The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Very Overwhelmed with All the Planning

At several points in my teaching credential program, I remember them saying things like, "Don't worry... you will never have to do lesson plans this detailed again." I believed that- I truly did. And why shouldn't I? Really, once you start teaching, how often are people looking at your lesson plans, right? Well, at my school, often.

The school I teach at is not traditional by any means. When it comes to compensation, instead of being just paid a solid salary on a step scale like at most schools, we get a salary, but we also are paid bonuses. These bonuses are based on a few things:
- Professional Commitments Outside the Classroom (i.e. I co-chair a committee)
- Student Attendance (paid out at the end of the year if we have over 98% attendance)
- Student Performance (if we make our API goal on the state tests)
- Teaching Performance Reviews

This is, in many ways, a very good thing. It insures that those teachers who really cannot teach worth crap don't just fly under the radar. They either get help or get out. It also insures that no teacher who has been teaching forever keeps getting 70K a year to show movies or just teach through the textbook all year, just because they are "tenured." That really used to drive me crazy. During student teaching, I saw so many teachers who had administrative credentials and masters degrees up the yin yang, so of course they made beaucoup bucks, but they knew that their jobs were secure, so they got lazy and barely taught, while teachers who worked really hard made crap, just because they were new. That made me crazy. I feel like this is a good balance between the two, but it creates a lot of stress.

The largest portion of this, and most stressful, comes from the teaching performance reviews. Twice each semester, a peer (like another teacher) and an administrator come in to observe me and review my teaching. This means that 4 times throughout the course of each semester, which averages to about once a month, I am observed. In these visits, they are basically looking at my lesson plans and watching me teach. I do not find the observation part itself stressful, but I do get stressed about the lessons. My curriculum map (basically my unit plans for the next semester) is due February 4th. In my head, I basically know where I want to go. I even have the standards I am going to cover and the big ideas I am aiming for filled in to my curriculum map, but the daily lesson plan part I am so much better at just feeling out as I go. I could very easily tell you all the pedagogy behind why I do what I do, but when I am being observed, it is not about telling, it is about showing... with a beautifully crafted lesson plan.

In short... I don't even have my first unit plan written for the week we come back. I basically know what we are doing, but I have none of it figured out on a daily basis. It does not help that I am a perfectionist and I easily get stuck on things. I have been so focused on getting my BTSA stuff done (which it finally is), that I haven't spent much time planning. Now when I think about buckling down and doing it, I just want to cry. I want it to be done SO much; I just don't want to do it. Does that make any sense?

So what am I doing? Planning like crazy? No, I'm watching Little Einsteins with Vinny and writing in my blog.

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