Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Expenditures, Part 2

Well, I tried documenting all my time this past week, but as time itself is a problem for me, I even had difficulty finding the time to document what I was doing in the time I had. But, I did get a glimpse of some of my issues. As I said in my last post, there are a few things I can't do without; sleep, eating and work.

I try to get a minimum of 6 hours' sleep a night, and as I am up by 4:30 AM to get ready for work and have my morning routine, I need to be in bed by 10:30 PM but that usually ends up becoming earlier as the week goes on due to what a friend calls cumulative fatigue syndrome for teachers. Teaching is a draining profession, as we are on our feet most of the day, and when the class is particularly hyper, energetic, or unruly, it becomes even more draining as the week wears on. And with older gifted students, there's a mental drain to stay one step ahead of them. Add puberty into the mix and and there are fires all over the classroom that need my attention all the while trying to teach the significance of Hammurabi's Code, or the Division of Negative Fractions. By Friday, I am usually in bed by 8:00!

My union contract requires a minimum of six hours on-site, plus there's another hour in there which is actually a 20 minute recess and 40 minute lunch which then actually extends the day to seven hours on site. The contract also requires a minimum of eight hours of combined on- and off-site work for the day to be considered a 'professional work day.' Yet, my paycheck only shows I am paid for a six hour day, which is the amount of time the students are physically in the room. So, contractually, two hours of work (planning, prepping, grading, recording) are expected outside of my instructional time; i.e, my own personal time. Above this, I am the GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) Coordinator, and am paid a small (very small) stipend for the extra work, which is supposed to be done off the clock as it is an extra job in addition to my regular teaching duties. It is a cause I believe in, and the extra money does come in handy. So, as I am to report on site by 7:20 AM, the earliest contractual time I may leave is 2:20 PM with two more hours of work to be completed, somewhere. My commute to work is about forty minutes in the morning and up to one hour (depending when I leave) in the afternoon. I usually arrive about twenty minutes early as part of my additional two hours (and I use this is an "LA Traffic Cushion"- extra time in case I encounter traffic on the way.) So, I am out the door by 6:15 AM and usually don't get home until about 4:00 PM barring any stops or traffic, though I usually stop for coffee, at the market, or run some other errand or two, or three.

Once home, I feed my dog and cat, clean up after them and try to give them some attention, while checking email, Facebook, Twitter, book sales, headlines, and then start dinner. If I don't give the dog attention he begs for it, by pawing at me until I sit with him for a while and throw his ball a couple of times. By this time, my adrenaline from being "on stage" in front of the kids all day is crashing and therefore, so am I. I am a great believer in cook once make multiple meals, so I will cook every 2-3 days and have leftovers for a day or two, sometimes three. (I love my Mexican and Italian meat loaves, as they last for four meals!) So, often dinner is simply reheating something.

Dinner is usually over by 6:00 PM, and I'm ready to relax, yet I still have those two hours hanging over me. But, my mind is fading. So, I make a vain attempt to correct some papers, but now that I am sitting for almost the first time all day, I am nodding off, and fending off the dog who wants to play fetch again or curl up in my lap. Or, I'm trying to convince the cat, the papers are not the ideal object for her to rub her cheeks on.

Let's recap,
  • 4:30 AM I'm up for my morning routine of showering, shaving, dressing, feeding the dog, the cat and me, giving all of us our morning meds, packing my lunch, corralling the dog into his run, cleaning the cat box from overnight, and filling the humidifier. 
  • 6:15 AM- (approximately) 4:00 PM, all my paid work time, and my commute to/from. 
  • 4:00 PM-8:00 PM arrive home, feed the dog and the cat, clean up their areas, check email, and social media, book sales, eat dinner and clean the kitchen followed by two hours (allegedly) of the balance of my 'professional work day.'
  • 8:00-10:30 PM  Dinner's over and the kitchen is cleaned, usually. Sometimes I leave it. I guess, here's where I can promote my current book, work on my next novel, begin upcoming blog posts, exercise, read, and learn to just be. But, most of the time, I am so exhausted from work and the drive, I am not in the mindset to do anything except play on the iPad.

I guess that is what weekends are for, besides grocery shopping, laundry, gardening, housecleaning, house repairs, car repairs, vet visits and all the other things I didn't get done during the week.

Perhaps, I need to take a mental health day once in a while to save my mental health. But, fitting that into the school year based on the forced-upon-me pacing plans and other school projects is a whole other blog post.

And with retirement looming, any unused illness days can be used to purchase additional 'service credit;' meaning, if I have enough illness days, I can convert them into a year of time worked and maybe, just maybe, retire earlier than the 7 years 164 days 14 hours from now as I had planned.

Wouldn't that be loverly?

Maybe then, I wouldn't be too tired to date some nice guy.

But, at least I'd have the time.


  1. Hey Jeff,
    Fellow writer and educator of young minds here. Any chance you know how to calculate sick days into early retirement? I need to find more time to write.

    1. Hey Jodie,

      Nice to meet you and thank you for reading!! I have learned that the formula in California for converting unused sick time is Accumulated days of unused sick leave divided by Number of base days for full-time service credit and that equals Service credit granted. (Source:
      Other states may have different methods. Best check with your retirement counselor.

      Best wishes!