No-vember

November 17, 2009 at 4:12 pm 8 comments

See, I knew that November sucked.

This is a chart that my district provided to us “new-to-the-district” teachers at one of our in-service meetings.

You may remember that I posted a similar graph during my student teaching. It charted the highs and lows, emotionally speaking, of the student teaching experience. Looking at it, I wonder if the roller coaster ride isn’t more about teaching in general than specifically student teaching.

It’s November, and I’m firmly in Disillusionmentville. (I’m hoping that I’m ahead of the curve, so to speak, and that I don’t really have five months of this to look forward to.) I don’t really like my classes very much. I’m not crazy about what I’m teaching. My students are making me crankier and crankier. I’m not even enjoying NaNoWriMo.

I was really excited about moving to high school. Not only would there be all of those great high school-y things (sports, band, dances, events, graduation) but I’ve have students at a higher cognitive level with more life experiences – students who would get my jokes and be able to dig deeper into things. Well, the events and whatnot are here, but not worth it. And the higher cognitive level is totally absent. I’m pretty sure that my seventh graders were brighter than the majority of these kids, and certainly more motivated.

This is depressing. I am not enjoying this.

My school doesn’t believe in Honors English. Juniors and seniors have the opportunity for CP and AP classes, or classes tailored to their interests in their academies, but underclassmen are all lumped in together. As a result, I might have 3-4 smart cookies in the class, but they’re totally buried by the kids who are being forced to be here and who hate being in school and who especially hate being forced to learn about writing and literature. I don’t mind the “average” or even the struggling kids – they’re charming and hardworking and surprising. But there are so many totally apathetic kids that it makes it really, really hard.

Some days this feels like drudgework. I look out at the class. I’ve got a great lesson on a subject I care about, and it’s not like we’re doing predicates here, I’m talking about swashbuckling adventure novels and how Shrek uses parody and incongruity to satirize fairy tales and gender roles and how The Princess Bride is a satire and how it and The Princess Diaries are Ruritarian romances. And across the room, I see blank faces, tops of heads, rolling eyes, smirks as kids communicate wordlessly across the room. They don’t care. They don’t care when I read a section of The Princess Bride aloud and bellow about my broken radio at the top of my lungs. They don’t care when I show them the different movies being parodied when Fiona beats up Robin Hood and the Merry Men. They don’t care when I say that their 100-point essay is due next class, because they’re not going to write it anyway.

Is it me? Is it them? Is it just November? Has anyone charted student morale? Is it possible that the students hit a wall in November, and that their apathy and lack of motivation have this big a drain on teacher morale? Or is the low teacher morale leaking out and affecting student enthusiasm?

Or is it just teaching?

Look at that chart again. Here, I’ll even re-paste it so you don’t have to scroll up.

When I was counting the months of “disillusionment” I realized that they stretched from November through May. That’s practically the entire school year. According to this chart, teachers spend the first quarter barely getting by, the fourth quarter reflecting on everything that went wrong (and hopefully, how to improve it) and everything else during the school year is just dreadful. The only high point on the chart is during the summer months.

That’s not what I think teaching is like. Not really. The best part of being a teacher is not June, July, and August. I love teaching.

Don’t I?

Exactly which part of that chart isn’t accurate, Mrs. Bees?

Well, hopefully the part where the bottom of the curve lasts for two entire quarters…

I don’t want to mislead anyone. I’m in no danger of burning out on teaching – this is, still, the best job I’ve ever had, and I love it. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that, as of right now, I’m not sure that high school is the best fit for me. I miss my short, sincere, silly little twelve-year-olds. They can’t grasp metaphor, they can’t remember deodorant, and they can’t shoot hoops, but they at least act like they like me.

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Entry filed under: BAD DAY, NEW SCHOOL.

Need a Fairy Godmother! Little Known Facts

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rachel  |  November 17, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    My district showed this to me during my first year (I’m in my 3rd year now) and I remember feeling the same way. I couldn’t believe what I’d gotten into and I was truly exhausted and mentally drained all year long. Hang in there. Year two is better. It’s still incredibly hard and tiring, but much better. 🙂

    Reply
  • 2. OKP  |  November 17, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    I’m in my eleventh year, but my first year in a new prep. I am this curve right now.

    I work at a 7-12, and I’ve noticed that there are some teachers whose hearts, mind, and skills lend themselves to middle school. Maybe you’ll find your sweet spot for high school. But either way, the year will get better.

    Reply
  • 3. teachin'  |  November 17, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Jumping on the I’m-feeling-this-way bandwagon. For me, it’s at least in part because of our turmoil, but…..I’m with you. It’s a tough time.

    (I”m a middle school person too – you may find a love for high school too, but there’s nothing wrong with loving those tween and early teen punks. You can always go back to it!)

    Reply
  • 4. Molly  |  November 18, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I feel your pain…and can offer no enthusiasm or cheer-up-i-ness, since I am in the same boat. I’m a first year English teacher, after filling in long term sub positions for 2 years, and I’m spent.

    Just know you aren’t alone.

    Reply
  • 5. Stixen  |  November 26, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Well, I’m certainly NOT a teacher, but oh how I remember being a student (and watching the HS kids I coached, for a few years)

    I’d say that’s a student chart too. You’re all excited for the new school year – you’re all ready to meet new people and do new stuff

    and then it’s just the same thing from last year, only they call you something different. So you start looking forwards to the holidays, LONGING for winter break to be here NOW – because it’s time OFF of school. And then you’re bummed after the holidays because you had to go back. And you can’t think of anything except getting to spring break. And then, the end of the year is in sight, and it’s almost that blessed summer vacation…

    Reply
  • 6. Julie  |  December 4, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    i love this post. everything you said is so, so true and a lot of ed people (most especially the ones who aren’t in classrooms) don’t talk about stuff like this. i am feeling the doldrums and frustration bigtime.
    i remember during my first year, when every single day was a battle, looking back and thinking that around february ish things got a little better. i can’t remember much about my other years of teaching (as it has wiped my brainpower :D) but i do know that oct/nov/dec always seems the hardest.
    so here’s hoping that it doesn’t take until may to see some improvement!

    i’ve been in middle school (the lower end) for five years and now i’m in upper elementary. and you’re right, they are silly and weird and there’s a lot they don’t know, but they are much sweeter than the older kids. i have to remind myself of that a lot even though i can’t help but laugh at their goofiness. 🙂

    Reply
  • 7. Ms. Lee  |  November 4, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Oh my gosh, I’m stealing this chart and re-blogging it. It is SO true!!!

    Reply
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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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