Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 29 2008

near my limits

Teaching limits is hard. Teaching delta epsilon proofs is hard.
When kids come in and say, “I can’t do any of my homework” it’s hard to hear. It makes me leave the day feeling kind of bad. Like I’m a failure of a teacher.
I think I know what the problems are. The Calc book assumes that they’ve done limits before and they haven’t. They feel like limits are one day of material because the book has it all in one section. But it’s not nearly enough to learn about limits in a day.

And now I feel bad because my kids are stressed. They are not used to not getting things, and when they are confused they are vocal about it. Their stress and feelings of stupidity fill the air. It’s strange but at my old school kids were so used to being confused, lost and failing that it was easy to do that to them. They didn’t throw fits at low test scores and didn’t stop class when there was a problem they didn’t understand. They accepted not understanding as more or less normal. I realize now that I’m with kids who tell me when they are lost and confused. How many times have I breezed over something that people didn’t really understand? I am not sure how to lesson plan for my new environment. I get confused.

I took one of those stress tests to evaluate how many indicators of stress I have. I have a lot. So does everyone who’s starting TFA but in addition to mine, it’s your first year teaching and your schools are ridiculously challenging.
I was forced out of my house the first day of school. I moved three times in two months. I’ve started/ended who knows what with my boyfriend. I started a new job. I changed states. I made new friends. I changed my work hours. I changed what I eat. I changed my activities and where I do them. I didn’t have a spouse die or a friend die but I did have a co-worker die and a good friend’s spouse die. My landlord threatened to sue me. I slept in 40 different beds this summer. (alone each time in different hotels/cities/friends houses) I’m teaching new subjects.
My roommate has been forgetting how much stress I’m under because I appear so happy. I know that if I can handle TFA, I can handle this. I’m not depressed or miserable. It still isn’t harder than waking up being afraid of being sexually harassed at work and knowing I’m going into a lion’s den each day. It’s not harder than being faced with failure and the responsibility of changing lives. But it still is hard and I have to acknowledge that to myself and accept that and make sure I’m taking care of myself. I holed up with tons of books in my bed and stayed there for hours a day for the last few days.
For all of you new teachers: You will all be better for what you are going through right now. I promise. Whatever doesn’t kill you does make you stronger. And the kids are not going to actually kill you despite any doubts you might have right now.

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    Learning more about life than math…

    Las Vegas Valley
    High School

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