I haven’t forgotten

I haven’t forgotten about this space where I’m allegedly reflecting about my first year teaching.

I’m just buried in work. Grading, mid-quarter grades, reports to case managers, parent contact, first year portfolio, preparing for final exams… you know, the usual. I don’t do well with little sleep.

There are many changes happening too. I don’t do well with change. I still don’t know for sure what I’m teaching next year. I don’t do well with uncertainty either.

I’m also getting a bit wistful at the thought of not seeing some of the seniors anymore. I’ve grown attached to quite a few of them. This happens to me every year.

I need to figure out how to better deal with these things. I don’t think they are going to change much from year to year.

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12 Responses to I haven’t forgotten

  1. Jenny says:

    We completely understand.

    I teach fifth grade and my kids head to middle school next year. I hate that. I’ll miss them and the idea of sending them to middle school feels like throwing them to the lions. I’m not sure how having seniors would feel.

  2. CdnMathTeacher says:

    I’m struggling with uncertainty too. We are moving and I’m waiting to hear from a school that I applied at. My first teaching job was just for 2nd semester and I wasn’t ready to have so many neat people just walk out of my life. I have found being at the school for the whole year makes June much easier. If we have done our job, the seniors will be ready to take on the challenges of the next chapter in their lives. Sometimes, they even come back to say hello.

  3. ken says:

    An uncle of mine taught for 30 years at a Philadelphia public high school. He retired the same year I started teaching.

    I asked him, “what have you learned over 30 years?”

    He response:

    “Same a**holes, different faces.”

    Why are so many teachers so disgruntled at retirement?

  4. Ken: it’s not so much disgruntlement as curmudgeonliness. I’ll complain about spoiled, self-important brats who believe that they’ve purchased a passing grade rather than the opportunity to learn even though I know they’re not the whole of the student body. However, a veneer of irascibility can help me put up with the days that don’t go well. And ultimately you need something to get through those days without losing hope, because you just aren’t allowed to show up in a bad mood.

  5. Jackie says:

    Jenny – It’s both exciting and sad to see the seniors leave. They’ve grown so much over these past few years.

    Erin – I love when they come back to say hi – hearing what (and how) they’re doing is one of the highlights.

    Ken – Uhm, I hope I never reach that point. Or that I leave teaching if it gets to that. Again, hoping it doesn’t.

  6. Jackie says:

    John, I’m not allowed to be in a bad mood? Uh oh.

  7. Okay, I know I’m effectively not. If I don’t give it my all I’ll get slaughtered in the student evaluations, which makes it even harder to get further jobs, and can make or break a close tenure bid. There’s no calling in sick, because everyone else who’s qualified to do the job already has their own teaching load and I’ve already got myself on the hook to half the department covering for me when I give talks at other universities.

    Maybe the specific pressures are different at your level, but I remember being able to interact with a good number of my school teachers outside the classroom context and I could see them brace themselves and cover up for the public when they had to go back in.

    When you’re teaching it’s not about you and how you feel. The kids need and deserve a teacher who’s there for them, no matter how much the actual person behind the teacher feels. You can bang out code or cut a trade while you’re crabby — heck, it might even improve your performance — but your compiler and your stock ticker aren’t students. The kids change the whole picture. It has to be about them, because that’s your job.

  8. Jackie says:

    Thank you John. You’re right. It is about them and (luckily?) when I’m in the classroom it is the time I consistently feel fully present in the moment. I tend to forget everything else that is going on outside of that room.

    And it isn’t because it’s my job. I’ve had other jobs where my mind was elsewhere. That rarely happens while I’m teaching. I’m hyper aware of everything that is going on.

    Am I sometimes disturbed by the choices they make in the classroom? Yes. This is what sometimes leads to my bad moods, although I try not to bring it to the next class.

  9. although I try not to bring it to the next class.

    And that’s my point. If you brought along the problems of the previous class, or any other problems of yours, you wouldn’t be doing as good a job. But after a while this need to be “on” all the time is itself a stressor. You need some way of dealing with it, and a lot of people do that by turning a little curmudgeonly.

  10. ken says:

    @John: I recognize your point that some people cope with the hoobideegoobidee (sp?) by evincing a bit of their curmudgeon, but I’ve been witness to too many “qualified” teachers who have, by their own Curmudgeon Coping Capabilities, rendered themselves quite useless and ineffective.

    Sometimes, I find myself asking my co-workers what they were like as teenagers. Amazingly, they were all ‘on-point’, diligent, and assiduous.

    So was I the only one who resisted learning, doodled, and carped?

    I have a tough time believing that.

    Maybe we all need to carry mirrors and look at them once in a while.

    We are, at times, victims of our own knowledge base. What do the authors of Made To Stick call it?

    The curse of knowledge.

  11. samjshah says:

    Yes, this end of year crunch all comes out of nowhere – and it’s passing by like a flash in the pan.

    My seniors have just a few more classes (they don’t have finals at my school, so they don’t come for the last few “review” days and instead they all go on a huge community service trip.

    I’m going to be sad when they graduate – I was lucky to have a calculus class of 7 amazing seniors whose personalities just made it an amazing time.

    What’s funny is that I remember talking to a second year teacher (I’m a first year also!) early in the school year, and how I didn’t think I would be maudlin at the end of the year. But now, I’m just dreading the day that they leave me for greener pastures.

    I wonder if they’ll be the class that I always compare every other calculus class to. No, they can’t do the hardest problems, but yeah, we have fun doing math together.

    PS. I loved being on mathteam in my high school in Illinois… and you need ways to motivate them (https://continuities.wordpress.com/2008/04/05/math-team-ideas-needed/)?

    We had a “candy bar” contest where the whole club got something like 20 problems they all had to solve together. They could split up the problems and assign them, work in groups on certain ones, etc. And the problems were scaffolded so that the freshman had a few they could do without help, the sophs had others, etc. So the right strategy was to have the freshman work on the easy problems, the sophs on the harder problems, etc., and have a few key people go around and check to make sure that each of the solutions were right.

    And if at the end of the half-hour or hour we got all 20 problems right, each person on the team got a king size candy bar.

    It actually was a competition that we had with other schools — each school had the same set of 20 problems. And when schools competed, this contest didn’t factor into the final score, but it was a badge of honor to get all 20 right. It was hard. And it brought us all together.

    PPS. Love your blog – another first year math teacher out there! You’re now in my rss reader!

  12. Jackie says:

    Ken, I’ve never claimed that I was a perfect student. I spent most of my high school days reading in class.

    Samjshah – Hmm, we do the candy bar competition at every meet. I like the idea of doing it at practices, hmm…

    It sounds like you had a great calculus class. Fun while learning – yay!

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