I’m training to run a marathon.
Let me repeat that: I’m. Training. To. Run. A. Marathon.
OK, so that last sentence is a bit overdramatic. It’s my fifth marathon since 2007. And although training to run 26.2 miles (in the same day, at once) is quite a bit of work, it’s not all that unusual. In 2013, 541,000 people in the US finished a marathon. Put it this way: that’s just a little less than the population of Las Vegas. Put all the 2013 marathon finishers together in one city and you’d have the 33rd largest city in the US, a little larger than Fresno, CA, not quite the size of Tucson. But bigger than Kansas City, Miami, Oakland, Minneapolis, Cleveland or New Orleans.
On Sunday, my marathon training team gathered at 7 am for a 20-mile run. Well, depending on level of previous training, some of us went 16, those with a little more experience did 18, and two of us planned for 20. This particular route is the toughest 20-mile route we use, criss-crossing the highest point in Porter County. Most of the middle 10 or so miles are spent climbing hills and racing down the other side.
At one point, as we stopped for water and carb gels (“Gu“) after one of these climbs, I turned to my training partner and said “Man, the mental part of the game is so huge. The climb takes a lot out of you, but knowing it’s coming makes it a little easier to deal with from the neck up.” She looked at me and went, “Thanks for reminding me. I had forgotten about the big hill coming up.”
So had I. Yikes.
Most of my teacher friends have seen the following graph at some point, either in their pre-service program, or at an in-service somewhere. It’s a visual representation of the emotional phases of first-year teaching. I’d say 1) it’s pretty accurate, and 2) the graph for more veteran teachers probably isn’t all that different.
That’s us right now, barreling towards Survival, with Disillusionment waiting right around the corner. I remember thinking when I started in this business that Christmas Break (Politically incorrect, I know. Sue me. “Winter Break” if you prefer) was perfectly timed for a first-year teacher badly in need of a couple weeks away from kids, an injection of family support, and an obscenely large, multi-course meal, prepared by someone else (if possible).
But it’s not just first-year teachers who take the roller-coaster ride. Last year was without a doubt my worst year teaching. If I had to sign a paper in October committing to come back for 2015-2016, I’d have said “Hell. No.”
My twitter bio says I’m a stubborn jackass. Whoever wrote that knows me so well. I kept showing up. Kept planning. Kept smiling. Kept praying the Rosary on the way in every day. Kept blowing off steam on weekends. Kept my dark sense of humor. Kept writing DARs when the situation called for it. Kept leaning on my teacher friends in the building for support. Read a lot of Justin Aion at Re-Learning To Teach. Tried to not be a jerk to my family. Got through the trimester, and the world kept spinning.
But you know what I wonder? I wonder what 15-year-olds who don’t have responsibilities and mortgages and kids and bills and the work ethic of a millrat do when school sucks daily. Not just one class, but every class. Every. Damn. Day.
I wonder if there is a graph of student emotions thru the year? I wonder what it looks like?
I wonder: Is it important for teachers to be in phase with that?