In January 2006, I started at the high school, with an art appreciation class. First bell rang at 7:25. Almost every day, I arrived around 6:30 a.m., just to set up and prepare for my art lecture. Unfortunately, anything that had been created by the previous teacher was wiped from the laptop, by the time I got it. So I had to basically start from scratch. There weren't any powerpoints, quizzes, tests, or anything useful for me to use in my lesson planning. The textbook was college-level, difficult even for me to decipher at age 23, freshly graduated with a B.S. in art education. Fortunately, I enjoyed art history and I had retained a lot from college, (even though I distinctly remember dozing in the darkened room, while the monotone professor droned on about the slides and historical contexts of each work we studied). I was able to piece together a decent curriculum for my art appreciation class.
At around 9:30 a.m., I traveled to one of two buildings. In one building, I had K-2 students. I had two lunch duties mid-day, preventing me from eating lunch with or even seeing any colleagues at lunch. I also had to participate in after-school tutoring once a week in either math or reading. At this building, I had 3 classes each on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The other building was an all-kindergarten building. I had all 9 kindergarten classes in the building, 3 classes each day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Thankfully, I didn't have any extra duties in this building that year. However, I often stayed until 5:00 pm just to stay on top of art displays, lesson planning and organizing everything that needed to be done. One principal asked if I was more nervous about high school or elementary, and I remember answering, "I'm scared to death of all those kindergarteners!"
The next year, they gave me 3rd grade at the other building, and took away a couple of the kindergarten classes. But someone had to pick up the slack. That year, in all 3 of my buildings, I shared the room with another teacher who had to cover the classes that I didn't have. I had to keep my stuff in a cubby or on a shelf, out of the way. I had to prep everything when I walked in the door, and put it all away before I left. It was so stressful to even think of preparing for a sub, that I didn't miss a single day that entire year.
It was very difficult to feel 100% a part of any one school. I tried to go to as many meetings in each building as possible just so I could figure out what was going on, and I had to attend high school enrollment nights AND elementary carnivals, sometimes all happening in the same week.
Also, since I shared the rooms with other teachers, I was actually in those elementary classrooms more often than they were, so I was the one who hung all of the art displays at both buildings. I had to be the one to make sure extra paper towels were on hand in case of messes. It was my job to fill all of the glue bottles.
The next year, they took away the art appreciation position, and handed me all of the 9 kindergarten classes PLUS 3rd and 4th at the other school. SO, I only had two buildings, but 5 grade levels. But, they also tore down the K-4 building and built a new one on the same property. So at the end of the school year, I had packed up everything in the art room and it was put it into a storage unit for the summer. In August 2007, I moved into my new room, which was much bigger than anything I had experienced previously. Oh, and did I mention that I had gotten married in July 2007? I had been planning my wedding in the midst of all the work chaos.
In my first 3 years, I experienced SO much.
Being a traveling art teacher meant that I carried about a dozen bags around with me. I up-sized vehicles a couple of times to accommodate all of the stuff I had to transport back and forth every day. I had a bag for my camera, my computer, my lunch, my purse, and sometimes I even had a change of clothes or shoes with me too.
This year, I finally have my own room. (I'm only temporarily sharing it with the band: 2:00-2:50 on my planning period, for a couple more weeks until the new band facility opens). But I'm still feeling the pressure and stress that I felt those first three years. I'm getting to school by 6:45 and staying until 5:00 almost every day. I'm getting my master's and attending classes and doing homework throughout the week. Maybe I do this every year....maybe I just have to put the time in early to prep the units and get the lesson plans and materials ready and things will level off as the year goes on. People keep asking me if I love it...and I always say YES I do love the students, I just don't love all the PREP that comes with a new job. It is SO much work and it is SO exhausting. It is rewarding and challenging and fun but it is mentally and physically exhausting. I keep trying to think of ways to make it easier, but if I want to do it right, and I want to do it well, then I have to be committed to excellence and doing what is best for student learning.
The blog challenge prompt for today is to create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes my teaching philosophy. MY Metaphor: Art teachers run an entire corporation in one room. Art teachers are the janitor, secretary, marketing strategist, product development supervisor, sound engineer, technology director, accountant, materials manager, budget director, managing director, supply chain director, logistics manager, purchasing supervisor, buyer, inventory planner, warehouse manager, shipping and receiving clerk, product portfolio manager, market intelligence research analyst, customer service director, airline stewardess, translator, public relations officer, receptionist, quality controller, assembler, safety officer, operations manager, nurse/care giver, health inspector, dental clerk, neurologist, plumber, painter, and interior designer. We do it all. In one day. ALL DAY LONG.