A Swingin' Weekend

What’s a Weekend For?

Amethyst Hinton Sainz Uncategorized

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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.

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A Swingin’ Weekend

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.

 

I currently teach English Language Development at Rhodes Junior High in Mesa Public Schools. I love seeing the incredible growth in my students and being an advocate for them. I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult English Language Arts. Before this position I taught high school English in Arizona for 20 years. My alma maters are Blue Ridge High School and the University of Arizona. My bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy led me toward the College of Education, and I soon realized that the creative challenges of teaching would fuel me throughout my career. My love of language, literature and culture led me to the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College for my masters in English Literature. I am a fellow with the Southern Arizona Writing Project, and that professional development along with, later, the National Board process, has been the most influential and transformative learning for me. I enjoy teaching students across the spectrum of academic ability, and keeping up with new possibilities for technology in education, as well as exploring more topics in STEM. In recent years, much of my professional development has focused on teacher leadership, but I feel like I am still searching for exactly what that means for me. I live in Mesa, Arizona with my family. I enjoy them, as well as my vegetable garden, our backyard chickens, our dachshund Roxy, reading, writing, cooking (but not doing dishes), hiking and camping, and travel, among other things.

Comments 7

  1. Sandy Merz

    I often take “intentional down time.” Sometimes in the middle of the week. It’s attitudinal. For example, I’m not working at this moment and I won’t do any work tonight. But it’s not the same as when I say to myself, “This is down time.” The difference is that the intention is to let not just claim my time for myself, but also my conscience. Does that make sense? It’s funny once a friend (whom you know!) and I were working on a project. She texted a question about the work and I said I’d get to it the next day, but I was taking some intentional down time. The concept blew her away. “That’s awesome!” she wrote.

  2. Jess Ledbetter

    Balance is so important. In a society where being “busy” is like a badge of honor, it’s important for teachers to encourage their colleagues to take time for themselves. Teaching is a marathon, not a sprint. Sprinting is required those first few years, and I think that many teachers never slow down…until they burn out and quit the race entirely. Sadly, there is always a way to make it “better” and there is less and less time to get the work done. But finding the moment when the plan is “enough” allows for other moments of going the extra distance–without getting exhausted and leaving the field. Great blog Amethyst! Glad you enjoyed the fun weekend–NO REGRETS!!!! :)

  3. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    I love that idea of intentional down time. I never called it that, but I found I have to do it or I drive myself into a tizzy. Jess, good point, part of that is that there is always some way to do better at our jobs. And I do agree, in those early years… those hours are necessary as we internalize SO MUCH new learning. I wonder what the experience is like for folks who come to teaching later in life. I started when I was 23. Must be much different at 35, 40, 50…

  4. V. V. Robles

    I really appreciate this piece. You are so correct about balance. It has been a goal and a focus of mine. And, intentional down time is the way to go. If we can make time for everything else, we should be able to make time to regroup and recharge. It will make us better, all around. I would be interested to read your perspective on weekend homework for our students. Thanks!

  5. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    V.V. Robles: I teach high school, and I usually do not assign homework on the weekends unless it is absolutely necessary because of our time constraints in our schedule. Usually, any weekend homework is finishing up essays or projects, but even then… I know it is less likely to be finished and often requires students to choose between family and school. I try not to give tests and quizzes on Monday, either.

  6. Leah Jaynes

    Thank you! I see weekends as my “breathing” space. My body can’t survive without air. My brain can’t survive without time to decompress and have some down time. Over the years I’ve learned to say “no” to certain things. I teach middle school computer classes, so assigning homework is a bit difficult due to my population. Having that down time allows my brain space to connect the dots about issues in my room. I’ve made connections after a weekend of down time I wouldn’t have been able to see had I not disconnected. Our brains need space to digest the daily life of school. Don’t feel guilty for taking a weekend, or even a few hours for yourself.

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      Author
      Amethyst Hinton Sainz

      At the Teacher Leadership Institute over the past several days, Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley have been teaching us about professional capital. Within this context, they emphasized the needs of teachers in various stages of their careers. They acknowledged the fact that as the years go on, we need to recognize the pull of all of those forces that may keep us from working 60 hour weeks, or more. But also find ways to support and challenge experienced teachers so that they stay committed and build capacity throughout the ends of their careers. Thanks for commenting!

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