I have 177 students.
I’d like my reader to pause for that number. 177.
I am an English teacher, and sometimes a history teacher. I teach seven periods. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have no planning periods. I get about 30 minutes for lunch, 20 minutes of real time. Sometimes, when I have to meet with a parent or some such, I skip lunch. That and I have 177 students.
If in each class I give each student one page to write per day, by Friday I have more papers to grade than there are pages in some novels by Steinbeck.
By no means do I have the largest student load in the school. Some teachers have over 200 students.
Tomorrow, I have to go to an all day professional development, “How To Write A Lesson Plan.” Every teacher in the district has to go to this. My problem is that I don’t really have time to write lesson plans.
The up-side is that, with thirty-six years of teaching, I have hundreds of lesson plans in my head. The down-side is that I don’t have time to write them all down. I just know them and do them. An administrator told me that I need to start writing them out. I told that administrator that “If you take time for this, then you steal time from that. If something goes in, then something goes out.” Usually, what goes out is the student. I have to put in an all day meeting about lesson plans, so — What goes out? — I won’t teach Walt Whitman tomorrow.
I refuse to take time from my private life, from my wife, or, frankly, from watching a Star Trek rerun. And I’m not going to do what some of my colleagues do: take a day off work in order to get some work done. I have done both, and I won’t do it anymore.
If something goes in, then something goes out.
A kid comes up to me yesterday and says, “You’re Catholic. How do I break it to my parents that I don’t want to go to Mass anymore?”
I only had time to say, “Gently. Break it to them gently. Because you’ll remember this moment all your life. I was your age when I told my mother the same thing. Forty-five years later, I remember her tears.” The kid wanted to talk more. I wanted to talk more. But I had to go. Because I paused for this kid, I was almost late handing in a lesson plan.