Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Worst Is Over!

I have said many times that I love my teaching job, and I really do. But I hate, absolutely hate, the beginning of the school year. I always feel overwhelmed in September, and by the time I trudge home every afternoon, I'm totally exhausted.

Part of the problem is simply one of adjustment. I do work in the summers, but it's a very easy job--monitoring our weight room for five hours a day. My life is very unstructured, and it's pretty nice. I can have that second cup of coffee in the morning, I've got lots of time to do things that I want to do, and I can even go to the bathroom whenever I want. And after you turn 50, that's a biggy!

Then, September comes, and I go to a life of total structure, and it always takes me a while to get used to. Here is a typical day.

4:30 Wake-up, fire up the coffee, have a quick cup, check my blog, and see how the Twins did.
4:50-5:50 Jog, work-out, exercise
5:50-6:35 Shower, get dressed, breakfast (and read)
6:40 Out the door, walk to school.
6:50-8:00 In my classroom, get ready for my day, give make-up quizzes, tests, etc.
8:00 Out in the hallway.
8:19-9:08 A. P. American Government (seniors)
9:13-10:02 Economics (mostly seniors, a few juniors)
10:07:10:56 American History (sophomores)
11:01-11:23 Lunch in my room; correct papers
11:28-12-18 American History (sophomores)
12:23-1:12 Basic American History (sophomores who have had a difficult time in social studies)
1:17-2:06 Prep hour
2:11-3:00 American History (sophomores)
3:05-3:45 Work in room.
3:45 Walk home.
4:00-4:30 My half-hour snooze. If I don't get that, I'm worthless for the rest of the night.
4:30-6:00 Eat supper, clean up, watch Special Report With Brit Hume.
6:00 Back to school until about 7:30 (some days it's 7:00, some days it's 8:00)
7:40-9:00 Unload the dishwasher, visit with my wife, read.
9:00 Lights out.

Because our school has made cuts, and my load has been increased (my regular American History classes are the largest I've had in my career), I've had to spend most of my weekends up at the school, so far. I hope that will change as the year goes on and I get faster doing some of those things that I got rusty at over the summer.

No, I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm certainly not expecting any from KDeRosa, who is such a fan of teachers, or Rory, whose life is probably twice as structured as mine and who faces the realistic possibility of getting shot or blown up in his job. But this is a pretty full day, and it is tough to get used to every year. (It also makes it tough to keep up with the blogging world.) What makes it worse is that early in the year I don't know the kids. I hate that! Especially, those first few days when I don't even know the names, and I've got to have a seating chart in front of me whenever I call on anyone. "Hey, you!" just doesn't have a lot of charm. It also doesn't help that early in the year I have to do a lot of explaining about the way I do things (boring!), and since some kids have attention spans of about three seconds, I have to explain it over and over and over. As the year goes on, kids figure out what they need to do, our relationship develops, the chemistry of the class develops, and then it becomes fun. But that is totally lacking for those first few weeks, so everything seems like drudgery.

Another reason why the beginning of the year is so difficult for me is that, as sophomore class advisor, I am in charge of running our homecoming dance. If you knew me well, you would probably laugh hysterically at the thought of that, as many of my colleagues do. I was appointed to the position fifteen year ago, so I've been doing this ever since. Although everything has always gone smoothly, as they used to say in the late 60s and 70s, it just ain't my bag. Hiring disc jockeys, helping to organize decorations and clean-up, making sure the concessions are available, handling thousands of dollars, finding chaperones, having to act like a Nazi anytime some kid asks me to make exceptions to our rigid, but necessary, dance policies, fearing that there will be some disaster--ugh! Every year, when school begins, the responsibility of the homecoming dance looms in my mind like a dark cloud rapidly approaching from the horizon.

Well, the homecoming dance was last night. Other than one girl, who managed to capture everyone's attention with a strapless dress that refused to stay up on her chest, and some 15-year-old brat telling me to "chill out" when I told her she couldn't re-enter the building if she left, there were no disasters. In fact, the dance was actually quite successful. Today, I am done! Already the year is beginning to look a lot better. I know that the worst is over.


