Last night I got five hours of sleep. Sadly that is typical for a school night as I diligently attempt to juggle the demands of grading (while providing thoughtful comments for each student), phoning parents, lesson planning, designing bulletin boards, getting supplementary books from my public library, shopping for supplies at Staples for, writing IEPs, collecting and analyzing data and attending professional development classes.
I'm afraid to go to my doctor because of what she will say to me about my weight and blood pressure.
During quality review week, I suffer from lower back pain. During state exam month, I get headaches and diarrhea. In general, I don't have time to exercise or even to cook while the Sword of Damocles dangles over my head in the form of teacher ratings, school report card grades (that's right my school gets graded), letters to file, teaching observations, quality review and more. Over the years, I've gone to school with a sprained ankle, a twisted knee, a bulging disc, laryngitis and colds of various levels of severity. Many, if not all, of my colleagues do the same.
In the early 1900's, unionized workers fought against exploitive employers who forced them to work long hours with little time off in unhealthy circumstances. Workers were literally dying in unvented, unsafe, poorly lit, deafening factories. More than one hundred years later, I work in a dirty building with bed bugs and lice, mouse droppings, banging radiators, flickering buzzing PCB lighting, and no air conditioning for approximately ten hours each day (6:30am - 4:30pm). My reward when I get home? Another three to five hours of work preparing for the next day.
I won't die in a headline-garnering tragic fire at the "factory." I'll die at home from a stroke or a heart attack but all the same my death certificate should say, "Cause of Death: Teaching."