Sunday, June 12, 2016

Passing the Test

Sorry if the title of this post has led you to believe that I am sharing some sort of secret to ensure test success.  This is not that post.  This is the post that I have been wanting to write for months, but didn't know how to say it or even how to start.

Year 4 has been my worst teaching year in my short career.  It's hard for me to pinpoint why exactly.  I was definitely in a funk all of last summer, exhausted much of the time despite the amount of rest I had.  I started the school year in a bit of a funk as well.  The strangest part is that I finally began to accomplish the work-life balance I've been longing for since I started teaching.  For the first time, I did not have to share my classroom with another teacher, and it was amazing.  I had two prep periods where I was actually able to prep.  I was finally able to re-use much of what I created and curated in the past.  And, I was finally able to shut my "teacher-brain" off when I was home, and take a break from thinking about work.  I had less work to do on nights and over weekends.  I still had work to do at home, but there was definitely less of it.  This year, I felt much more comfortable and confident in teaching my content.  I'm excited to spend this summer and next year really improving and perfecting how to teach each topic.

I know that  a definite part of why my year was so miserable was the student population I worked with this year.  I had about 20 students that really weren't ready for Geometry, that either barely made it through Algebra or didn't really make it through Algebra at all.  (Our school will allow students to continue on in math if they've received credit for Algebra, but didn't pass the Algebra Regents.  These students are then expected to pass the Regents in January, but without any real test prep.)  These students should not have been placed in Common Core Regents Geometry, and they did not want to be there.  These students have fought me just about every step of the way, and all I could do was try to make the best of it.

One of my greatest strengths as a teacher has been the bond that I create with my students.  I thought I completely failed at this aspect this year.  I have not felt close to my new students at all.  I was very surprised when in the last two weeks they asked me if I would be chaperoning their prom and senior trip (which is 1 and 2 years away).  I guess I haven't complete failed after all.

Throughout most of the year, I've felt totally and completely emotionally drained and exhausted.  Recently, I've been experiencing nausea on a daily basis, and I went to the doctor to find out that I am physically fine, and that my symptoms are just caused by stress.  I have been experiencing teacher burnout.  If you don't know about or understand teacher burnout, you can read about it here.  I know that burnout has negatively effected my teaching this year and my teacher-student relationships.  In the past few months, I've felt as though the figurative dark clouds have begun passing on.  I'm not sure what exactly it is that I've done to recover.  If I figure it out, I will write a post about it.  Maybe it's because summer is almost here, and tomorrow is my last day with the kids.  Maybe it's because I've accepted my situation and decided to try to make the best of it.  I don't know.  What I do know is that I've been tested this year.  I've had many days when I questioned becoming a teacher or thought about what I could do instead that would make me as happy as I was initially.  However, I know that I want to continue teaching, and I don't want to give it up.  I see this as passing a major test in my career.  No other career will allow me to share my love of mathematics with the students that I enjoy working with, and allow me to be creative.  This is still the career for me.

1 comment:

  1. Glad that you are still committed to it...

    Some ideas, take them or leave them.
    1) Really take the summer off (if you can afford to). Recharge, Relax, Refresh.
    2) When you are put in an impossible position (and odds are it will happen again, maybe not next year, but maybe yes next year), and you know that the target outcome is unlikely, think about smaller potential positive outcomes that you can help kids reach. Don't let anyone pull the "lower expectations" line on you. "Our goal is to to our best towards passing the Regents... some of us will get there, some of us may not, but along the way our goals are 1).... 2)... 3)...." guaranteeing that some degree of success is available to every (or almost every) kid.

    Kids might be a little less angry, and you might be a little less stressed.

    For you it's the same thing, right? Continue to grow and improve as a teacher is a good goal. Put kids in a position where some have a chance to pass the State test is another good goal. Getting 80% to pass the regents is not a great goal, if it is not realistic, and adds to stress, etc..

    Anyway, maybe not the greatest advice, but I thought it worth sharing.

    (followed you here from twitter)



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