Photo courtesy of Janet Beyersdorf-Hufnagel
Women can do anything — but not everything. As the largest online career community for women, we at Fairygodboss realize that balance is a myth, and that picking what to prioritize on a day-to-day basis isn't always easy. In the #MakingTime series, women share with us how, for one day, they chose to spend their most precious resource: time.
Who: Janet Beyersdorf-Hufnagel
What: 8th Grade interventionist (I teach academic skills through social-emotional learning as well as direct behavior intervention) and District Student and Family Services provider (homeless and foster liaison; servicing the non-academic needs of students and their families, which are new roles for me to take on this year).
Where: Detroit, MI
My alarm goes off and I jump out of bed as quietly as possible, hoping that my husband can get a little more sleep. I always have a second alarm set, but I never need it. My coffee maker starts brewing a strong pot while I get dressed. Most nights, I try to set out my clothes for the following day so that I don’t even have to think about what I’m going to wear, but I was slacking last night and I’m paying for it now. Being a teacher means striking a balance between comfortable and professional; authoritative and approachable. I also like to maintain my own style and not feel pressured into wearing those traditional teacher clothes because it’s important to me that I present my authentic self to my students — it builds trust between us and that is essential in modern education.
I hurry to let my two dogs out, fill their food and water bowls, and make my Huel breakfast shake. I check my email as I drink my first mug of coffee to make sure I don’t have any surprises awaiting me at school. Our principal has sent out a reminder to meet in the Media Center at 7:20 for an all-campus staff meeting. This is ominous, as we were planning to work in our small-team professional learning communities (PLC) this morning rather than as a whole staff.
I’m out the door and in the car. I have a five minute commute here in Detroit, which is wonderful after three years of commuting nearly two hours to work in NYC.
I get up to my classroom on the third floor, drop off my bag, and run down the hall to the copier. I get to school this early so that I can make my copies before most of my colleagues have walked in the door.
Wednesdays are late-start days for students; staff meetings take place for the first hour of the morning. They are supposed to start at 7:20, so I’m heading over now with the rest of our small 8th grade team.
Most of my colleagues appear to have arrived. Our principal is milling around the front of the room, clearly anxious to get started. We are meeting to review PSAT/SAT data from last year. Our school-wide scores dropped last year, as did the nation-wide scores; several people suggest the nation-wide data as a scapegoat, but overall, we are unconvinced. We discuss in small teams what may account for this data and what interventions should take place this year.
Our 8th graders are getting off the buses and heading upstairs. I try to be downstairs when they arrive so that I can welcome them in for the day, but meeting them on our 3rd floor hallway will have to suffice today, as our meeting is just wrapping up.
8:20 a.m. — 10:52 a.m.
This is my scheduled teaching time for the day. The first hour is prep time, so I spend it preparing the fidelity forms that I use to account for my interventions of the day. It is only the second week of school (Day 5, to be exact), so I have not identified the student groups for whom I will provide intervention. Rather, I am taking this week to observe students in classrooms, review previous referrals and data, and get an overall feel for this year’s 8th grade cohort. As I observe, I am looking for those students who display the need for social-emotional support (both in prevention and crisis intervention) and those who need academic interventions. For the latter, my colleagues will need additional time to work with students in order to identify academic challenges. I am, therefore, largely focused now on the culture-and-climate based interventions that will need to take place early in the year to create a safe, positive learning environment for the year ahead.
10:55 a.m. — 11:20 a.m.
This is our lunchtime. If it seems early, it is — but it’s actually not as early as most days. Every other day of the week, our 8th grade lunch takes place at 10:06am, which is obviously still breakfast. Also, note that we only have 25 minutes, and for pretty much all of us, that time has to include a trip to the bathroom, because there’s literally never time to go while we’re teaching. Regardless, bodies are weird and we all adjust. I have a banana. I brought a yogurt, too, but will save it for later I suppose. Our 8th grade team is tight-knit, so we eat together in a classroom. Some days, we vent. Other days, we talk about the things going on in life outside these walls. We are extremely lucky to have this kind of camaraderie. It is, in my experience, rare; it is also incredibly valuable.
