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Exhausted first year teacher who feels alone...
Old 04-16-2019, 08:04 PM
 
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I am a new teacher (started mid-year this January), and I am considering backing out of this profession. I am 37, and entered the teaching profession through the alternate route to certification. I teach 6 classes a day (3-5 Science), I do not have a mentor, and have more to do than I feel I can handle. Everyday, I come home exhausted to the point where I canít do anything. I take a nap every afternoon. I have what I consider very disrespectful students (mainly 5th graders) for the first 4 hours of the day. They hate me. I try not to take it personally, but after 4 hours, I am worn down.

I used to have other goals and interests, but I have found that I can focus on nothing else but school at this point. I feel that I have no life. My husband doesnít understand the challenges teaching presents, and I donít have any friends who teach this grade level. I guess I need to ask those who have been there if I am normal? I feel very alone in this, which makes teaching more difficult. I havenít been able to make any connections with other teachers I work with... they are very stand-offish.

Is it a normal work load to have 6 classes and 5 grades a day, three different Science lesson preps a day? I feel like I am busier than the other teachers in these grades. Or am I just feeling sorry for myself? Does teaching continue to drain the life out of you until the summer break?


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Yes and no
Old 04-16-2019, 08:37 PM
 
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Do I feel completely drained and sucked dry by the end of my day? Yes. Is it draining my life from me? Not if I donít allow it.

Iím working on not obsessing about my day after it is over. I truly believe this is a huge part of what drains us. Expectations are unrealistic and when we know we are not meeting every little absurd expectation, we feel like garbage. Mostly because we are treated as though we are never good enough or are doing enough. All of that is BS.

It does get better. Youíll figure out ways to modify different lessons to fit each grade level. You might plan one unit and adjust the expectations for each grade level. With the younger ones, you might work on, say, identifying types of rocks. With your fifth graders, you might take it a step further and expect them to do more inference and inquiry based work on the same topic. If this is an option, itíll drastically cut down your planning time.

Spend time in the lunchroom. You will find positive colleagues who will listen to your concerns and have great ideas. Refrain from ďventĒ mode at work, save that for this forum

Hang in there. I found that as I had little successes (which Iím sure youíre having but again, we always obsess about our mistakes), my passion grew for this work.

Also, I find it helpful to arrive to work EARLY. Like, 6:45. I just canít be as effective at the end of day. I take some Emergen-C as well if I have to really power through after school.
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Old 04-16-2019, 09:05 PM
 
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Yes, everything that you are experiencing is the norm unfortunately. It will get better as you will have some lessons next year and not have to create everything from scratch. But, yes teaching is draining and all consuming. And, if you aren't carefully it can take over your life as you are already experiencing. Eventually, you will learn how to compartmentalize and leave things at work. But it takes time to learn to do that. The first 3 yrs of teaching are rough. I'm in year 22 and it's still challenging at times depending on the group of students, new initiatives ,etc. I take a nap everyday when I get home- lol. Imagine having your own kids on top of that and a spouse/relationship, and hobbies. It's rough. It does get better. And, yes you will spend some of your summer working because you will want to get ahead and not have as much prep to do. The other teachers have as much work as you and/or more. The difference is that they most likely have experience and have lesson plans from previous years and lots of material so the prep/work time is shorter. Good luck and hang in there!
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Old 04-17-2019, 12:55 AM
 
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Teaching is exhausting, and I understand how you feel. I'm sending positive thoughts your way.
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Old 04-17-2019, 01:40 AM
 
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Everything you wrote is true and typical of first-year teaching. You feel like you're swimming upstream, and the work never gets done. Plus, fifth grade--by this point in the year, fifth-graders are DONE. They can see the end of the year and middle school coming, and they're just done. The work load seems heavy, but at least it's all one subject. I'm in middle school now, and I have six classes a day, three grade levels, four preps in completely different subjects. Every day. (And just imagine how wonderful those eighth-graders are these days...)

