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Blog — "teaching"

10 Things I Don't Miss About Teaching

Heidi Shenk daily life teaching

10 Things I Don't Miss About Teaching.jpg

As you probably know by now, I taught seventh and eighth graders in Baltimore City for six years before I moved on to running my business full time. Every now and then I remember some good times that were had in those six years and some of the rewarding aspects of teaching, and I think I could almost miss it... just a teeny tiny bit.

Truthfully, I loved being a teacher. I was passionate about what I taught in the classroom, I loved my kids, and I had an amazing group of teachers and admin that I worked with daily. I'm just one of those types of people that is constantly looking for a new challenge, and when the burn out and boredom began, it was time for me to move on to something else. On the other hand, there are plenty of things that I don't miss about teaching, so I thought I'd share a few of those with you.

1 // Not being able to use the restroom whenever I damn well please. Do you know how awful it is going three hours without being able to leave the room and go to take a pee? Add in a school-wide staff fitness challenge where drinking a shit ton of water is involved, and it's pure torture. I'm pretty sure I was that awkward teacher that yelled many times, "Ok, you guys need to hurry up and get in line and get quiet so that we can dismiss because I NEED TO PEE!" Hey, it worked, and you've gotta do what you've gotta do in desperate times.

2 // Speaking of bodily functions, I don't miss stories that some of my boys would tell me. A few of them spent more time around me over the course of three years by default since I also coached basketball. As a result, they became a little too comfortable with the oversharing. I am scarred for life by a story involving a Burger King wrapper being used as toilet paper in a pinch. You guys, you can't unhear these horrifying things.

3 // The evils of online grading systems that magically delete all of your final grades. I'm pretty sure our district wide grading software had it in for me. I'd stay late in my classroom entering final grades when they were due at the end of the quarter. The next morning, I'd log into the grading system and they'd all magically be gone and all the curse words would come out of my mouth.

4 // Two words. Body odor. Never have you ever smelled something as foul as 35 pubescent teenagers crammed into a classroom. And they wondered why I always cranked the A/C. Why would I turn up the heat if it only resulted in more sweat and stench?

5 // 5 minute lunches. Yes, this was a real thing. Actually, technically, my lunch period was 25 minutes long, but by the time I took my students to the cafeteria, used the restroom, checked my email, and prepped for my afternoon classes, I usually had 5 minutes left. I hate cramming food down my throat like a manic barbarian, so most days I didn't eat lunch and opted for 5 minutes of peace and quiet instead.

6 // Grading homework that no one really cared about. And by nobody, I mean the students AND the teacher. Who makes these rules about having to give homework every. Single. Night? Basically, homework makes everyone miserable.

7 // Feeling like you've been hit by a truck every night. If I had a dollar for every time I stated, "My body hurts," after climbing into bed at the end of the day during my teaching days, I'd be plenty rich. I'm not really sure I ever knew that so many body parts could hurt all at once until I became a teacher.

8 // Being given vacation and sick days that you can't use. Every school year we'd get a small number of vacation and sick days. However, if you used more than a couple, you could get reprimanded by the district. It was basically like dangling a piece of candy in front of a kid and then telling them they couldn't eat it. It was sort of like, Oh hey, here are your days off that you can use, but you can't *actually* use them unless you've died. Oh, you're coughing up a lung with bronchitis? Have fun with that! What the fresh fuck is that all about?

9 // Spending my life savings on school supplies. I was somewhat lucky. Our principal helped us out as much as he could so we weren't as bad off as some schools, but when budget cuts came around, we were given our paper ream rations, and then we were on our own. It was like The Great Depression had hit and teachers were hoarding paper and accusing others of stealing their stash. And the insult to injury? The measly $250 teachers are able to claim for supplies on their taxes. I had hit that $250 mark on my first day of back to school shopping, so whoever made that rule up is clearly an alien. No normal person could make up such a dumb rule.

10 // Being accosted by kids in the morning before my coffee had kicked in. There were the kids that knew not to do it, and then there were the kids that just never seemed to pick up on the fact that lasers were beaming out of my eyes and tearing their brains to shreds because they'd approached me before that magical caffeinated hour.

While I'm sure I could list many other reasons why I don't miss teaching, these were just a few of the things that scratched the surface. Many of these things are indicative of larger issues within our public school systems throughout the country, but that's for another day and a more serious post.

Anyone else a former teacher? What don't you miss about a previous job?

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The Start of a New Era and Taking Risks

Heidi Shenk "etsy shop" "happiness" "keeping it real" "teaching"

Yes, it has been a while since I have set foot in these parts. Almost a month, to be exact. In truth, sometimes you just have to put something on the back burner until you actually have the time for it, and with a lot going on in my life in the past month, there really wasn't time.

Yesterday, I spent a final day in the classroom. I had spent three days tearing down my room, giving away six years worth of materials, supplies, and other odds and ends, and it all came down to two black milk crates filled with a few things that I decided to keep. It's amazing how long it takes to build up a stock of all of these materials and supplies, and how quickly they disappear after you send an email blast to your entire school proclaiming "FREE STUFF!"

Two hours. Yup, two hours was it and all of the markers (except for my Sharpies! You can't take those from a Sharpie addict!), crayons, colored pencils, bulletin board borders and letters, books, construction paper, paper towels, and everything else you can imagine was gone. These things are GOLD to teachers and despite it all, it felt good to know that a lot of people left my room super happy with some amazing supplies for next year.

