About

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Always a Roller Coaster

One thing I learned early in my career is that teaching is one everlasting roller coaster of emotions. Quite frequently I'll have a day that makes me want to quit by the time the last bell rings followed by a day that leaves me feeling like I'd never want to try anything else.

I think this phenomenon was ESPECIALLY true my first year teaching. It seemed like practically every day I'd have wholly different feelings and emotions associated with my job than I did the day before.

I'm not sure if it's like this in other professions, although I'm sure it is to one degree or another, but anytime you're so emotionally invested in the lives of others (when you're, in fact, working for them to better their lives and their futures), I imagine this roller-coaster effect is a natural side effect.

I'm not sure if this ever goes away. I believe the highs and lows probably begin to come further apart from each other (one good week followed by one not-so-good week instead of day by day), and the severity of the extremes experienced on either end may also decline, but I suspect these back and forth emotions will always exist in such a profession to one degree or another - unless, of course, you're one of those teachers who's given up on caring about what you do.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I've been really feeling the effects of the roller-coaster as of late. This should be pretty obvious if you've been following my blog. (Three posts ago I'm talking about quitting, two posts ago I'm talking about feeling better, and in the last post I'm talking about quitting again.) This past week has been exactly the same. Monday through Thursday morning I was convinced I'd quit my school in January. I was even searching for jobs in other school districts, at the downtown DCPS office, on Capitol Hill, and I looked at applying to go back to school at GWU or the University of Maryland. Thursday afternoon through present I've been thinking I'll probably stay through June (and possibly even come back to the school next year). So there's the roller coaster for you.

I'm not at all like this in other aspects of my life. In my personal life I'm almost always confident in my decisions and rarely waiver in my resolve. I may take time to make a smart decision, but I never go back and forth to such extremes as I do in regard to teaching.

I was down early in the week because Sunday night I received an e-mail telling me to scrap a unit my colleagues and I had worked on for weeks because my department head prefers that we teach what he comes up with instead. The implication was that we don't know how to write objectives, essential questions, or enduring understandings.  After all that, having had my 3rd period changed four times, and some other details I don't feel comfortable posting on a public blog, I definitely had decided that I couldn't work at this school next semester.

But then I had a great day teaching and decided the school wasn't so bad (roller coaster climbing). I've come to that point in the year where I've finally, after all my fighting, managed to bend my classes to my will. It's not quite what it sounds like. It's not that I've broken their spirits or anything; it's just that I finally convinced the serious trouble-makers that the consequences for acting like an ass in my class will never be worth the modest positive reinforcement they get from their peers. It happens with every class. I fight, and I scrap, and I call home, and I refer kids when necessary, and I have numerous small side conversations with kids in the halls until they realize I won't give up. And then they do.

Now my classroom functions like a well-oiled machine. I ask for silence and I get it almost immediately. I tell them to work quietly and they do. I've proven to myself that I can survive the kids in DC. No, not every single one of them is passing or always paying attention, but they are at least willing to provide me with a learning environment where the ones who want to learn have the opportunity.

The question now is whether I can survive the administration, and one administrator in particular. Is the stress of it worth it? Last year over twenty teachers were fired, and I've heard that when you get fired, getting back into DCPS can be difficult.

So I'm still obviously up in the air. For this very moment, however, I'm going to sit back, watch the snow, and forget about all of this. Have a great weekend everyone!

5 comments:

  1. I can not believe you have to deal with administration that bad. Seriously, he wants you to teach so that anyone can come in and fill your shoes?! That is awful. Is it wrong that I read your blog because it makes me feel better about my teaching job? Way better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. weird...my last post has almost the same title. =)I totally agree, this is a job that can send you on the highest highs (and it doesn't take much to do that) and the lowest lows. I think I am good at this thing, and I can't think of another job I'd rather do, but it does rather take it out of you. Good luck with your decision. =)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Can you look for a transfer to another school, to get out from under this administrator? Don't shoot me if it's a horrid idea... I'm only a parent for a kid in one of their first years of elementary school. I read teacher blogs to figure out what is going on around here. But, I can tell that it seems like those who get entrenched can have a lot of pull in keeping things the "same as they always were." If they cause me angst as a parent and I don't have to work for them....

    Welp, for whatever it's worth your roller coaster ride isn't that different from some of us parents who are fortunate enough to have options like pull up stakes and move to the suburbs.

    Be well... keep working your boundaries... and know that any of us who take our work personally hit these issues no matter what our field (near as I can tell), though I can't help but think that those of you working directly with people have it harder depending on personality.

    ReplyDelete
  4. ooohhh new blog decs. Someone spent time doing this instead of grading. =)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm a first year teacher in DCPS and I totally relate to what you are saying about the roller coaster. I have days where I wonder how I'm going to keep doing this job and think about quitting, and then I have days where everything goes well and I'm really happy with my job.
    Thanks for posting this! I'm glad I'm not the only one.

    ReplyDelete