A burn-out story 

How does one continue in a career when the passion is gone? How does one regain the love that once existed for a very important job? 

I am a teacher. I have been in the profession for 25 years and while I have had bad days, weeks or even months in this profession,  I  can not say that I  have felt so “done” and so ineffective in the classroom. When I  started out, I  had a plan. I had planned to stay in the class for at least 15 years and be ready for an education -related job for the last 10 so that I  would never be one of those teachers who should not be teaching.  I started my plan by working on my Master’s degree  in administration.  I started, and a year in, a job opened up at the high school level that I  figured would help. In order to stay, I switched  my master’s  to Secondary English Education with plans for a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. Life happened, a divorce happened and my plan began to fall apart. I continued  to enjoy the class and decided  that it must be my calling to be in the classroom until retirement.

Life, again, happened. I found the person who would teach me what it was to live life. I remarried and I  was indescribably  happy. Even with that, I  had a year with 4 preps, difficult students and large classes. My burn-out began. Even though at the end of that year, I was exhausted and questioning  my effectiveness  in the classroom,  I returned the following school year  with a wonderful schedule and smaller classes. My hope had been restored. Unfortunately, that lasted until October when my husband of only 3 1/2 years was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma,  a rapid, devastating  cancer of the bile duct. I was in and out of classes all year. I was blessed with support from the superintendent who made it possible for me to be out when I needed it.By June, my husband  was gone. My life fell apart and things have not been the same. 

I returned to work in late July to 3 preps, larger classes and a class I had not taught in a while and had been redesigned since. Everyone kept telling get me that going back to work would be good for me. They were terribly  wrong. I  could not concentrate,  I  could not handle deadlines, I  couldn’t handle the students and I was horribly ineffective.  Again, the superintendent stepped in and sent me to a counselor. The counselor determined that if I was to make it, I  would need an additional  planning period. This was arranged for me but not without backlash.I was asked “can’t you just stay after school and get things done ?” and “Do you think this will really help?” I was mortified. I had to call the counselor to talk me down. I wanted to walk out. 

Fast forward a few months and things were so much better. I was able to handle things better, but I was still losing my passion. I was and still am, just going through the motions, showing up, completing tasks and doing it all over again the next day. Also, there are those who are saying ” it’s been long enough, what’s her problem?” As the weeks pass, I have found I no longer care. I don’t know the problem; I do know that the passion I had for teaching is gone. Completely  depleted. While I  have always been able to find my way back, I can’t this time. Now, with a 25-year investment in my career, I  need a different direction.  However, again, I  don’t know what to do. Personally,  things are much better, but professionally, I stand at the proverbial fork in the road. 

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Strap in – scream your lungs out and enjoy the ride!

Teaching is a profession that never ceases to amaze me. Maybe I’m just a tad crazy ( actually one has to be to be a teacher), but when one goes from the lowest lows to he highest highs in only twenty-four hours, something is either gravely wrong or that person is a true educator.

In the last 26 years, federal and state standards and testing have taken the art out of teaching and made the job more of a scripted science project. if we use method A and Method B, then test scores will be high; but if we use method C or method D, scores will dramatically decrease. No longer is it up to the professional to observe a situation , get to know students and use our talents. Instead, we are bombarded with prescribed units and tests to teach. So, it is no wonder that we see educators leaving the profession in droves. However, if we continue to believe that teaching in an art and not a prescribed science, we persevere and continue to look for ways to create an opus that can be shared and enjoyed.

True educators see the potential in situations that seem bleak, and even though we disagree with the over-testing and prescribed units, we are still able to take those prescription and make them into our very own works of art.

So, if you are a struggling educator, ready to leave the profession, remember that artists struggle many times before a true masterpiece is achieved. Keep searching, keep observing, keep loving and keep creating. Teaching is the monster of all roller coaster rides! Strap in, throw your hands in the air and scream your hearts out- but most of all- enjoy the ride!

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Fame, shoes and discipline problems- Just another day as a high school teacher

I guess you can say I had my five minutes of fame today. Well, as famous as one can be who teaches 10th grade English… in a rural south Ga school… the last class period of the day.

What, you may say, made me so famous? My shoes! I had NO idea!