When I decided to stop teaching it was the easiest decision I had to make in a long time. And while the past week has been extremely bittersweet, I don't feel a bit of regret. In Baltimore City, six years is a long time for someone like me that came through an alternative teaching certification program. I had never intended to teach for my entire life, but just for a couple years. A couple years turned into six, and those six years were fabulous. But times change and your heart no longer feels happy or something just feels tiring about going into the classroom every single day. And then one day, you realize that summer break isn't going to be enough. That you are just too tired to think about returning.

Today is the start of a new era. I know that I am done for good, that I'm moving on to my card business. At the same time, nothing about it feels strange. I am usually free with all the time in the world to work on my business during this time of year. My brain has been buzzing with all sorts of new ideas and projects like it usually does as the school year winds down. It feels normal. What won't feel normal is when August rolls around and I'm not setting up my classroom. Summer is a good transition period. It's a great time for me to change, but I am still unsure of how I will feel when I truly realize that this is it. I'm not going back and I'm stuck with myself in my studio until I decide otherwise.

I think it is only natural to have fears amidst all of the excitement. The unknown is scary. I've crunched numbers what feels like a thousand times, but what if I forgot something? What if people stop buying my cards? What if I fail miserably? What if all of the friends I've made at school never speak to me again? These are all seriously legitimate fears that I've had roaming around in this head of mine over the last two months.

On the other hand, how will I ever know whether or not I can accomplish what I dream of if I never try? The fear of regret of what could have been, if I don't do what I feel pulled toward in my life right now, is bigger than all of those other what ifs. Wondering whether or not my business could have been a success later on in life is not something that I want to be thinking about when I'm old, feeling as though my life passed without me truly doing what I love.

Not taking this risk is the greatest risk of all.

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How to Make Tests Less Boring to Grade

Heidi Shenk "school" "teaching"

I'm sick of grading tests. I had a grand total of about 140 tests to grade this week. One of the Language Arts skills I was testing was how to make an inference about what happened in a text. So I stuck a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip in the test and the kids had to make an inference about it.

Contrary to popular belief, Calvin and Hobbes in no longer funny. Maybe that's what happens when you've read the same comic strip a gazillion times.

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A Few Things...

Heidi Shenk "Lilah" "punch list" "teaching" "weather"

I am noticeably more busy these days. I say noticeably because my posts are becoming more few and far between than they had been a month ago. After a delayed start of school this week due to power outages caused by Hurricane Irene, we're finally back in full swing as school started Wednesday. Since I've missed my punch list the last two Wednesday due to back to school events, I thought I'd stop by to share a few thing on this Saturday afternoon that I've been super excited about recently.

We've been making an effort to put to use the few vases we have. On a weekend trip to the grocery or farmer's market, we've made the point to pick up a small bouquet of flowers. Having the bright flowers certainly add some color and fun to the house.

The few days after the hurricane brought very temperate weather and lots of sun. With highs in the 70s last week, we were able to enjoy having all of the windows in the house wide open with lots of fresh breeze through the house. We weren't the only ones that enjoyed it-- Lilah loves sitting by the front window especially when it's open and smelling all of those smells she picks up with her nose.

Three days into the school year I can already say I am so excited to be teaching Social Studies again. Day three of teaching and I showed my students some photos of the Anasazi cliff dwellings in New Mexico at Bandelier National Monument. Some of them were legitimately excited about it just because I was excited to tell them about my own experience there. And teaching a skill like main idea didn't seem so dull to me considering I had the Social Studies aspect there. Thank goodness!

I've been working on becoming a morning person. How? By getting up at 6am and arriving at school by 7:45 instead of 8:45, the latest time I am allowed to arrive as the school day starts at 9. Three days in a row I've made it by 7:45. I'm quite proud of myself. The new schedule-- wake up at 6am and do yoga for half an hour (which also entails lots of love and morning greetings from Finn while doing yoga and can be a bit tricky). Coffee and breakfast for about 20 minutes and then off too the shower to get ready and out the door by 7:35. I have to admit, the yoga helps me wake up and by the time I get to school I feel ready to start the day instead of feeling overly groggy.

Weekend plans? Head to my aunt and uncle's place tonight for dinner. Tomorrow, walk down to the Inner Harbor to see if we can spot some car racing action. The Grand Prix has made its way to Baltimore this weekend and while I have some major qualms with the whole thing (and we're talking MAJOR as in who has the right to cut down 130 full grown trees from our downtown without resident permission?!) I still get back to my Indiana roots and wouldn't mind seeing, and hearing for that matter, a few Indy cars.

Hope you're all enjoying a long holiday weekend and that you all have plenty of opportunity for relaxation!

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The Classroom

Heidi Shenk "school" "teaching"

Where have I been? In my classroom. I spent the last two days getting relatively nothing done, or so I thought. However, these photos seem to make me think otherwise. This is how things looked on Thursday morning after spending a little bit of time on the room on Wednesday afternoon.

And this is how it looked when I left on Friday afternoon.

Sorry about the crappy phone photos. So I've gotten a lot more done than I had imagined, but still have a lot of decorating to do. Not to mention, I need to set up those desks. I'm sure there will be more photos to come.

The biggest struggle is finding enough storage space. Our middle school team has moved from the main building to our modular building. The plus side-- much more operable windows that actually allow full sunlight to come through, walls that you can staple things to instead of concrete block walls, and our own thermostats so you can control the heat and cooling in your room. The down side-- no cabinets and a downgrade in the size of my room. I spent yesterday afternoon running to Target to buy two more book shelves and then putting them together. I'll probably have to buy another one yet when all is said and done.

I'm slowly getting into the school frame of mind. Our week of professional development starts on Monday, but I'll be enjoying these last two summer days. Today we head to the Hot August Blue & Roots Festival. A perfect way to end the summer!

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