Meaghan and I are often on the same page about most things, so it comes as no surprise that her post from the other day convinced me to write down my own thoughts around the similar topic. Yes, we work hard. Yes, we plan and implement really cool and unique learning opportunities in our respective classrooms. Yes, we blog about all the hard work and cool stuff we do. And yes, we rarely post about the fails we encounter, the letdowns we experience and the downright “I give up” moments that are actually very common.
Lately I’ve been feeling somewhat sub par about this whole teaching thing. Thoughts like, “What am I even doing?”, “Who do I think I am?” and “Why am I even trying?” filter in and out of my mind on the daily when I’m at school. Some days I feel like I probably won’t make it to the next academic block without losing it. Other days I resort to the most lame lessons and worksheets because I’m at my wits end and can’t think of anything better to do. Some days I wonder if all my hard work and effort is even worth it, because the rewards are few are far between. I think this is called survival mode. Since November I have mostly been teaching in “survival mode”. I do work at two of the most at risk, high needs schools in our district so even situations like students not having food to eat are part of my daily routine and it breaks my heart. I have given my lunch to students more than once since I started back to work in November.
This job is so much more than most people think.
Recently I have been having a lot of success with my students in science! I have been photocopying two or three pages from a textbook that is not at grade level and creating my own “worksheet” compiled of a few vocabulary words and one or two questions on the topic (right now it’s the earth’s crust). Two weeks in a row I have had all my students complete their science tasks in class and get good marks on their work. Two weeks in a row I have had all my students sit silently, pencils in hand and work for fifteen uninterrupted minutes. Two weeks in a row I have literally cheered (in my head) because my class is doing work and handing it in and getting the answers right. While some of my students are able to go above and beyond with their academic work, this below grade level “information gathering” stuff is where the majority of my class is at in science right now. Differentiating lessons and assignments is a mountain of a task and I am basically plodding one foot in front of the other, trying to make it work for every single person. However, right now we are all finding success in science, and being successful feels good. So this is how we’re tackling it right now. But I wish we could do more…
This job is so hard. I can’t meet the needs of all my students.
I am struggling in a big way being a part-time teacher. I compare myself constantly to the teacher I was two years ago working full-time in a different at-risk, high needs grade 8 class. Two years ago I worked twelve hours a day, six days a week and it still wasn’t enough. Two years ago I cried on average twice a week over some situation or other that was related to my job. Two years ago I spent all my own money on my students and my classroom because I didn’t know that classroom funds even existed. Two years ago I didn’t have a child of my own, so I can no longer be the teacher I was then.
The hardest part for me this year has been the disconnect working part-time provides. I am completely, 100% on throughout Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday I catch my breath and then on Friday I’m back at it. From Wednesday through Friday I miss out on the activities at one school, while Monday through Thursday I miss out on the activities at my other school. I’m kind of like a glorified TOC doing the work of a full-time classroom teacher. I knew this going into the year because people warned me it would be this way. I’m having a hard time this year because connections with students are more challenging when you’re their teacher only one or two days a week. Making connections is where I excel within the realm of teaching – it is my greatest strength – but this year I feel like I am so bad at it. It’s easy for me to say, “Oh, I don’t even care” this year…
But I do care.
Meaghan and I, we have our extreme weaknesses in teaching. Yes, we post all the good things (all of them!) But we shy away from publicly sharing the tough, hard stuff because it’s exhausting, because we are exhausted, and because putting it on the internet makes us vulnerable. This week you’ve got a dose of our low, negative selves. We hope you can understand our realness shining through our words and reflections. Thanks for lending your support; we know you’ve all been in this exact same position at least once or twice!