This weekend I drove with my kids to their cousin’s birthday party. Friday evening, my daughter’s Brownie troop had a swing dancing workshop, so we left Saturday morning, and drove the 4 ½ hours back today. We took the dog with us, and we stayed at my pregnant sister and mother’s house, where there are three little cousins already.
Needless to say, I didn’t get any grading or planning done. And here I am on Sunday night, writing a blog entry. Sure, snippets of what I plan to do with my students floated through my mind as I drove I-10, and I talked with my mom about the new electronics policy I will implement this week based on my students’ proposals. But I had no computer, no wi-fi, and, let’s be serious, no time for focused thought about school. I wanted to have girl talk, family time, and help out with the birthday party cleanup.
When we returned home, the kids and I checked on the vegetable garden, harvested the chard, watered the newly planted flowers, took care of our backyard chickens, cleaned the house up, rolled the recycling container in from the sidewalk, made dinner, prepared healthy food for the week and relaxed. I made a mental list of the things I need to take care of tomorrow, but other than that… no school work, really.
The last batch of writing portfolios I assigned went back and forth with me between home and school at least eight times over two weeks. The older I get, a late night of grading, planning, or working on professional development wears on me more than it once did. If I do it more than once in a while, it affects my mood, my focus, and my general health. And, well, I need those!
When I was younger, the intensity of weekend grading and planning was a given. Before I had children (and nieces and nephews), too. Now, Saturday is youth football and Brownie meetings, yard work and kitchen patrol. Sunday… well, at some point the laundry and groceries need to happen. And experimentation with gluten-free baking. At some point I should be allowed to read a book for fun.
I seem to still believe there is time in my life for six-hour Sunday grading sessions, because I keep hauling bins of papers home with me, but there isn’t, unless I sacrifice the very things that I feel I should have earned from a professional career of 20 years. And on many weekends, I still make the sacrifice for hours of grading. Ask my husband who watches the back of my head at the desk way too often as I catch up on grading instead of catching up with him.
Somehow I manage the school work, but more and more I figure out a way to manage during the week rather than on the weekends. The Sunday night grading sessions will never disappear, but if I can have fewer I will probably enjoy teaching longer.
I understand that many professionals don’t get their weekends to themselves. In fact, my spouse missed all the fun this weekend. He had to travel for work… for a week straight. Part of being a professional is, I suppose, carrying around your work with you as a part of your identity. If a teacher’s experience and longevity is valued, though, I think it’s important we all find a balance we can live with for the long haul, elusive as that balance is.