Every day, I’m pulled in so many directions that I sometimes start to unravel. One of the best realizations I’ve had in the last few years is that I can’t – and shouldn’t – try to do everything. To that end, I employ a legion of helpers, namely my teaching assistant (a senior who needed just one more elective credit for graduation) and students who finish their work earlier than their peers. When given clear directive, these teens are incredibly capable.

I wasn’t always this way. In my 20s and 30s, I foolishly tried to be Every Woman, arrogantly thinking that I was the only person who could take care of things the way they were supposed to be done. I even came to school in my first year with a full-body rash (apparently, I’m allergic to sulfa – good to know) because I wasn’t sure my sub could manage my lesson plan. The principal’s secretary took one look at me, shook her head, and sent me home.

With age comes wisdom and I now know that you have to ask for help when it’s needed and graciously accept when it’s offered. Students want to give us a hand. It’s a break for them from constant desk-sitting and it gives us the benefit of time well-managed.

For instance, in the last two days, students have happily helped me:
• Rearrange the desks in my room early Monday morning after the S.A.T. folks left everything set up in boring rows from Saturday morning’s test. (Glad I don’t have to proctor those anymore.)
• Alphabetize writing portfolios and file papers.
• Cull about 20 novels with broken spines from my cabinets, take those beaten books to the library, re-glue the pages to the spine (our librarian showed my sixth-period T.A. how to do this), and reshelve the mended books.

Book Hospital

Book Hospital

• Set up my classroom’s holiday decorations – yes, including my non-denominational winter season tree featuring fiber-optic lights and T.A.-made ornaments.
• Deliver completed letters of recommendation to seniors ready to submit their college applications (I’ve written about 20 of these this fall – whew! The season’s almost done.)
• Build a bulletin board display of outstanding work from our recent Modern Transcendentalism project.
• Deliver a string of broken Christmas lights to one of my science teacher friends, who uses dead bulbs as part of her circuitry unit in the spring.
• Collect handouts from all of the rows/hand out fresh papers to all of the rows.
• Take paperwork to the front office and check my staff mailbox.
• Pick up my dry cleaning – kidding. (Who buys dry clean-only, anyway? Not this girl.)

My point: Ask for help. If someone else can do the job, delegate. So far, I’ve met my goal this year of returning every essay assignment to students within five school days and I keep updating my calendar with freshly built, relevant curriculum. That’s what I should spend my extra time focused on – not taking yet another trip to the front office to drop off the never-ending cycle of attendance sheets.

Teach on, everyone!

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