my husband I fear I may not have one for much longer (or at least one that I can pick out of a line up!)
But if I do this, am I not adding to the problem? Am I not suggesting to my head of department and head teacher that my work load is suddenly manageable and that I’m coping, when in reality I’m not? I’ve always said that it’s not a good idea to kill yourself marking books specifically for an observation or book audit as it appears that the work load SLT ask of us is manageable when the truth is different: suggesting everything is rosy when it isn’t won’t make things improve. Now, I have to live that on a much larger scale. I don’t want to lose my TLR (and financially, I can’t. We’re already struggling with my husband’s reduced hours and the additional costs. And babies contribute nothing financially. Such spongers!) But equally, I don’t want to stay weighted down on the ocean floor – it’s cold, lonely and very sad down here.
I’m meeting with the head this week and have more meetings coming up about this. And I have to be honest. I have to explain that I will catch up – that was always my plan – but I need a long term solution as otherwise this will just keep happening. And that has got to be a flaw in the system. Doesn’t it? I cannot be the only new mother who struggles with full time teaching. Heck, I cannot be the only human being who struggles with full time teaching. The system where we all merrily work for free in evenings, weekends and holidays has to stop being the norm. It has to start to be recognised for what it is: the system is broken. The problem is, it was this way when we started so we never really realised what we were doing. It just appeared to be normal and necessary so we never questioned it. However, a few years ago I tentatively raised my hand and whispered a question at the system. I wondered if this was the right way to do things. I started to try different ways to speed up my marking and planning; ways to claw back a few more hours for ‘me time’. But now, I’m yelling. I’m stamping my feet and screaming that I need more time; I deserve more time; I’m allowed more time. I’m scrutinising my contract and demanding to know where it says I have to work evenings and weekends for free; where it says I have to choose between time with my husband and time with my mark schemes. And the most comforting thing is that I’m finding a few people raising their hands, both tentatively and vigorously, on Twitter and in person. These past few weeks, where I’ve felt like a failure as a teacher, mother and wife I’ve stalked, and occasionally interacted, on Twitter. I’ve seen people confess to being over loaded, to falling behind, to feeling like they can’t cope. You’ve offered me hope. You’ve made me feel less alone. You’ve made me feel better. So, this is my offering to you: my honesty.
I love teaching. I love my students and I love my subject.
But the system is killing me. And I don’t know what to do about it.
I think about leaving, but I know in my heart that I can’t do it. I love teaching too much. The system may be broken, but I’m right in the heart of this system and I want to see it change for the better; I don’t want to abandon it. I want to help it change, but I’m not sure if I’m strong enough to take that on. I need to find my strength to change it for me at the moment. But if we all find a little bit of strength to say that we need help; to say that we’re struggling; to say that this can’t go on…
Or perhaps it’s not about that right now. Perhaps it’s about solidarity? Maybe the first steps towards a big change are little ones: taking a cup of tea to a colleague who seems stressed? Offering a hug to someone who looks like they need it? Offering a compliment when the teacher in the room next door can’t see how good they are? Or just stopping in to see if they’re alright?
I don’t know… These are just the musings of a tired, struggling, procrastinating teacher.