So, here is the play-by-play: I was standing in the hallway between classes as I always do. As I took a moment to glance outside, I was accosted by five large male teenagers snapping pictures with their cell phones! I felt like a movie star. I hear them begin chanting ” Oh, Mrs. Davis got on them Tims!”
I had no idea that Timberland boots were so male-teen popular. Not only were they impressed with the fact that I had them , they were also enthralled that I had pink “Tims” .

I have to tell you that this is “that” class. The one that makes me consider early retirement and cause me to doubt my career choice. In this class there is a group of boys who usually instigate and proliferate the problems, and, you guessed it…this is the same group that were snapping pictures of my boots! Needless to say, today’s class was a breeze! Who knew? All I had to do to solve my issues in this difficult class was to wear the right shoes!

Continue reading Fame, shoes and discipline problems- Just another day as a high school teacher

Semester Two

As the new calendar year begins, another semester continues the school year. This is always a good time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t with my students during the first semester. Each school year brings a new set of students and each class has its own personality. It is import to keep these nuances in mind and be prepared to adjust plans to fit the personality of the classes and students.

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It’s the small victories that count

In my 23+ years of teaching, this year ranks high in the “most challenging” category. I have found myself completely frustrated numerous occasions, rethinking my career choice and mapping my possible path out of the classroom. Because I have four different preps and teaching all levels of classes, I have convinced myself that I am a complete failure.

This past week, however, was an eye-opener! I had an epiphany!! As I continued my struggle, there were a few essays that were we’re better than normal, a few test grades that were passing,and a few responses during our Socratic circle that just blew me away! As Friday approached,I realized, that these small victories are what gives us “fuel” and the reason why we, as educators, do what we do. I struggle with “success with every student”, but in this battle, I will take the small victories!

How about it fellow teachers….am I alone in this war? I’d love some feedback.

How do we get kids to slow down…..read….and think?

So, call me old fashioned, but sometimes I just feel it is important that students find the benefits in slowing down, reading and thinking for themselves. I find it increasingly difficult to keep students on task when the assignment is for them to read and think on their own. Now keep in mind that I haven’t just thrown them to the wolves and said…’here read this so I can get back to grading papers.’ My conscience won’t allow that. No, I have modeled strategies of chunking passages into smaller, more manageable units; I’ve modeled and allowed students to work together on varying close-reading strategies, and I’ve provided audio for students who may struggle a bit more than others. However, after all this practice, there comes a time when students need to fly with their own wings and put into practice the strategies we’ve learned. Invariably though, when these days come around 90% of the students in my regular 11th grade classes absolutely refuse to read. I felt the true irony today when, after working on close reading a short passage about transcendentalism, and having students construct their own meaning for transcendentalism, students refused to read on their own a short excerpt of ” Self Reliance” ! I believe that we as educators must insist that there is value in independent reading, not only in reading just what interests the students, but also in needed assigned material. We are so used to making things high interest that we loose site of some necessities and lessons of life. Not everything is something that we choose, or something that we want to do, but there is value in hard work and persistence. So, while there is great merit to teaching high interest material and student choice, there is much to learn from slowing down, strapping in and diving into the occasional ” boring stuff” (student terminology, not mine) .

Has the overuse of cooperative learning led to students that cannot think on their own?

During my time in college over 20 years ago, the new pedagogical key to student learning was cooperative learning. This fantastic new idea allowed for the free exchange of ideas, critical thinking and guaranteed student engagement. Fast forward over 20 years and now we have students who will not think on their own . These students, whom I see in their sophomore and junior years in high school, are so used to being allowed to discuss everything that they refuse to read or think independently.

Don’t get me wrong. I see the benefits in cooperative learning and I do use this practice at times in my own classroom. However, I believe that the practice has been so overused and incorrectly implemented that we have created a generation of ultra- dependent students. What’s wrong with the general idea of ” everything in moderation”, even in the classroom?

Fall Break down …….

Oh my!  Fall break is almost over! If you’re like most teachers, any break is greatly appreciated. These breaks give me time to wind down and refuel for the time ahead. This past week, while I continued to grade constructed responses from all my classes, I couldn’t help but think…..what am I doing wrong? I am still struggling with large class sizes and extra work. How do you handle teaching writing to large high school classes?