Originally written November 17, 2013
Being in the fellowship is incredibly hard. Each day is almost like its own Mission Impossible. Which i tell myself is fun and exciting, I actually think I believe myself most of the time too. Its always been difficult explaining to other people why the fellowship is so taxing and time consuming. Teaching as a profession is incredibly demanding. Each night when I go home I go home knowing that the very next day a class full of students will be depending on me to run a lesson, answer questions, guide through practice problems, demand high academic and behavioral expectations. I’m not a parent, but I imagine this constant feeling of being responsible is what parents feel especially when their kids are young and unable to look after themselves.
The students aren’t the only ones who demand a high level of attention, there is literally always something going on in the school that needs my (your) attention as well. As a special education teacher, we’re required to review and update student’s IEPs, gather info from gen ed teachers about students’ strengths and weaknesses, we also facilitate the IEP meetings with the IEP team, student and parent. Then there’s always the need to give students school-wide assessments, school development/staff meetings, department meetings, covering for absent teachers, as well as managing general student traffic and behavior in and around the school building. This isn’t an exhaustive list, its just what I can think about right now at Starbucks. There’s a million needs constantly rolling around in my mind. The process of juggling and prioritizing these things is a gargantuan task that I wasn’t ready for before the fellowship. Its because of this that I never really feel like I’m getting ahead at my job. If anything I feel good when I feel like I’m only 1 step behind versus the normal 4 steps.
Here are some of the things I’ve struggled with over the past 6 months:
- Staying in communication with people outside of my job. Work is an overwhelming priority that takes up about 90% of my brain capacity at all given times. I have to try to divide the other 10% between grad school, personal health and wellness, rest and relaxation, eating, and fiscal responsibility. Communication is always last on my list of things to focus on, my family has been pretty open about their disdain for my perceived low-level of contact and visits.
- Teaching is an incredibly rewarding profession. I feel like I’m able to stretch myself and try new things in my classrooms and with my students. However, its demotivating feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing well and what you need to work on. I basically feel like I don’t know what I know, and don’t know what I don’t know. This makes it difficult to replicate my positive teaching traits and change my unproductive teaching habits.
- My daily schedule is so chaotic that I often miss my meetings with my mentor teacher. We both teach during all of the same periods so it is difficult to observe her and learn from her teaching style. There are also 2 new teachers in the building, and we all have the same mentor teacher. It’s frustrating hearing that the other mentees get to enjoy more regular meetings with our mentor, and seem to truly benefit from the weekly checkins. I don’t know if I can say I’m experiencing the same luck with my checkins. I always go into the meeting feeling like a my thoughts are too jumbled up in my head to communicate anything clearly and effectively with her.
- I always feel like I’m on different page than most other people in the school. Translation – I be lost as fuck in most meetings and classes. This always irks me. Example: On election day we had a staff-wide PD. Part of the ice-breaker was to build a contraption that would prevent an egg from breaking when it hit the ground. Every group made some contraption that packed/padded the egg once it impacted the ground. I suggested and pushed my group to make a parachute with a piece of newspaper to support the padding we had done. At first there was silence, then there was murmors of support, finally I convinced them the parachute would work. When we presented our creation we got a bunch of laughs from the rest of the staff. But low and behold our egg was one of 3 that didnt break. This is a amusing example of me thinking completely differently than everyone else. Most of the time it just leaves me feeling awkwardly different in a room full of people with more similar ideas.
- I really care for all of the students in my school. But they drive me BONKERS when they launch a million questions at me (you) without giving me the chance to explain the activity/theory/lesson we’re going through. They also complain all the time. Sometimes I just have to look at them with my You’ve gotta be kidding me -face.
- Anytime I think of a challenge or a struggle I have with this work, I get upset with myself because it feels like I’m making excuses rather than finding solutions.
These are just a few things that I have on my mind right now. I say these not to complain, but to give you a better sense of some of the things I have to think about on top of creating meaningful and engaging lessons for my students. I’m optimistic that I’ll find ways to get around these struggles.
Rambles – I mean updates – No, really just rambles…
I have quite a few blogs I’ve started, but never posted for various reasons. I figured I’ld dig up the past every once and a while and give an update on how I feel.
In a lot of ways I’m still in the same place as a teacher. Yes, each day is hard. Yes, each day is Mission Impossible. Even more so now than ever before. However, I try not to view the everyday challenges with as much anxiety anymore. Translation – I trust myself and go with the flow a lot more now than I did back in November. Over the past month I’ve picked up two fulltime classes on my schedule. We’ve been thrown back into grad school. And I’ve been doing a lot more work behind the scenes trying to promote the blog, and some of my other projects as well. And of course I’m still trying to be best best damn teacher I can be every second of every day of the week. The stress gets overwhelming at times. Luckily we had a mini vacation this week. The schools would have been closed all week in observation of Presidents Day and Winter Break. But, thanks to days lost during Hurricane Sandy we have Monday and Tuesday off and return Wednesday – Friday.
Imagine for a second being so exhausted, irritated, drained, tired that you don’t think you can make it one more minute to see the weekend. Yea, that was me Wednesday night. Recently I’ve found that I’ve adapted well-ish to the constant changes in schedules, needs, priorities, attention. Every decision I make is rooted in what is giving my students the best opportunity and future. Yes, I’m wrong sometimes when confronting a student in class about behavior, questioning a student’s motives to leave the classroom, and one-on-one gut checks in the hallway.But, the love is there, and I think they see that, so its easy to move past my classroom mistakes with a simple and sincere apology.
One thing that has continued to affect me is my irritation with unappreciative and/or rude students. This last week I actually had two pretty intense run ins with students who I felt were crossing the lines of my patience and brining consistent irritation throughout my classroom communities. I’ve tried 3 times now to sum up what happened but its really too much to add on to this particular post. Out of all my students these 2 are my biggest headaches right now.
I’m still feeling like I don’t know what I do well and what I can work on. I haven’t really gotten much actionable constructive criticism which means I’m figuring my way around teaching fairly well. The athlete in me doesn’t accept that as good enough though. I”m rambling now though, which is exactly why I didn’t post this the first time…