Quick thoughts:
* Ask for a mentor, at least for next year. In my state, schools are required to assign a mentor to new teachers.
* Keep each grade on the same schedule, to minimize preps.
* When one grade has a special activity--a lab or something--the other grades are doing bookwork or writing or something low-key. That will help minimize the chaos.
* Don't feel like you have to grade everything they do. Alternatively, grade selected questions from a paper. Maybe this time you focus on how well they write constructed response, or next time it's a question that ask them to apply a concept. The rest goes ungraded. Or do a participation grade with check-plus, check and check-minus, which signify effort and completeness.
* Take at least one day off each weekend.
* Naps are good. I take one almost every day, and I'm finishing my 8th year of teaching.
* Teachers can be very standoffish (my next-door neighbor and I were discussing this on Monday), and arriving midyear would make it worse. Remember that you need professional friends, but your buddies will likely come from outside the building. That's OK.

For more ideas and support, google for Angela Watson. She has some good insights and (a few) freebies that might help. Jennifer Gonzalez (Cult of Pedagogy) has a free grading-tips ebook that you can download if you sign up for her posts (which are really good). Michael Linsin (Smart Classroom Management) has "discipline" and behavior ideas that might help. Some time spent online should turn up some good science blogs or sites that can help you with lessons.

You don't have long to go to finish the year, I hope. A week or two before the end, you will start to come up for air. You can rest over the summer and get super-organized so that when you go back in August/September, you don't feel as overwhelmed. You won't have taught the early material before, but you'll already have organizational tactics in hand, which will help. Hang in there! First-year teaching is tough!


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Science resources
Old 04-17-2019, 02:01 AM
 
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Just grabbed a few here. I'm sure there are more out there. These are from the first two pages of a Google search for "middle grades science teaching resources." (And if you already knew about these, I apologize for chewing up your time. But maybe someone else will find something here.)

https://www.nsta.org/publications/freebies.aspx

https://www.commonsense.org/educatio...es-for-science

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/websit...-eric-brunsell

https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/e...urces/k-8.html

https://www.ascb.org/science-outreac...ers-resources/

https://www.nsf.gov/news/classroom/index.jsp

https://www.teachengineering.org/

https://www.sciencebuddies.org/teacher-resources

https://www.weareteachers.com/best-science-websites/
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Old 04-17-2019, 04:15 AM
 
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You are not alone! Even veteran teachers have times of the year that are too busy and very stressful! Teacherwriter gave some good advice and resources.

The job gets easier in some ways. Other things don't go away, you just get better at them. Organization is a huge factor! Work on how you keep materials, lessons, notes, etc. I couldn't find anything during my first several years, and I am not an unorganized person! I started throwing out extra copies of everything. Took me too long (and never got done) to put them away and then looking for them, counting them, and making more was more expensive than just making what I need again. I also don't make a bunch of extra copies.

The end is in sight! You have made it through this year! Congrats!
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Old 04-17-2019, 04:23 AM
 
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Iíve been teaching for almost 30 years. The beginning of the year and the end of the year are exhausting. I also feel sucked dry of any energy during these times.

As others have advised, keep looking for ways to work smarter not harder. It just takes time to develop your bag of tricks.

Rest when you can. Youíre almost to the end of the school year.
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Old 04-17-2019, 04:54 AM
 
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Your comment about starting mid-year says it all. That's hard! In my first year of teaching in the 70s, I wasn't hired until the end of September. It would have been nice if I could have had some time during the summer to do some planning, but it didn't happen.
I was hired on a Friday, and started the following Monday. During that first year, I never felt comfortable.

By January, students are set in their ways, and it must have been even more difficult for you.
Teaching isn't easy, but before you throw in the towel, think ahead to next fall. Those unpleasant fifth graders will be gone. You'll have a chance to get off to a fresh start with younger students who currently are a bit more respectful. You'll also have a chance to create materials and do some planning during the summer, and when fall comes, you can start right in on them with your rules and expectations. You might eventually decide teaching isn't for you, but I suspect your second year will be easier.
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Sounds pretty normal to me
Old 04-17-2019, 05:17 AM
 
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I had pretty much your exact job. I taught PreK-3rd grade science. So I had 5 preps. It was exhausting! I also had complete control over my curriculum, which was great but writing the curriculum for 5 grade levels was definitely daunting.