Today, our main focus is whether or not our math teacher’s wife has yet had her baby (he ran out in a flurry of excitement yesterday during 2nd hour!). We also talk briefly about the morning meeting and lament that we didn’t have time to set our goals for the year as a PLC. We wonder aloud when our next scheduled PLC time will be announced.
Fourth hour has started now that the students are back from the cafeteria and we have ushered them into class. This is when the second-half of my position begins: Student and Family Services. Perhaps the most important (and federal-compliance based part of my job) is working as the homeless liaison. I am still learning the ins-and-outs of this weighty position, so I am headed to the Administration Building to work with the Student Services Admin. Assistant, who helps me to complete the clerical pieces of this role. Luckily, our district is very compact, so this drive is only another 7 minutes.
I pull up to the offices and park. I am 20 minutes early, but that is my MO (side note: the last time I was late to something was my own wedding in July 2017 and no one told me the real time that day). I linger in the car for a few minutes listening to the senate confirmation hearings on NPR, but decide I better not let my blood pressure rise any further, so I head inside. Our meeting goes well; we talk through the structure of our roles, procedures we agree to carry out, and the very practical knowledge of where the documentation is housed both electronically and on paper.
It is time for my colleague to take her lunch, so we agree to end our work here for the day. The Superintendent stepped in the office to ask me to stop by and see him before I leave, so I head to his office. He is now in a meeting, so I send an email letting him know that I need to visit the Operations Office (less than a mile down the road), but will come back through before I head home for the day.
I meet with the technology and maintenance departments to discuss the very important support roles that they offer me. I need access to certain programs and servers and these are the people who get things done! Support staff never gets much attention outside of the immediate education community, but they are the people who hold the whole puzzle together.
The school day is over, but I still need to head back to Administration. My colleagues send a group text filling me in about the end of the day. We generally debrief in the hallway after the students leave, but I am missing it today. It’s a FOMO I haven’t quite gotten used to yet.
Unfortunately, the Superintendent is still in his meeting, but I do run into our Grants Coordinator, who I have been meaning to meet. We are on a lot of emails together, but we had yet to meet officially. It’s always so nice to be able to put a face to a name, especially when you work together, but in different buildings.
I am heading home, thankfully. I’d love to say that I’m going to the gym, but I’m on information overload and probably at risk of dehydration. I also have skillfully avoided mentioning until now that I currently walk with a cane, because I became an old lady overnight (at 28). I can’t wait to get home to the dogs, especially because our AC went out on Monday and we’re at the tail-end of a heat-wave. Likewise, our school does not have AC, so it has been 3 days since I have not been sweaty. I get home and find that my husband has managed to section off the living room from the rest of the house, so that our emergency window unit can at least keep one room somewhat cool. It’s still warm, but it’s not hot, so I’m beyond grateful. The pups are happy to see me and reluctant to leave the living room. They definitely know what’s up!
My husband gets home and we decide to go out for dinner. We can’t fathom cooking in our hot, humid kitchen tonight. We settle on one of our favorite places — an amazing mediterranean restaurant near our house. The staff here knows us by now and bring us bread fresh from the oven and toum. We order, eat, and still have half of each of our meals to take to work for lunch tomorrow. I have an email from the Superintendent in my inbox, by the way. His wife holds the homeless liaison position in her school district and he wanted to introduce us. She offers her support and guidance and I breathe a sigh of relief to have another person to whom I can pose questions as they arise. Seriously, this job has so many moving pieces that each case is unique and brings about its own challenges.
We are hanging outside in our backyard. A storm is brewing and we’re celebrating because it’s bringing 70 degree weather behind it (a good 20 degree drop from the past few days). We love spending time out here after years in NYC dreaming about having our own outdoor space.
The storm is raging and I am getting things prepared for tomorrow. I set my coffee maker, prepare my Huel, set out my clothes, and place my bag near the door. We are watching The Crown on Netflix right now, so we plan to watch an episode or two and then hit the hay.
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