Jeff registers his concern over the hours I work and the ethic I keep (third comment down; dunno why the anchors aren’t working):
I’m concerned that you’re going to burn yourself out before you can get in and make the kind of impact that I know you want to. 18 hours on a 45 minute lesson is NUTS, my friend, and though I know you and TMAO are all about the “bring it hard every minute of the day” approach, to which I say: respect. But we’re going to lose you guys to frustration, to exhaustion, to all the side effects of slamming your head into the wall to entertain adolescents who’d much rather be anywhere else, no matter how much they like (or you think they like) you and your class.
To which I say: thanks for the concern. I’d be a dunce to disregard the counsel of anyone who’s been at this longer than I have. Two reasons why your concern is misplaced and one important point of clarification:
- Over the long term, I refuse to keep these hours. That’s the last time I’ll spend 18 hours on that 45-minute lesson. It’s done. Next year, I’ll just play the DVD. Or spend a few new hours on Christian’s film festival idea. But on Monday I was rehired to teach the same courses next year so I’m effectively done with those hours. By posting my lessons for other teachers to use and steal and thereby spend their free time planning just a little less, by sending DVDs across the country, I push the return on investment even higher.
Incidentally, this here feels like a significant separation between old and new guard teachers. I have two large filing cabinets in my classroom (you know the type) which, for all I know, function only as dormitories for rodent and insect life. My instruction is entirely digital. Every Keynote lesson, every handout, every hour I’ve ever invested in my practice this year exists in reproducible bits-and-bytes. I carry my career around on my keychain. I feel like your concern and mine would be better directed at those who re-invent their wheels on a yearly basis.
- Over the short term, my satisfaction/excitement/triumph has outpaced my stress by at least an order of magnitude. The year’s almost done and for every time I’ve posted a cry for help, I’ve posted ten times crowing proudly (probably annoyingly) about some lesson or to declare my affection for this job of ours.
If I felt like I was throwing sixty hours into a ditch every week, I’d be the basket case you predict. But my efforts at strong, satisfying, scaffolded lessons, at better presentation and presence, every hour of that has gone straight to my kids. I’m pulling down nearly 100% attendance in remedial Algebra not because there’s nothing better do in this sunny Santa Cruz spring outside our open campus (hells bells … ) but because they want to be there, because I pump something new and curious through my projector every day (Monday: a cruise through the Panama Canal), because this Algebra nonsense is finally making somesense, and because I bring my best to them (nearly) every day of the year.
That’s crack I can’t sell from this blog. I can describe the high but until someone has felt that special 99% correlation between effort and result, it’s gonna remain annoyingly aloof.
All that said, one point of yours demands some clarification.
… you seem to believe that the only way to succeed in a classroom is to spend a pretty ridiculous amount of time preparing each lesson.
I hope you’re the only one thinks I’m pushing this lifestyle. I’ve explicitly advocated the opposite at least twice.
From Back On My Grind (the post you link):
I wish I knew a better way to pull off lessons like these than through copious man-hours (18 over this weekend for a 45-minute lesson) but, at this point, that’s my only tried-and-true technique for not sucking at this job. [emphasis added]
And then from Did You Know Bullet Ants?:
Bottom line: it is your professional obligation to pursue the best examples of every slice of your field. If, at the point you discover truly great technique, you shrug and say, “There isn’t enough time in the day to be great at everything.” then I’ll shake your hand and agree wholeheartedly. You aren’t paid enough.
Hopefully that settles that. One last time: I wish I knew a better way to see the results I’ve seen but I don’t. If anybody finds the work attractive, the results appealing, or feels convicted by my work ethic, however, I have no idea how to assume that responsibility.