Reality Bites

After teaching the same grades and the same subjects for the past four years I felt I was finally becoming a much better teacher.  I still had terrible teaching days.  And never did a day go by that I did not plan to make my lessons better for next year. 

But now I am new again.  New school, new subjects, new colleagues, new kids, new everything.  Subjects I’ve never taught.  And I feel pretty sucky again.  I am back at the beginning.  But it is worse now.  Because when I was sucky before, I didn’t realize how sucky I was.  But, after working so hard for the past four years to get better, and then actually having moments when I WAS better, I now know just how bad I am.  And it is killing me.  I am working non-stop to make it better.  But there are not enough hours in the day.  You don’t become better instantly just by knowing what it feels like and wanting it.  It takes time.  It takes time to truly know your subject and to curate your resources.  It takes time to develop an amazing lesson, much less an amazing curriculum.

I have to develop the lessons because I CANNOT with a straight face go in and teach this example for histograms.  I know it would make my life so much easier, but I CAN NOT DO IT.  I mean, I doubt any of my students even know what an MP3 player IS.  

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Also, middle school students give you their souls on day 1.  They are still little kids and they just trust you from the start.  But I quickly remembered that high school students do not.  You have to earn their trust.  You have to prove to them that you do care about them and that you will work hard for them.  Then they will trust you and work hard for you.  To earn their trust I work hard on my lessons for them.  I try to make it engaging so they will know that I care, I try to make it about them so they will be interested in the math.  So I do this instead, but it takes time. 

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Thankfully, I have a wonderful community of people that have been there before, and are willing to help me.  I don’t have to recreate the wheel.  (How did people even TEACH before blogs and Twitter?!?)  However, it still takes time finding all of these wheels and then tailoring them to my needs.  But I can’t even do this for every lesson for every day, and it’s killing me.  I need to sleep.  I need to be a Mom.  I hate being a perfectionist.  Reality Bites. 

16 thoughts on “Reality Bites

  1. Julie – love your reflection. I can empathize … starting over is so much more difficult than I imagined it would be.

    I wonder how your teens would feel or respond if you showed them the textbook problem, told them you thought it was lame, and asked them how to redo it. I wonder what data they might suggest.

    • Thank you so much Beth. You said it exactly, I had no idea it would be this difficult to start over!

      That’s a great suggestion about asking them! I’ve been very honest so far with my students, so this could work. I’m just also afraid of running out of time during the lesson. I’m on a tight schedule and seem to teach too slowly (or something) as it is.

      Thanks again for your kind words.

      • The school I am in has a strict schedule. I’m always battling time. I think that’s because we want to teach for meaning and depth, not just hit the skill.

        This year I’m trying short HW assignments that help students prep for the next lesson so that we can have more meaningful conversations. It is a challenge but I’m seeing some benefits.

        Your students are blessed to have you as their teacher!

  2. Julie, this was a great post. I left middle school for high school this year also, and I can relate with what you wrote.It has been fun and good, but boy has it ever highlighted my weaknesses. Keep working hard; it seems like you are doing great!

  3. I know your feelings all too well. I was lucky enough to have one prep all of my career and don’t know if I could have survived without it. Last year, I switched to Geometry and loved the content, but hated my lessons. Being a new teacher in a new content really is not fun. This year is better because of your amazing ideas and others from MBToS as well as realizing how easy or tough every topic is for the students. I am still dumbfounded by the importance of the definition of an angle and of a bisector. Thanks for hosting #geomchat and getting me out of the woodwork to learn and share.

  4. Your post really helps show why great teaching is hard work. I am thinking about education reformers who think it’s just about recruiting the “right” people into the classroom. It’s not about passion or being smart. It’s a long hard slog, and I have come to terms with the idea that I just won’t be great, at least not every day, not even close to everyday. I think it’s ok.

  5. This is why man invented wine.

    Know that you’re not alone, and I feel you. Especially with Algebra 2. The only upside is that we have a great community to help support us. And great apps on our phones that help us to count down to the nearest vacation.

    And when you get through this year, you make next year better. And in the interim try to remember that this year isn’t as bad as you think it is, we’re our worst critics.

  6. Julie, honestly, your post made me feel better about myself. You have always been one of those role models for me of perfect teacher…perfect mom…perfectly impossible for me to emulate. Seeing you deal with readjustment is a reassuring thing for me. You have a great perspective about it though. You know it is a temporary thing and you are going to get there…you’ve done it before and you will again. And more rapidly this time because of the skills you developed during the first mountain climb. Thanks for continuing to be one of my heroes…and an even more accessible one now. =D

  7. Hi Julie,
    Empathy here. I’m in a new subject area and have curriculum to write as well, and it’s exhausting and I am really insecure about my own suckiness.
    In the end, you’ll be glad you made the switch. You were probably ready for a change. Some days are going to beat you down, but I think you like learning new things and this is a just-right challenge for you. Algebra II can be a tough course to develop inquiry learning because not many teachers do it, so it can be lonely. But it’s the right thing to do.

  8. You know it only takes one, right? One lesson clicks and it changes EVERYTHING. Suddenly you are walking out to your car whistling. You haven’t forgotten how to teach. You just haven’t hit your stride yet.

    And you will… soon. Promise.

  9. Throw away the book and get some real data. Perfect!
    I taught statistics for years to a wide variety of college students, and I avoided predigested data as far as humanly possible. There are so many places to get real data from, and since they get it they are already thinking about it.
    Wait till you hit correlation and lines of regression!!!

  10. I feel your frustration. I’ve been teaching 7th and 8th grade math for 9 years. I am now teaching a 3/4 split! Yikes! One day at a time 🙂

  11. Pingback: Realizing When You Suck (9/9/14) | Daily Dose of Teaching Awesome

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