For this year, just get through. Next year, pick a grade and focus on their curriculum and units and get them the way you want them. The year after, pick another grade and do the same. After 3 years, youíll have a pretty strong curriculum mapped out with resources and then you can just tweak and add things as you go.

Iím happy to answer questions if I can. I loved teaching just science, but it was overwhelming at times.

Good luck!


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Yep, normal...
Old 04-17-2019, 05:24 AM
 
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The first years of teaching are almost overwhelming, but it DOES get better as the years pass. You get better at teaching, and how to handle a class, and who to go to for help in the admin. It really does get better.

I regularly teach three preps, and frequently teach four or five - and couple of years six. So I understand your schedule - it's tough! But it's possible, and gets better with time and experience.

I use paper planner books, and write the assignments by day and class. I include a quick note about what supplies or handouts or tests I need for that day. After I teach that lesson, I make short notes in the planner about what worked/didn't work. Then next year the information is already there in the planner waiting for me to plan this year's lesson. Again, lots less work and worry for the next year!

The first year is a lot of work, and if we change texts I have to do the assignments all over again, but it saves a lot of time as long as we keep that text. A lot of my old handouts still work for the new text, with some minor tweaking.

I respectfully disagree with a previous poster about throwing things away. I keep a few of copies of everything, handouts and tests, with the answer key already made up and attached, in binders by course and with dividers by chapters/projects. This is invaluable for the next year - I can just go to that binder and pick out that test or handout and either adjust it slightly or use it as is. I use the previous years' tests to write new versions every year...in a couple of years I'll have many versions of the same test - handy for slowing down cheating (smile!) This saves me a lot of time, effort, and worry. I have a separate basket for each course on a table behind my desk where I toss the extra (paper-clipped) copies and answer keys, and everyone in a while (about twice a quarter) I file them into the binders. It has been totally worth the filing time for me - the next year, I am so thankful that I did it (grin!)

I agree with selective grading. You don't have to do it all.

I highly recommend Harry and Rosemary Wong's book "The First Days of School," especially the part where it says that the students should be working harder than the teacher. I don't do everything they say (for example, I do not shake hand with my students when they enter in the morning - too many germs!) But there are many valuable tips in that book - I re-read it every few years.

Hang in there - it will get better!
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You have received excellent advice here...
Old 04-17-2019, 07:21 AM
 
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I taught for 42 years and am now retired. Over the four decades I worked, there have been many changes in the profession. Some have been positive, like a move to workshop methods of teaching and the use of technology lie Smartboards to enhance the learning experience. Others, have not been so positive and have resulted in a lot of pressure and stress.

You do need to cut yourself some slack. As a beginning teacher, especially one who became certified through the alternate route, there is a steep learning curve. The workload is huge, and you can pretty much count on once you have completed something that is coming due, the next requirement will be foisted upon you. There is a big reliance on data collection these days, and the administration will not only be after you to collect it, but to actually use it to differentiate your lessons. Classroom management and control can and will improve over time as you build relationships with your students. Know though, some years are just tough, and some classes will not be missed as they walk out the door on the final day of school. My last class was like that, unfortunately.

Difficult as it is, it is important to carve yourself some time during the weekend for your family and/or yourself. Set yourself a limit for when you are going to leave school and stick to it. It is possible to stay there for hours and never get it all done, or find more things to do . If I knew I wanted to do something fun, like go to a movie, I did stay later on Fridays to get my plans done and run the things off I needed on the copier so I could truly have the time away from schoolwork. It definitely was a juggling and a balancing act.

Don't expect your husband, like the general public, to necessarily get it. Many folks have this image of teaching as a 9-3 job with summers and holidays off. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth in reality. Hopefully, he will come around with more support.

I don't know if there are other science teachers in your district/building, or just other teachers who seem to be excellent. I would approach your administrator about the chance to observe them with their permission, especially since you have no mentor That might be beneficial and helpful to you.

These are difficult times to be a teacher. The end of the year is coming, and you will hopefully have a chance to refresh, renew, and build on these experiences this year, even if they weren't the experiences you hoped for. Teaching isn't for everyone, but I wish you the best and hope that you can continue on and find success.
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Just Responding To a Small Part
Old 04-17-2019, 09:56 AM
 
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I am just responding to a small part of your post because I think other posters have responded to many of your other concerns.

