Juggling full-time graduate school and full-time work makes for one heck of a chaotic life. My to-do list is difficult to keep up with as it grows and grows throughout the week. To make matters worse, it’s hard for me to maintain my concentration on the task at hand. When I’m at work I want to do school stuff, when I’m at school I want to do work stuff, and on weekends I would rather spend my time with family, friends, and my pillow (oh how I miss the pillow!).
It’s hard to stay on top of all the work I need to complete, whether it be planning home visits, writing 10-page papers, posting in a discussion, planning for a team meeting, maintaining data collection sheets, and so on. I’m managing—but not as well as I would like to be. Basically, I’m overwhelmed. (By the way, here’s a sample data collection sheet, which one reader requested a while back.)
It’s hard for me to ask for help or know what exactly I need to be helped with, so . . . I try to take on everything! This is not necessarily the best route, I know, but I’m not quite sure what else to do. (I’m coming to realize that my perfectionist, control freak, “I’ll do it all myself” personality isn’t helping in this situation, but that is so hard to change.)
Luckily, I know that this time won’t last forever. I’m learning so much from my first year of lead teaching and I’m fortunate that my schoolwork in Early Childhood Intervention coincides beautifully with what I do in my classroom. Currently I’m taking classes in the following areas: issues in special education, research in education, and curriculum and intervention in early childhood.
My assignments and coursework fit perfectly together. While some of my classmates have yet to be in the “real world of special education” and struggle to relate to topics we are working on, I have the privilege of thinking about how, for example, I can best arrange my classroom and create lesson plans that will really assist my students in their learning and help meet their individual needs. Or I can respectfully disagree with my classmates on the impact of inclusion in schools, based on my experiences: It works really well in preschool and has potential to be great beyond that, but I do understand the difficulties teachers face and the debate on least restrictive environment… this is a topic for another time perhaps.
Similarly, I don’t have to go too far to find an early childhood setting where I can work on my assignments—I’m there five days a week and I have nine kiddos who I can use in my projects. (Don’t worry, the parents know that I’m in school and that I will be “experimenting” with their children—that sounds better in my head, I think.)
My special education coursework also helps me bring new ideas and facts to my co-workers. Just when I think I’ll be lost in planning for an IEP meeting, I learn about one of the new requirements or a necessary aspect that perhaps my team didn’t know about, helping us all learn something new and useful. I feel that as stressful as it may be to try to stay on top of my many to-do lists, I’m learning more than I ever would be otherwise and I am keeping up with new findings and practices within my field.
Regardless of how much I just want to relax, I know that this experience is benefitting me more than I can comprehend. And just in case my co-workers or instructors are reading this—SORRY! I’m trying to be as productive and timely as possible. There just aren’t enough sticky notes in the world to make me perfect.