Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The fear of teaching

Well, it happened.  I didn't want it to happen, but it did.  Here I am with my first post of the school year, and it is November 11th.  I am disappointed in myself because I truly wanted this to be a place where I could reflect on my experiences in the classroom this year on an ongoing basis, and for the first two months of the school year I have failed to do that.  I knew going into this that I would be busy, as teaching is much more than a 40-hour a week profession, but I am disappointed in myself for not making this a priority.  But, I don't think all is lost.  Taking a practice from my weekly meditation class, I am choosing to pause, relax, and open.  I am pausing and acknowledging the fact that I haven't updated like I wanted to, relaxing and forgiving myself so not keeping up, and opening up to the present moment and updating now.

So, how's the school year been going?  Ehhh.  It hasn't been going as well as I had hoped.

My students are definitely less mature than the past few years, which is not the end of the world because I have taught middle school for seven years now, so really nothing surprises me anymore, but I can definitely see that I have been spoiled the last two years.  I also made a choice this year to not use CMP3 as my primary curriculum, and that's probably been my biggest source of frustration, mainly because it's a choice I made out of fear of test scores.  The reality of my situation is that my kids have a test to take at the end of the year, and time to explore math in a meaningful way is not a luxury we have.  And I hate myself because I don't want to be that teacher at the end of the school year feeling like a failure because her kid's test scores were the lowest in the school.  I hate the fact that I am making classroom decisions out of fear.  I used the state curriculum, which is much more teacher-directed for my first unit and I was bored with my classes, so I can only imagine what my students thought.  We're not exploring.  My students aren't coming to the board to teach each other.  We're not coming up with our own notes.  It's just sad and I am unhappy.  Since finishing our first unit, I did make the decision to use CMP3 for our current unit on integers and rational numbers, so it has gotten better, but my classroom culture is still not where I want it to be, and that's disheartening.        

My ICT class is probably my biggest concern, for multiple reasons.  Like I said, student maturity is part of the reason, but also my co-teaching relationship is not functioning at 100% and it's challenging.  I don't want to go into more, out of respect for my colleagues, but it's a major concern of mine and I don't know how to improve the situation and I feel horrible because I know I am not functioning at my best and it's the students who suffer because of it.

That's the general background behind my school year so far.  Throughout the past two months, I did jot down ideas on my Reminders app of things I wanted to blog about on here, so I will share what I wrote...


  • "I am confident that my scholars will grow, but I am terrified that I will try everything and it still won't be enough..."
  • "All I see is algebra ahead of them and I feel a lot of pressure to be this bridge that they need, and it's overwhelming because I don't know if I can do it..."
  • "I want to look back at this post in 10 months and remember this feeling of dread and be proud of my scholars and myself for exceeding expectations and proving myself wrong."
  • "But what it I fall?  Oh, but my darling, what if you fly? - e.h.
  • (After seeing on my Timehop app how excited I was teaching with Connected Math two years ago and deciding to teach my next unit this year with CMP3 again) "I feel like a rebel.  Like I have been told not to do this (by my old self) and I am saying "to hell with it" and it is exhilarating!  I am so excited to plan and teach this way again, at least for this unit, because I know, in my heart that this is what's best."  My response to that is, that yes, in my heart I know that this is how I should be teaching middle school math, but I am being torn because what does the data say?  I am being crippled this year by fear of my students not passing a test.  Where did this come from?!  It's not making me a better teacher.  If anything, this fear is killing my fun, exploratory, exciting teacher self.
  • "A leader has to have a vision both inside the and outside the classroom... big picture."  I have been reflecting a lot about leadership this year and I really do not think that I am meant to be a leader because I cannot think outside my classroom.  This fear of low test scores proves that I am not a leader because if I was, I wouldn't care at all about stupid test scores at the end of the year, and teach the way that I know is best for my students as people.  I am a coward.
  • "Classroom teaching is nobel... and I want to be the best."  This is another reason I don't think I am meant to be a leader.  I (or at least I did) honestly enjoy teaching in my classroom.  I had no desire to leave and manage people as an administrator.  This year I am finding myself more and more not enjoying the classroom (again, the fear) and as a result wanting to leave the classroom.  And I don't like that about myself.  Teaching used to be fun.  Hard work, but fun.  And this year, it's just not.  "I don't want to do all the "others" of teaching anymore... like lesson planning, grading... these are a part of teaching, so maybe I really just don't want to teach anymore?"  How sad is that?
So even though I didn't post on here, I have reflected on the year so far, and it's rough.  Please don't get me wrong, there are still pockets of good, like I hear my students talking and working through exploring a problem together, or when I get excited about something in class and then they get excited about it or vise versa, or when my first instinct after I watch a good math video or read an interesting math article, my first instinct is to share it when them (I emailed this article out to my kids this morning because I learned something new), or when I see them struggling to make sense of something and I can ask them questions and see their face light up when they "get it" all on their own - those moments are still there, but there are variables this year that are holding me back.  

I hate that I am letting fear (both my own and outside pressure) into my classroom.  I have one of the most important jobs in the world, and am letting it take over who I am.  I am a coward.

I want to change.

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