Is it a normal work load to have 6 classes and 5 grades a day, three different Science lesson preps a day?

When I was teaching a self-contained third grade, I had the following schedule each day:
math (3 groups so 3 preps per day)
written language (1 prep but conferencing with 5 to 6 students each day after teaching the mini-lesson)
spelling (3 groups so 3 preps per day)
guided reading (6 reading groups-about three to four preps per day because I did not meet with each group every day.)
science/social studies (1 prep per day)

Total: 12 preps per day
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Old 04-17-2019, 11:22 AM
 
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1. Most elementary teachers teach reading, writing, language arts/spelling, math, science and social studies, so itís a lot of lesson planning and prep. So, compared to that, prepping 3 lessons a day is fairly easy. However, teaching 6 classes a day is tough, too, because you are always hurrying. Plus science is more hands on and more set up is needed.

2. This time of year is tough and 5th graders can be obnoxious.

3. Naps are good.

4. Husbands rarely understand the amount of time it takes to prepare, grade, etc.

5. Cut yourself some slack and get through the rest of the year. Get a head start this summer with lesson planning so it will be easier next year.
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Tips
Old 04-19-2019, 04:00 PM
 
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Dont grade every thing, glance and give points

On respect, try to forget about it. Treat yourself really well. Stop and take a drink of water mid lesson.

If kids arent quiet, instead of missing your lunch break, just sit at your desk and start enjoying your lunch. They will get the message loud and clear. "Oh, are you ready to go to lunch now? Thank you for settling down." Don't expect perfection.

Dont treat them all the same. Release good students early, give them stuff kids want. Reward good behaviour, dont make it a long time game. Youre good, here's gum.
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It's normal
Old 04-20-2019, 04:50 AM
 
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I also started mid-year and I can tell you that it's extra hard to start your career this way. No matter where in the country you teach you've got to have less than 10 weeks to go at this point, so take it day by day. Even if you're totally focused on school, remind your husband that at this time of the year it's temporary.

If you expect to be at that school next year, reach out a bit to your colleagues - if they're like me, they're not intentionally being standoffish, they're just exhausted and way too busy, too.

The disrespect and behavior issues are likely at least partly due to the fact that you started mid-year. My advice is to stop teaching whenever they are misbehaving. It's better to stop and get the class back on track than to try to push ahead over the behaviors. When someone says or does something disrespectful, call them out on it, move their seat, make them write an explanation of their behavior or otherwise give them a consequence to indicate that you are not accepting the disrespect, and then move on. I know that I felt like I should just get through it when I started mid-year and give myself a fresh start in the Fall, but in hindsight I don't think that was the best decision.

I know some teachers that walk away from school and don't think about it over the summer, but I disagree. Utilize the summer months to make plans and create behavior expectations and consequences. It won't prevent you from feeling overworked next year (it never has for me!) but anything you can do to get a jump on the next year is worth it.

I agree with the pp that advised you to not grade everything. Trust me, even honors students never questioned me about why I don't grade some work - if they did, I would have told them that some assignments are simply learning experiences and practice and not everything has to be graded. Try to identify other areas where you can cut back, too. You'll still be overwhelmed - teaching requires a lot of time beyond the school day - but you need to regain a sense of control over your life and it's a start.

Best wishes to you.
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Yup, but I think it is so sad
Old 04-20-2019, 05:49 AM
 
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that so many of us think it is completely normal... You can add me to that list though.

I teach SpEd so my days are completely crazy with sometimes multiple preps within each hour. We are all very busy this time of year as well. I am rarely absent as I have a hard time telling another person what all I do in a day.

The small part I wanted to touch on is the naps part. I too am guilty of napping after really rough days. BUT, sometimes I find that I sleep several hours rather than a quick nap and then wreck my actual sleep schedule. I have had times when I've had an awful day at school because when yesterday's nap ran late, bedtime ran later and I was grumpy the next day.

So now I really, really try to stay up after school. If I am extra tired, I just try to go to bed a little earlier. I also usually take something to help me sleep soundly on those days. When m overwhelmed, my mind won't shut down properly. With a busy mind, I "sleep" 8 hours and feel like I've never slept at all.
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