It’s amazing how right Vicki was all those years ago. I wish she was still around to share her good advice with the world.
She wrote something on my post Exhaustion that I couldn’t have possibly understood until much later. This is what I’d written:
I’m sitting in my classroom. There are many things to be done. I have an hour of time to do whatever they are but I’m sitting here, lifeless, unable to do work. I have curled up on the dirty carpeted floor of my classroom and cried too many times this week.
I’m so tired. I left my UNLV class last night because I started crying in defeat and could not continue the work. I left class and cried for half an hour out of sheer exhaustion. It’s funny because my professor will probably read this entry and know that I left his class to go cry (not because of anything he did) but I’m at the point where it doesn’t even matter. I feel like such a worthless student. I do the work, but I don’t have the drive to be the perfectionist I used to be in college.
My mom is giving a guest lecture about big goals to my girls class which is very exciting. Exciting in the sense that I can let down, stop being the non-stop Ms. Math show. It’s like I’m performing, on display, to be analyzed way too many hours of the day.
They look at my eyes (Miss, why were you crying?), my clothes (didn’t you wear that last time?), how I walk (laughing at me if I trip over a wire), my grades, my everything. I know that so many of their criticisms are legitimate; it’s as if I should be perfect because I’m the teacher. I cannot be flawed or make mistakes. It’s so much pressure. I need to realize that just because I make a mistake, it does not mean that kids should be able to misbehave or that my plan in general is bad.
She wrote one more insightful comment on the story of my life falling apart:
When I let go of what I am
I become what I might be — Lao Tzu
Your plans are fine, You are fine. Remember they are jealous so they are looking for things to criticize about you. Don’t add to your pressure by being so critical of yourself. i assisted with a challenge day at a high school earlier this year and i saw how these kids are acting out because they have so much hurt inside they feel they have to hide. i witnessed these smart alecks breaking down and letting their real selves show through during this event.
I am so glad you and your mom got some time together (she shared pics and now i feel really old cammie) You are a beautiful young woman and you are going to be a better person from these experiences even if you do not believe it now. i plan to say i told you so one of these days.
take care and remember you are loved and supported by many many of us.
When I tell people about my students now, I often explain that the refused to try in math because they were so used to failing and didn’t want to try and fail again. I ask people to imagine how much that must hurt to try and fail in math class for years and years.
I am a better person for these experiences. I’m finally starting to see the “failures” from teaching as lessons I’m taking with me into my battles to save math education. I hope some of the new teachers out there are starting to understand that it is normal to have failures when trying to lead your students to unprecedented success. But we are supposed to be learning from all of it and taking it with us wherever we may go.