Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Day 114: Go Home, February

One of the purposes of this blog is to show the struggles that I have, as well as the successes.  There is a ton of success-sharing in the online teacher community, but very little struggle-sharing.  I think this is because teachers are supposed to be seen as infallible educational experts.  In reality, we are people.

We have lessons that go well and others that don't.  We want our students to be ok with failure, to learn from it, but they won't unless we model that behavior.

I mention this because #MSMathChat last night was all about burn-out.  I've been thinking recently about changing careers.  This isn't because I don't love teaching anymore, but it's becoming harder and harder to not feel like a failure at this profession.  I'm not sure it's my students, my administration, my district, or just how I'm viewing my role and my goals.
Every time I express these sentiments, Megan Schmidt links me to blog posts where the author expresses similar difficulties.  This author teaches the same classes that I do with the same administration and population of students.

That author is me.  From last year.

Last night, during #MSMathChat, many of the participants expressed similar feelings of frustration, self-doubt and finally relief that they were not alone.  We also reminded each other of an incredible vital piece of information.

February sucks.  Like, a bunch.  March isn't much better.

I also need to remember that February and March suck for them too.

I calmly told my classes that I was done fighting with them.  I asked them if my expectations were unreasonable, or if they had changed since day one.  They said no on both counts.

So I spoke in low tones, patiently answering questions of the students who asked.  Kids who were overly disruptive were asked to go into the hall.

I didn't yell, I didn't scream.

I didn't insult anyone.  I didn't have snappy comebacks or sarcastic comments.

"Please stop talking.  You are making it difficult for others to learn."
**continues talking**
"Please step into the hallway please until you can choose to stop talking."

Once they realized that I wasn't going to be riled, but also was very serious about getting work done today, the remaining students settled down, moved closer to the board and we had a good discussion about functions and linear equations.

It was mostly material that we covered last month, but it's probably the most important thing that we do in Math 8, so I'm willing to take the time to cover it more thoroughly.

With all of that said, I was, again, unable to teach 8th period because of my inability to halt the disruptions of several of my students.  I am ashamed to admit that one of them pushed me WAY over the edge and I lost my cool.

I pulled him aside later and asked him what I need to do.

"We gotta fix this, man.  It's not working for you, it's not working for me.  What can we do?"
"I can talk less, pay attention more, man up to my actions."
"I think those are good starts, but I'm not putting this all on you.  This is an us thing.  What can I do for you?  What do you need ME to do?"
"Ok, that's fine.  Can you think about it?  I want you to be successful and I want to do what I can for you.  I can't do anything unless we work together."

It wasn't a solution,  but at least we didn't part as enemies.
A beautiful picture of the sky for the last month.

My year-end project for Geometry is going to be for them to create games, as I did last year.  This year, however, I am adding the extra piece that, if students want to, they will be able to put their games up on Kickstarter and see if they get funded.  I'm hoping this will add an element of motivation as well as a piece of algebra for determining how much money would be needed as a goal.  I'm pretty excited about this.  Now I just need to wait until that project...

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