Exorcising Teacher Demons (or “I’m going to vent for 600 words and you don’t have to read it”)

My kids are lazy, selfish, and possibly stupid and they don’t appreciate anything I do.

They’re also hilarious, brilliant, and weird in a good way, and I’m completely failing them.

Which of those I believe at any given moment depends on which demons have been whispering in my ear at any particular point during the day.  It’s like the whole cast of Inside Out is whispering in my ear all day long.

From left: “You can’t teach” “You’re not doing any good” “Teaching is amazing!” “STOP TALKING SO HELP ME GOD” “Ugh these kids”

Obviously the truth is that my kids are people, and people are complicated. Especially people who aren’t quite done cooking yet.  Teaching undercooked people is tough. Teaching them a subject that it’s apparently socially acceptable to be bad at is more tough. And actually giving a shit makes the whole thing extra tough.

I’ve been having a rough couple of weeks. Despite my almost week and a half off for winter break, I’m exhausted and stressed out. Assessment results tell me my kids aren’t learning, and inter-visitations have been more constructive than supportive. Which is good, on the one hand, because I know I have a lot of things to work on. But it’s exhausting, too.  So I weave back and forth between “I’m doing my job, the kids are just too dense to get it” and “I’m awful at this job, these kids should have someone else.”

Neither of those things are true, of course. Or at least not completely true. There are kids that are difficult and should care more, and there are definitely things I could be doing better. It just gets harder to realize that after your fourth class in a row of blank stares and off-topic conversations. Why are you not working? Why are you not getting this? Why are you completing the classwork and homework but failing my tests and quizzes? Why are you telling me you can’t make-up my quiz today because you have to make-up your History quiz? Why didn’t I remember to follow-up with the four students who were supposed to come for help and didn’t?  Why did I think this explanation would make sense to anyone?  Why do these kids ever listen to me?

It’s really awful sometimes. I love my job, and I love my career even more, but it’s still awful. Especially when it’s cold and I’ve put on weight that I don’t have the energy to lose and blah blah blah. I know it sounds like I’m whining, but I’m really just venting. Today we did a Consultancy protocol in our new-teacher meeting, and I was on stage. My dilemma was “I want to create a safe space in my classroom” and the conversation turned to “Well it sounds like he just hasn’t set up a good classroom culture”.  Thanks team.

Part of me keeps telling myself “You’re doing the best you can, and it’s only your second year, and your first year was unspeakably bad, so don’t expect the world.” Then the aforementioned demons grab the voice of reason and wrestle him back into a closet so he can’t spout any more of his nonsense.

But my lovely co-planner had a point: “If you were asked to come up with 10 things that you’re doing well this year, you could do it”. So that’s what I’m going to do to exorcise some of these demons.

10 Good Things:

1) My kids are now so afraid of killing puppies or kittens that they don’t fuck up distributing exponents or simplifying rationals. Seriously, only two students out of 112 incorrectly tried to simplify part of a polynomial on the last test.

2) Several students came to me to ask for recommendations, telling me I was the best teacher they had this year because I explain things in an engaging and fun way.

3) I can get the class under control by counting to 3. And when I make the universal “Shhhh” gesture they actually stop talking.

4) I’ve made some very good lessons for the Algebra/Geometry hybrid class I have.

5) I’ve been told by several members of my department that I’m a good addition to the department and a good fit for the school.

6)  Kids have started saying “Divide to one” instead of cancel, and they know that if they say FOIL or “Plug In” I will jump on them.

7)  My “Cards of Destiny” cold-calling system has improved who I hear from. I’m not getting 100% participation but it keeps me honest about who I call on.

8)  This year planning takes me maybe two hours if I’m being super lazy, rather than 6 hours of stress that doesn’t even pay off anyway.

9)  I have much more of a balance of “I’ve had a long day, so I’m just going to sit and watch TV, and this grading will have to wait until tomorrow” than I ever had last year. Granted I’m always behind on grading, but I’m at peace with it.

10) I’ve developed a reputation in my department as being super well connected with different resources thanks to the awesome Math Twitter Blogosphere (and my Professional Learning Community has increased dramatically)

This doesn’t kill the demons, just shuts them up for a while. I have to grade some quizzes tonight which will wake them up again, but it’s the little things.

Until next time.

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11 thoughts on “Exorcising Teacher Demons (or “I’m going to vent for 600 words and you don’t have to read it”)

  1. If it makes you feel better (or worse?), I have the same bipolar thoughts about my teaching, and I’ve been at this 14 years.

    Hope you feel better after your top ten list! I think I will have my students do this in class one day…list 10 things they are really good at in math class! 🙂

  2. Keep on plugging. Put sticky notes on your lessons and make suggestions, list confusion-useful questions and insights and know that even those of us who have done this a while struggle frequently with the same issues.

    Keep blogging and I will keep reading

    Keep warm and sane and know that summer is hust a few months away

  3. It sounds like you have lots of great things going on in your classroom. This is my 25th year of teaching and the workload has become unmanageable IMO. Do the best you can every day and be kind to yourself. Teaching is hard work! Lots of teachers are doing #whole30 (you can see post on Instagram). It’s eating healthy non processed foods for 30 days. Not for the faint of hard because you have to give up lots, but today is Day 11 and I am feeling great and not at all deprived. Good luck and keep fighting the good fight!

  4. Pingback: 10 Good Things | Insert Clever Math Pun Here

    • It’s literally just a stack of colored index cards with student names on them. I put them in a card box and wrote “Cards of Destiny” on them. and when kids get called on and whine, I say “Sorry, destiny called”

  5. It’s hard to feel good at something that involves so many people who need to be challenged daily, especially when you’re new. It’s great to hear you challenging yourself through your posts, as it must help you make sense of the question you posed “is it me, or is it the kids?” It might not feel like you’re on top of the world yet, but don’t let that make you think your flaws deserve more of your mental energy than your successes. Thanks for writing this!

  6. Stay positive– the good days eventually start to outnumber the outright awful ones. Your question to your PLC sounded valid & worthwhile to revisit just maybe with a different group of consultants 🙂

  7. Pingback: #10goodthings I’ve Learned This Year | The Learning Kaleidoscope

  8. Pingback: What’s Working/What’s Not | Her Mathness

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