Friday, September 26, 2008


There is much I could complain about. And, in fact, there is much I did complain about today. But I did it with a margarita and in the company of a few other teachers in the same boat. And what I am impressed with every single day is, no matter how awful the work and kids are, I am so lucky to be surrounded by a great group of people. There are a few naysayers and nitpickers and complainers, but overall the people I see every single day are awesome.

I think that makes all the difference in making this very difficult, frustrating experience bearable.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why New Teachers Quit

Throughout my education coursework, I heard many a time how a significant number of teachers quit before they reach the three year mark. Causes are always cited as money, lack of resources, poor administration, and even the fact that the majority of teachers are women who might be quitting due to pregnancy. However, in all these plethora of reasons, I never heard the one that I think is the most significant: failure.

I want to be a teacher. I want to be a good teacher. And, the only way to improve, is with time, experience, and more time. So, right now, I am a crappy, crappy teacher. Day after day I face my class with the knowledge that I SUCK at this. And even when I manage to psych myself up into feeling excitement--I am always disappointed in some way. In my first real year, nothing has gone in a way that is satisfying. Because I don't just want to teach, I want to teach WELL. And I can't seem to grasp how to do that yet. Sure, with time and thought and reflection I will improve, but in the meantime, I start each day knowing I am some kind of failure.

And failure is a hard obstacle to overcome, because it beats you down, it exhausts you, it makes you feel worthless and hopeless. All that energy you need to create, engage, and impart wisdom becomes increasingly difficult to muster. All that time and energy you need to regroup, reassess, and even just relax is drained by trying to figure out just how not to FAIL. How to just get through the day.

I can't tell you how many times in the past few weeks that I have prayed to God to just get me through the day. That's all the hope I can muster. Get through the day. It's my mantra: get through the day.

You can throw more money at first year teachers. You can give them a positive environment. You can give them all the technology in the world, but it doesn't erase the soul crushing failure day after day. And, in my humble opinion, that is why so may teachers quit before the three year mark. And, in my humble opinion, nothing can change that (except possibly to lighten a new teacher's load, and ease them into teaching full time).

So, it becomes a waiting game for me, at this point. Can I make it long enough to start feeling the exhilaration of success? Or will failure break me down and force me out to try my hand at something else.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Mantra

I cannot change my students. I can only change my reaction to them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pointless Battles

There are many things I know I need to work on in my teaching method, style, and preparation. There are many things I don't know. Three weeks into my second year of teaching, I have so much to learn. I need to be more creative, I need to reach out to students more, I need to set clear parameters without being bitchy, I need to focus, streamline, and think. Yes, there are so many ways I need to improve.

Yet, one of my biggest frustrations so far is not my lack of skill (though that is frustrating), not the amount of supervisory and extra jobs that fall onto my plate, not even my students who can't shut their yaps... it's pointless battles.

Homeroom is a pointless battle. Channel One is a pointless battle. Tucking in shirts, not eating candy in class, and not sleeping during class/study hall is a pointless battle. These are battles I don't want to fight. These are battles that lead nowhere and mean nothing.

I understand the reasoning behind all of these, yes. And, yes, in a perfect world students would listen to Channel One and follow dress code and be awake and engaged. But, they don't. And a teacher can yell, threaten, and bully--but in the end, for what? Trying to keep a bunch of 17 year olds quiet for 20 minutes of announcements is silly. ESPECIALLY, when those announcements are repeated throughout the day. What reason do they have to be quiet? And yet, I am expected to keep them quiet. I am expected to reign them in. I am expected to have control simply because I am the teacher. In today's world, that simply doesn't always translate.

Perhaps in time I will learn how to manage control. How to fight these useless battles. How to balance power struggles. Right now, they never cease to frustrate, to undermine excitement, and to leave me feeling tired, cranky, and unsure of what I'm doing.