Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 124: Working Through My Crisis

I am deeply ensconced in a professional crisis.  I know that much of it has to do with the weather and the time, but there are other factors as well.

I have so many things running around in my brain that I don't feel as though I can adequately put them down here and do them justice.

Suffice to say, I'm not happy professionally.  I don't know how to reach many of my students and I feel that in many cases, I have pushed them further away.

I have been nicer and more understanding this year than in previous years of teaching.  I have been more flexible and more positive.  I have been more energetic and creative.

I am beginning to feel as though I have done less for my students than in previous years.  Earlier, I was willing to content myself with the lack of academic progress by telling myself that I was building relationships with my students.

I have said previously that I believe that relationships will make or break education.  This is one of my most favorited and retweeted tweet is the following:
I truly believe this is true and was willing to postpone content to develop those relationships, asking for student trust as I trusted them.

Over the past few weeks, I have started to feel like a sucker.  Most of my students still wouldn't work for me and, indeed, they seemed to take the freedom that I gave them and use it to disrupt the learning environment of other students.

I know this is not a fair assessment.  I have many students, spread across my classes, who respond very well to me, greet me with smiles, do the assignments I ask of them and ask perceptive questions.  I do not have the arrogance to think that I will be able to engage 100% of my students, although I won't stop trying to.

My issue and frustration is only in part due to my inability to engage a large percentage of my students.  The majority of my crisis comes from my seeming inability to stop those disengaged students from dragging the engaged ones away.

I do not mean this as a complaint about my students, their parents, my colleagues, my administration, my district, my state, or public education in general.  It is a statement of my own limitations and no more.

I acknowledge that perhaps more could be done by others, but I only have control over myself and my own actions.

A discussion with my 8/9 left me with a solid feeling that they have no idea what behavior is appropriate or how to react when gently corrected.  I don't even know how to begin fixing this situation.  Asking for things politely gets me accused of "being smart."

I am also falling into the same trap that I have for the past 5 years.  I have been focusing on the failures more so than the successes.  I DO have students who like coming to my class.  I DO have students who consistently do what I ask of them and, as a result, are progressing.  I desperately need to remember that.

The first half of this year was so great.  It had ups and down, but it was, overall, amazing.  Perhaps it was naive to think that it would last, but I did hope.

I will continue to hope.  In spite of the failures, the insults, the disrespect, the lack of connection, the lack of energy, I will continue to hope.

If I don't, who will?


  1. I really must buy If I don't, who will? Well, you might! I don't think I have time to buy it right now. Our Open House starts in an hour and I have to spend much of that hour on the phone with a support buddy of mine ... and meanwhile I am way behind on entering grades, so I'm going to do that now.

    Really appreciate your honesty and determination--your determination that has led you to CONTINUE to blog about this. Fight on! You've got this.

    1. It is getting harder to continue it. It's starting to feel as though I'm letting people down, although people appreciate my honesty. I'm told frequently that my posts resonate with people, which I find comforting. I wish it would also provide solutions...

  2. I think your frequently retweeted tweet is only partially right. A student will work for a teacher they like and respect, but what that "work" actually LOOKS like may still not meet some people's definitions of work. I have one chronically truant 11th grader who has been showing up to my class every day without fail since January. She comes in, gets her notebook, sits down and organizes it, takes some notes, and then falls into a deep, deep sleep. I can see that she is doing the very best that she can. It's just nowhere near what a kid with a different background could do. A child who grew up being read aloud to, playing developmentally enriching games, and feeling safe and contained arrives at middle school with advantages your kids (and you and I) cannot even imagine. But do not underestimate the power of compassionately showing up for these kids day after day after day. It is making an impression you can't see right now, and it will have ripple effects that last long after you've forgotten their names.

    - Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

  3. Justin, I don't know how I came across your blog, whatsoever... but I've now bookmarked it into my toolbar, it sits up there with only a few other websites I visit.

    I am not even a teacher and I find your blog very interesting, and I think "This man is not only on the way to become a better teacher, but a better person as well".

    Don't get tunnel vision though, take the time to sharpen your saw. Remember to take the time to improve other aspects of your life as well (Not just your teaching.) :)

    1. Thank you so much for finding your way here. I think everyone has aspects of their lives that they need/want to work on. I just seem to be airing my mental laundry in public. For some reason, that helps me work through it better.


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