Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 20 2009

Teaching teaching teaching

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do lately. The students at my school are very curious. They want to know why the world works and they want to know new things. They have dreams to be scientists and business people and astronauts. I love looking up new interesting things for my job on Wikipedia. I want a job where the entire part of it is looking up equations on Wikipedia.
I do not like the part of my job which included, for the first time at U-Prep, talking to students about when they can and can not use the bathroom.
Everyone wanted to get a drink and use the bathroom today. It was a mass exodus. I didn’t like it. I felt subtly undermined.
Behavior has been deteriorating as we head into spring. It’s taking more energy to get kids on task doing what they are supposed to be doing. It’s harder to invest them. I’m tired. Part of the problem is the weekly administrative scrunity of my classroom. They are not sure if I’m a good fit for the school and observing me weekly for eight weeks to decide if I am.
Their observations and feedback has made me wonder if teaching is not a good fit for me. I’m trying incredibly hard to be a good teacher and I’m exhausted. I’m feeling successful in some ways. I know my students are learning a lot about Calculus. They are doing well on the test. I’m connecting with the students who are underchallenged and bored at school because they are unusually smart. I’m giving them extra problems and they are having a good time doing them and probably learning a lot.
In my special topics class we are having all sorts of fun answering random questions about math. We figured out that it would take millions of years if you tried to figure out all of the possible brackets for March madness and also learned that the terminal velocity of a rat is not enough to kill it. It’s things like this that make me love my job.
I’m being paid to comb the world for interesting facts and to relate those back to the dryer curriculum of Calculus and mathematics. I’m being paid to learn new math, to review old math.
Every time I talk about what I love about my job it’s math. It’s thinking. It’s solving new problems with people who are bright. It’s collaborating with colleagues on how to make curriculum better and how to run a school more efficiently. I like learning about how the world fits together and the causes and reactions to events. I like modeling it and finding connections.

I can’t take the daily grind of teaching, talking, talking every day. It’s emotionally exhausting. And I’m just not loving the interactions with kids. I force myself to say “hi, how are you” to the kids. And I care about the quality of their mathematics education in general but not necessarily about each individual. I care about educational inequality on a more general level.

I can’t tell if my feelings about teaching are a direct result of the negative feedback from my administration or just a sign that it’s not really what I should be doing. Of course, jumping out into the world is also a scary notion. In the middle of an economic downturn it feels easier to keep my job next year. Still not sure if I’m being asked back though. I don’t think my principal really understands me but somehow he gets that something is amiss with me and teaching.

Or maybe the only thing that is amiss is that I keep getting told I’m not good at it. It’s easy to believe others opinions.
I went to the school auction last week and the parents there were spending ridiculous amounts of money on donated items and vacations to raise money for the school. I kind of wanted whatever job they have. When I talk to them and hear about just how much they love their jobs I wonder if I’m in the wrong profession.

It would be tempting to write a book next year about teaching. No one realizes how emotionally exhausting it is. A teacher must be so many more things than a bucket of knowledge. They must connect to kids in so many ways if the transmission of knowledge is going to be effective.
It’s so easy to be demoralized. A kid hates math, or stays up to late, or has a bad day and all of a sudden no one is listening to you. Or a kid is way too far ahead and all of a sudden they have no reason to listen to you either.

And maybe it’s just all the pressure that exhausts me and the feelings of failure and lack of confidence.
As my sister said “you’ve had a rough few years in the school system.” And it’s true. I have had some rough years. I’ve had administrative criticism every year about something different each time. I’ve had behavior issues every year. I’ve been tired every year. And every year I’ve thought that I was really stretching and reaching and growing as a person but maybe I”m worn out now.
I have all of these ideas for furniture businesses and books and magazine articles and no time to really think about it. And there are so many things I want to learn about but I don’t have the energy when I go home to do anything else. I feel young. I feel like I’ve been giving giving giving and not thinking of myself and I need some more 20′s time. I’m almost 25 and for the past three years I’ve been pouring my soul into about 400 different receptacles.

So now I don’t know if I should go back next year. I’m confused. And lost. And the economy scares me.

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    Learning more about life than math…

    Las Vegas Valley
    High School

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