I think that this is the only time in my life when my adherence to an exercise plan has been driven by the sense that I really, really need to get out and move my body or else I may crumble from stress. Things are pretty ridiculous at school right now, but I feel–well, not calm, exactly, but much less reactive than I would normally expect to be. And I credit three things: Stubb’s being home and not overly busy at the moment, and therefore able to be present for me and also to handle a lot of practical details around the house and with the Snork Maiden; writing 750-word Morning Pages nearly every day; and, six days out of the last seven, either running/walking two to three miles or doing a ridiculously simple bodyweight workout (I do this as a circuit all at once; it takes 25 minutes, including warm-up and three minutes of stretching).
I would characterize both the Morning Pages and the exercise as mild-to-moderate-intensity efforts that do a lot to skim the top layer off the stress and get me centered on what I need to do. And oh, dear, there is quite a lot to do. There’s the base layer of teaching and prepping and grading, which keeps getting more and more compressed as I hurry through it to get to everything else. I feel like I’m totally shafting teaching, although paradoxically, the less I prep, the more present I am, and I’m reminded of the aphorism Dr. Tea repeats, “High school is where young people go to watch old people work hard.” I’ve been getting them to work more, which is good, I guess–and at this point in the year, there’s more reflection and returning to ideas from earlier in the year. My regular juniors are starting Beloved, so this is a good time to slow down and ask a lot of questions, do the hard work of reading together in class. And my seniors have the AP in a couple of weeks–they’re reading one more play, Athol Fugard’s “Master Harold”…and the boys, which for some of them may end up being a good text on which to write, and they’ll do some more test practice.
On that base layer, spread a thick layer of administrative responsibilities having to do with finishing up this year and getting on to the next one. All the chairs are doing this stuff–honors and AP applications, book orders, scheduling, teacher assignments. The guy we hired a couple of months ago just emailed me about next year.
And then a runny, drippy layer of hiring–messy, hard to contain: resumes, phone calls, setting up visits, listening to everyone’s thoughts, communicating with the higher-ups. We definitely have two to hire, maybe a part-timer in our future as well. Most departments are done with this, BUT NOT US! Lucinda is definitely not coming back, and neither is the teacher who didn’t return his contract. And neither of those things was certain until Friday.
And then–topping everything off–Dr. Tea needs to be away this week. And maybe after that. It’s one of those things where we don’t know if things will maybe be stable for a while, or not–if she will want to come back in, or not. I know I don’t have the authority to say “Stay home and don’t worry about using up your sick days, your paycheck will keep coming,” even though I think this is almost certainly the case. I know that I would be more than happy either to teach her classes for free or to donate my banked sick days to her (I think I have 20, which is the most you can bank–I just commented on Bardiac’s post “Teaching Sick” to this effect). She’s only used up five or six on Mr. Tea’s illness, according to my records–I have been keeping track since we started officially covering her classes, and I think she’s only had four since we put regular in-house subs in place. And I just checked and we only have about 25 more senior teaching days left in the school year (they have a couple of days devoted to non-class activities, plus there will be two AP weeks in which they’ll be randomly cycling in and out of class as they take APs). I think what I need to do is put all this before the GGE and have him call her and say “Stay home and don’t worry about using up your sick days, your paycheck will keep coming.” He is among the many people who have offered to teach classes for her–he taught English for years before his administrative responsibilities became too heavy.
I really am happy to teach her classes. They require no real additional prep, since I’m already teaching AP Lit, and the grading is not too bad, and I know all the kids and have taught most of them. It’s even fun to spend time with a lot of them, even (or maybe especially) in their second-semester senior-hood. The difficulty is that now I am teaching five classes and I could really use that extra time during the school day. Monday, for example, I would normally have a stretch of free time from 9:45-1:00 (though other people teach in my classroom for half of that), and instead I’ll only be free from 11:30-1–and that time will probably get swallowed up pretty fast with candidate search stuff and other time-sensitive administrative work. I’ll stay late on Monday to do literary-magazine stuff (another layer), upload some financial aid documents for the Snork Maiden, and grade.
There is an end, though. For one thing, I’m going to be away Thursday and Friday–an absence planned a while ago–and though prepping sub materials adds to my workload, at least I know there’s a break in the near future. Then, too, the school year is going to end and all of these things will eventually get resolved. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, one word after the next.