|Started with this, thought better of it...|
As I type this, my geometry students are playing each others games. Their instructions for today were to play the game critically and provide constructive feedback for the creators. I'm looking around the room, watching them enjoy themselves, helping their peers refine creations and I am taking no joy in it.
All I am feeling is exhaustion, frustration and sadness.
Almost none of it is directed at this class, with the exception of the one group who did not complete a playable version of their game by today (when it was due yesterday). It's not fair for me to be this way in this class, but emotions do not obey the rules of logic and fairness.
I was out yesterday. I returned today to find heartbreak.
My room, as well as other parts of the school, was a disaster area.
In my absence, students in my pre-algebra class destroyed my Swingline stapler, used game pieces from the Geometry class games as projectiles, losing several, erased several items off of my various dry erase boards, tore things off of my wall, and left shredded paper everywhere.
In addition to this, one of the bathrooms was vandalized with toilet paper, unflushed toilets, papers thrown everywhere. There were several fights. This morning, there were a few more fights and we heard rumors that one of the busses stopped because the students riding it had torn out a seat.
I write all of this not as a way to complain about my school, my district, my administration or my coworkers. I truly believe that all of those parties are working very hard to make this the best place it can be.
I write all of this so that when I finish typing this post, and some time in the future when I come back to read it and reflect on this year as a whole, I don't put all of the blame on myself.
If the building had a great day yesterday and it was just my class in chaos, I would have no one else to which to look for why my room was destroyed. Clearly, something else (or several somethings) was at play yesterday, and to be honest, for the last few weeks. Something that is bigger than my classroom, my teaching, my interactions with the students.
Even having typed this, it's very hard not to feel like a failure. I feel as though I failed to earn sufficient respect from those students to keep them from ... I don't even know what. I'm at a complete loss.
With all of the success that I've had with the geometry students, ...or maybe not!
I know that they've enjoyed to coming to my class, but I'm not 100% confident that they learned what I wanted them to learn. I know it's much more complicated and, as I've written before, I may have planted seeds that will take years to sprout.
Even after having most of the day to cool down and think about how to talk to them, I didn't trust myself to interact with my period 8/9. I was so angry at them for the lack of respect for me, my classroom, my profession, their peers, etc. that I put on an episode of Cosmos, which they promptly talked over.
The following is a comment that I left on the blog of a colleague who is considering leaving teaching. Rather than edit it, I've copied it here wholesale in the hopes that my emotions will be adequately conveyed.
This speaks to the heart of me. With all of the amazing things that I think I may have done this year, something tears at the very core of my being that tells me that I need to be doing something else.
I will never be one to try to talk someone out of leaving teaching because I know how completely insane this is and can make someone. I have had many days where I left so angry that I was shaking, as well as days that I've sat in my car and cried in frustration. My first month in my current position, I can count on 1 hand the number of times that I didn't cry.
With that said, there have been tons of days that have been rewarding and I have met some amazing people, teachers, students, parents and administrators.
With all of the growth that I've had this year, with all of the amazing people I've met and the amazing opportunities that have opened up for me, I, too, am considering quitting.
I don't know if it's my district, my school, my students, or my inability to do this job the way I want that is causing my burnout, but it's happening.
Before Twitter and the MTBoS, I had planned this to be my last year. I was going to bring books, give busy work and kick my feet up on the desk while I applied for non-education jobs. The only reason why I stayed in teaching this year was to get my loan forgiveness. Now that's been applied for and I'm not beholden to teach where I do.
As much as I've done this year, as much as I have enjoyed it SO much more than in previous years, it's not enough. A few years ago, a coworker said that she loves working in this district because she knows that there is so much good she can do.
My response at the time was "I don't want to 'do good.' I want to enjoy what I do."
I have enjoyed my geometry class an incredible amount. They have made it worth coming to school and without them, I would have burned out in October, like I did in previous years. I'm honestly surprised that I lasted this long. I owe that longevity entirely to the teachers and administrators that I've met online.
Sadly, I'm back to the crying, to the anger, to the feigned indifference as a defense mechanism. I may feel differently once summer arrives and I've had some distance from the year and time to adequately reflect, but for now, I can't help but feeling as though I have failed my pre-algebra students in a monumental way.
Failed them in a way that I don't know how to correct and leads me again to the conclusion that perhaps this profession is not the one for me.
I love teaching. I love watching students discover things that they didn't understand and formulate their own questions that will take them deeper into a subject matter.
But after a year and without seeing any progress with the most needy of children, it's hard to draw any other conclusion. Perhaps, after years of honing my practice and discussions with other educators, networking and collaborating, I might be able to get where I want to be. But I am not a patient man and I don't have the energy to wait that long.
So the fact remains: If I don't find a job at a different school in the next year or two, I will have to leave teaching. I have to know if the reason that I'm failing is because I'm not in an environment in which I can thrive, or because I haven't reached a balance yet, or because teaching is not what I should be doing.
I don't have an answer for you except that you have to go where your heart leads you. If that is out of teaching, many students will be worse off, but you have to look out for you.
I will always be here if you wish to talk.
Thank you for allowing me to use your comments section to work some things out.