Week 13

I don't believe in superstitious things but this was my thirteenth week of teaching that ended on Friday the thirteenth and was decidedly the week of my first year slump. Last week ended badly and the trend continue this week. By Tuesday I was nearly in tears and was on the edge of disintegrating the entire day. All my students noticed and thought they were to blame. So I let them think it. I can't really even explain what happened. I felt lost and stuck at the same time. Although when you're lost, you have no idea where you are. And when you're stuck, you're absolutely sick of where you are. I was both.

Here is an excerpt from an email that I sent, begging for help.

"I have not been strict in my classroom management and now they get away with things. My problem is fairness. If a student I really like does something wrong I won't write them up. If a student I don't like as much does it, then I want to write them up. That's not fair so I don't write anyone up at all. It's more than one or two students though. It's the general consensus of the class- they decide when to pay attention, when to be quiet, when to participate. I'm not in control of any of it. The only reason the classroom isn't ridiculously crazy is that at least they like me. If they didn't, I know it could be even worse. I have already earned the friendship of my students, probably too much of it, so it's not that I'm worried about them liking me. It's that I want to be known as a fair teacher but I've become fair in such a way that no one gets into trouble. I made myself write up two kids on Monday but that didn't change much come Tuesday. It's a start I suppose. I spent all day Monday and Tuesday looking mad and just not talking very much. The kids knew I was mad but didn't know why and so just kind of left it alone. In my anger, I tend to clam up and say nothing. I don't yell but I start to make sarcastic comments and just cut people short. Immature, I know, and not a good way to teach. In addition to classroom management troubles, I don't like my teaching very much. My lectures and guided notes aren't getting through to the kids. Class is boring and I know it and so I don't blame their behavior. I'm tired of lecture, notes, homework. I've tried some group things and they participate better but they aren't learning, just copying the smart kid. Their recent quiz grades have been low and every Monday, it's like they've been brainwashed to everything they've ever known previously. I am just battling feelings of being ineffective. There are only 2 math teachers at my school. I teach algebra and geometry and he teaches the rest. I get so much support and encouragement on twitter but it's still not the same as having someone who knows my kids, my admin, my colleagues, my community, and me. I have complete freedom to do whatever I want but in that freedom is lack of critique and feedback. I have literally nothing to build on and I create (or steal) my own lessons every day and even I don't like them. lol There are such better ways and ideas and projects out there to do but I can't do them at this point. I don't have the time or support to plan and implement them on my own. I feel like I am in this cycle that won't end until next year and yet I can't possibly keep going this way for the rest of the year. And that is how I feel about that."

I got tons of support and advice from my co-workers and my Twitter friends. I think it was just a low that I had to reach. Thankfully, Wednesday was Veteran's Day and we were out of school. I definitely needed a day to sleep in, chill out, and get myself together. I have to be honest and hurt my pride a bit here. I didn't think it could happen to me. Teaching is my destiny, all I've ever wanted to do, everything I've dreamed of and no one as good as me would ever have to deal with failure. Right? Now get off the pedestal and deal with reality. This crap is hard. You can't do it alone. Some of the best advice I got was to not let the bad students bring me down. But when I do get down, I have my twitter friends to pull me back up. That made me realize that I've got to keep trying every day. Not that I was ever going to quit or give up but I slowed down and let my thoughts get the best of me. I let perfection get the best of me. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful and I don't have to be perfect to be effective. I'm here and I'm doing this, which is more than I can say for a lot of people. I've already achieved my life goal and I'm almost halfway through the hardest year of my career. It should be peachy from here on out, right? ;)

So Thursday comes. I taught a great lesson in Algebra on finding slope from a table. Even though I made it up in less than 20 minutes the night before, it turned out even better than I expected. The students made connections on their own and it was one of the first times I literally saw the lightbulb come on. That rocked. My day got off to a great start! I felt like I could do this again, that I was where I'm meant to be and hey, I'm pretty dang cute too! |(Sorry, just wanted to keep the ball rolling with all this positive thinking.)

I also came up with a new classroom management technique. I hate the cussing. I don't cuss and I absolutely detest it and think it is the epitome of ignorance. So I started the gift jar. Now if you cuss in my room, it's going to cost you. $.25 per word. If they can't pay today, their name goes up on the IOU list on the chalkboard. If they don't pay it the next day, it's a referral to the office for them. I told them that the gift jar money would go to the assistant principal who deals with discipline. Obviously no student wants that. lol Actually, my principal recommended I not do this because parents would get mad at me taking money from the students. My view, albeit a wrong one, is this: don't cuss. It's a rule. You're breaking it. I'm giving the students a second chance. It's their choice. Quarter or two hours of after school detention. Better yet, watch your mouth. They can't argue (although they do) because I should write them up the first time and so I'm doing them a favor. It has been 100% easier to enforce because I am offering them a second chance. If they refuse it, I'm off the hook for feeling guilty. Plus, it's fun because the students catch each other and make each other pay when I don't even hear. I just go along with it. The students asked if I would use the money to give them a party but I pointed out that I did not want to reward them for dirty language. So then they decided I should keep it for myself. :) Hey, a girl's got to keep her options open!

In other news, I'm getting to the point of geometry where my students are learning stuff they haven't previously known. Which makes it interesting and frustrating at the same time. They get frustrated with the struggle and shut down while I want to prolong the struggle and get them interested in thinking. Baby steps.

That'll do week 13, that'll do.


  1. if they cuss.. I make them do 10 push ups.. :)

  2. Remember that you're a first year teacher. You can't put the pressure on yourself to do everything well right away. What will you work on in future years if you get it all this year? ;) I'm being silly, but at the same time, be realistic. Every year, I look for one or two things to improve upon. I obviously try my best at every part of my job, but I spend effort working on those things. Try not to be too hard on yourself. You're doing well.

  3. justagirl,
    I don't think my girls could even do that many. Plus the whole idea of being that close to the floor just freaks me out.

    I can find PLENTY of things to work on, no doubt. Thanks for the encouragement.