Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

Beaten Down January 23, 2011

Filed under: Teaching — Jen @ 8:01 pm

Thursday was the worst day in my teaching career (that I remember).  It was the culmination of a week of last minute and unrealistic requests placed on my team.  I went to bed at midnight each night because of the extra work we were expected to have completed for a last minute meeting on Thursday afternoon.

My kids have been bullying each other recently.

Report cards were going home on Thursday.  My principal wanted me to adjust my grades.

Recent test data has come back in reading, math, and writing.  Guess whose class is at or near the bottom in every subject?

What I feel every moment of every day when I see how awful my students treat each other, when I see how much they don’t care about school, when I have test data hanging over my head like a big threat, is what an awful teacher I am.  If I were a good teacher, my kids would like school, they’d want to work for me, I’d be able to model respect and they’d want to follow, I’d be able to get them to improve their scores.

On Thursday the language arts specialist came into my room to see how I’m doing literature circles.  I had never heard of literature circles before this school.  I’ve never seen one facilitated.  The specialist doesn’t like to model because she wants me to find my own style.  So I try to do what she tells me.  I try to envision in my mind what she expects me to do.  I try it and fail.  She literally asked me to step out of my teacher seat so that she could take over.  What do my students see?  Ms. Hubers can’t teach.  How do I feel?  I can’t teach.

Then two of my girls got into a fight.  They exchanged words because one girl bumped into the other girl’s desk.  Then they started pushing.

My report cards and report card comments were not in my mailbox during planning.  They were not there during lunch.  I started to panic – how would I get them in their envelopes and passed back by the end of the day?

As I brought my students back from lunch, a student was playing around at the back of the line.  I had already gotten on her several times for playing around in line (and in class and at lunch).  As I turned to lead the class into the room, she yelled, “Racist!”  I whipped around and said, “What did you just call me?”  She said in surprise, “What?  I didn’t say anything.”  That set the rest of the class off:  “What?!”  “Are you kidding?”  “Seriously?”  “You liar!”  I called her out of line and got in her face:  “Tell me to my face why you would call me such an ugly thing.”  She looked me right in the eye and said, “What?  I didn’t say anything.  I said, “macist”.  I don’t even know what that word mean.”  The class would not calm down, and I was so angry I couldn’t even think straight enough about how to best deal with her.  I sent her to my partner teacher because I needed the time out from her.

Just before my meeting, I went to the work room to see if my report cards were there yet.  Nothing.  I saw the AP, and she said she was waiting for my comments.  I told her I gave them to her.  She said she was waiting on the two that she put in my box that morning to correct.  It was two typos I needed to fix.  There was no note on there saying she needed them back.  Every other school I’ve been in would trust me as a professional to fix the typos and send home the corrected copies.  She told me to bring the corrections to her then she could make copies of everything and give me my set to send home.  My meeting was starting in a minute, and dismissal was in an hour.

I walked into my room and started crying.  I feel beaten down.  Again and again and again.  With every interaction with a specialist or administration.  With every team meeting.  With every spreadsheet of test data.  With every lesson I try to teach.  With every piece of positive feedback I don’t hear.  With every piece of negative feedback I do.  I have never heard positive feedback given to anyone in the building.  Ever.  The only encouragement I’ve received is from the behavior interventionist, who has observed my room because the AP is concerned about my classroom management.  She told me I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing.  We just need to figure out what will connect with these kids.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop to finish all the work I need to do for the week.  The work that will not be good enough for those above me.  The work that I did for hours on a Saturday night instead of hanging out with friends.  The work that I’m doing all day today instead of having lunch with friends or going to a prayer meeting this afternoon.  The grading and the lesson planning that nags me and taunts me and whispers over and over about how awful I am at this job.


4 Responses to “Beaten Down”

  1. Sara Says:

    I am a teacher in DFW and I have been feeling very worn out and beat down emotionally. I understand the pressure and the feeling of not being a good enough teacher. I get overwhelmed and have a heaviness in my heart most days.

    On my worst days, I try to remember that these times help me to grow closer to God, and to help me grow in my faith. When I dread getting up to face another crazy day, I try to focus on the positive things in my life and refuse to let my emotions get the best of me. Please stay strong!
    I’ll be praying for you 🙂

  2. brooke Says:

    ah jen, i’m sorry about this terrible day. i know you’re working hard and doing your best. that’s all you can do. i love you a lot.

  3. Kacie Says:

    oh my gosh, I wish I could send you in for a massage and a meal out with friends! What a rotten week…

    I just read yesterday in my group Bible study…
    “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

    I’m sure you’re not a bad teacher, because you were a great reentry leader, and you did teaching in that context. Thing is you’re working in a sucky environment and sometimes it’ll be like beating your head against a wall in trying to do anything redemptive. Sounds like today you have a bloody head from all that wall-beating!

  4. davyellen17 Says:

    Jen, I am so sorry it has been so hard. It sounds really awful. And you know, it is awful sometimes. But I think that education (the system) in general right now is crazy. And we are in it. I feel like a sheep in wolves clothing. Educators are wolves right now. Hungry for results. But I am just remembering that it is my job to give grace, even when they (and I) don’t deserve it one iota. Hang in there. But the school sounds bad. Seriously. I wish you were somewhere more encouraging. And don’t let the test results and behaviors get you too worked up. I’m not sure we can change many kids, or even help them too much. There are only a few that really respond. It sounds awful, but I know it is true. Like I said, hang in there, drink a beer, go on a bike ride or a walk, and just love those kids like you do every day. You are doing better than you think.

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