Blogger KDeRosa said...

I'm certainly not expecting any from KDeRosa, who is such a fan of teachers,

I'm not sure where you got that idea.

Teachers do what they are told or are permitted to do. Some are good, some are bad, most are average. It is unfortunate that many are not aqequately trained to teach and/or have to toil with a bad curriculum. This is not their fault.

The problems with public education occur mostly at the school and administration level since this is where most of the responsibility lies.

9/23/2006 12:16 PM  
Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

Yes, my would seem that the worst is over. Your schedule is pretty full. Mine is too. Now that I'm not having to I really don't see how I spent the last four years trekking to the nursing home 3-4 nights a week (40 minutes one way) to feed my mother. How did I get all of that done?

I don't believe I would enjoy dance detail if I taught at the middle or high school level. Kids are just too snarky these days.

I say we cut, copy, and paste Kderosa's comment......we may need it at a later date. Something is NOT our fault...Imagine that! We all may be rubbing off on Kderosa.

9/23/2006 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Steven said...


Hopefully you can have some time to watch the Vikings play the Bears tomorrow. Battle of the undefeated.

Go Vikings!

9/23/2006 3:36 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

KDeRosa, I really do appreciate the clarification of your views, here.

EHT, if I can run a dance, I have no doubt that you could. And I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but when it comes what you did for your mother, sometimes you just find a way to do what you have to do. Then after it's over, you look back and think, "How the heck did I do that?"

Steven, I do pull for the Vikings, but I've been burned too many times, so I try not to get too excited about them. Four of the most miserable days of my life were spent watching them stink the fields out in their four super bowl appearances. And watching them snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the NFC championship game against Atlanta in 1998 isn't far behind.

9/23/2006 7:17 PM  
Blogger rory said...

Dennis, my schedule kicks your schedules ass (5 kids), except for weekends. I have a strictly no work weekend policy. I figure since no matter how hard I work I will never catch up, whats the difference between being a 5 days behind compared to 3 days. Having said that... you have my empathy. To be fair, I am in the Air Force... we don't worry so much about getting blow up as we worry about the hotel bar running out of beer.

9/23/2006 8:38 PM  
Anonymous Steven said...


It would be worse. I live in Michigan's upper peninsula. Some of us root for the Lions, some for the Packers. We're actually closer to Green Bay than to Detroit. There has not been much to root for lately.

9/24/2006 4:51 AM  
Blogger Mike in Texas said...


It could be worse, you could be a Saints fan.

When they're winning 21-0 we worry about comebacks (we've seen it happen!)

9/24/2006 6:42 AM  
Anonymous rightwingprof said...

I congratulate you on being past 50 and being able to go to the bathroom any time you want. Just wait.

9/24/2006 9:15 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

To Steven and Mike: Nearly every year the Vikings lead their fans to believe that they are a contender. But at the end of the season, they show that they have only been a pretender. The Lions (and usually the Saints) are honest. They consistently show right off the bat that they are a rear-ender.

To rightwingprof: you are depressing me. I have already hit that age where I need to come up with a plan if I want to bend over and tie my shoes. You are confirming what I already knew--it ain't gonna get any better!

9/25/2006 5:57 AM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

Wow - you have my respect! I teach 4 hour-long classes, with a full hour of prep... I'm not sure I could handle your schedule. Kudos to you!

9/28/2006 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dennis Fermoyle,
Hi! My name is Nicole and I am currently finishing up my bachelors degree at Chapman University. I am going onto get my credentials this upcoming year. It is so awesome to hear, first-hand, the truths about how a teacher feels. I really enjoyed this post because it enables me to see your daily schedule and the pros and cons throughout your day and year without anything being sugarcoated. Although this post points out some of the hardships that September brings, it made me very excited to be going forward wiht my teaching career. Thank you!!

7/19/2009 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can find another job. You are not a prisoner.

2/21/2010 9:08 AM  

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