The Rock and the Hard Place of Teaching

"Rock, Hard Place" Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.My stream of consciousness from my week of teaching…

I have made if through another week of teaching. My emotions ran the gamut this week from sheer delight to utter despair. Of course the delight came from my students. Seeing them excited about learning, witnessing the light bulb moments, beholding their execution of my classroom policies and procedures made my heart expand and grow like the Grinch when he had his ephiphany. Now, I am not a Grinch, but I am comparing the heart to my feeling or sense of accomplishment. That heart has been so wilted by the parts of my job that make teaching and learning sort of impossible (time, lack of resources, testing, etc…etc…). These little moments help to increase my sense of accomplishment, but sadly, the barriers come back to pierce it.

This week was the first week back after Thanksgiving Break. Our RBES data, goals, and implementation plan was due on Friday. Unfortunately, I was not able to make the deadline. Basically this entails the gathering of multiple data sets of student assessments administered at the beginning of the year or the previous year. These data set the baseline. Once this is compiled, the teacher decides on a goal that will be achieved, i.e. increasing scores on X assessment. Then the teacher creates an implementation plan. There is also and analysis of the scores, i.e. percentage meeting, not meeting, or exceeding standards. I had to do this last year, and like this year, I was late getting it done. In both cases, I didn’t get much assistance. The process is not straightforward and has changed from last year. So, I’ll have to finish it this weekend. One other problem has been that all my data is not readily available. At the end of the year, the teacher is evaluated on the extent to which the goals are met. I understand the spirit of this, but it seems to me that this exercise if more perfunctory than really useful. No teacher refers to it again until the end of the year. It is more like another checklist item.

Next week, my students will be tested on the content for the first 18 weeks. Mind you, we are not quite at the 18th week, yet they will be tested on their depth of knowledge in the content of math, science, social studies, language arts/reading, and writing. On the best day, it is very difficult to teach this content according to the pacing guide we are given. There are few normal days in school. Every day some event occurs that robs instructional time. All my “beefs” are exacerbated in my situation because in reality my students are about 3 months behind. The first teacher was largely absent and their long term substitute was mostly just babysitting.

I am questioning whether or not this is the profession for me. Perhaps I don’t have what it takes, I think. Let me be clear and pragmatic. I cannot just leave because like most Americans, I need a job to support my family and pay off, in service and money, my undergraduate and graduate student loans. I shared my thoughts with the math coach who I referred to in another post and she, wide-eyed, said “No…you cannot!” She began to tell me that I had “It”…that it that makes a great teacher. That I needed to give myself time and that it takes 3 years to really get my “legs.” She began to describe all the great things I have done. I was told in graduate school that it really takes a good 5 years to become an effective teacher. I understand, but the day to day is hard. My quality of life is low, I am stressed, and I have lost my voice twice. I don’t like my constant complaining to my husband and friends. I don’t really tell my fellow teachers as there is really no context for that and I haven’t really made any friends at my school. It is hard to make friends when you are bent over in a trench all the time. I do feel like I am almost at the last stage of grief….acceptance.

If I can just change my perspective and focus on the positive, I would fare better. How can I stop the hemming and hawing without getting an ulcer? The math coach talked about creating a group for the two other teachers and me. Perhaps that will help.

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