10.14.2013

Let's Talk Teaching...

Monday...here again!

Why is it that the weekends always seem to fly by in the blink of an eye?

I'm getting personal and real on the blog today.  If you're looking for my usual cheery, picture filled post, come back later this week.  Today I'm opening up about school and sharing the challenges I've been facing.

As I've mentioned, school has been off to a rough start this year.

I'm tired, stressed, spread thin, frustrated, and unhappy.

I'm feeling lost and disconnected.

Let me explain a bit more...

I work in a Title One school.  For those of you, unfamiliar with the term, Title One is a federal program in which schools with high populations of low income students receive additional funding and support staff.  Approximately 60% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch and we receive Title One services for both reading and math.

Many of our students come from homes without many resources and we don't have a lot of parent support.  Our kids face great challenges.  For example, each of us have had kindergartners starting school who can't sing their ABCs, don't recognize their name, and know 0 letters.  We have a big job.  In a lot of ways I feel like I was meant to teach these kids.  Every day I know I make a huge impact on them.

And now for the BUT (there's always a but, isn't there?).

BUT, our kids don't perform as well as students in higher income parts of the county.  There is only so much we can achieve from 7:00-2:00 each day.  Our kids show HUGE growth, but they don't always make it to the "end goal" according to state standardized tests.

Because of this, our school has tremendous pressure.  We are state accredited, but just barely and so this year lots of changes have been implemented to try and improve our scores.

The problem is, these changes are tanking morale and quite honestly they're too much.

On any day, we may have not one, but sometimes two administrators popping into our room in addition to new weekly visits from the Title 1 math and reading teachers.  I don't mind having an administrative presence in the classroom.  Quite honestly, I think it's important.  But multiple visits, multiple times a week are too much.  We all compare notes at lunch about whose come into our classrooms.  It throws the kids off and also leaves teachers feeling nervous.  What if the kids are having an off moment when an administrator pops in, what if your plans for the day aren't quite working...

Our lesson planning expectations have also changed.  In the past, when we met weekly, we would discuss the standards for the following week and share ideas.  From there, it was up to each individual teacher to decide how to teach the standard and what was best for their students.  This year, we are expected to have nearly identical plans across the grade level.  I don't feel like it's fair.  We all have different teaching styles and students.  Just because I love one lesson doesn't mean the rest of the team should have to do it and vice versa.  As long as our kids are learning the standard, that is what matters.  Our meetings are taking double the time they used to take and by the end we all feel brain dead.  I feel like there is no trust in the teachers to do their job right.  I also feel that my creativity is stifled and certain plans are not as engaging for the kids.  On top of that, with the new lesson plan changes, it seems like as soon as we have everything figured out we learn about a new change to the requirements or an added requirement.  Another teammate and I discussed that we feel like the planning expectations have become so high that we feel like we plan more to please administration than to focus on actual instruction.

Finally, the last big difference is that the county has shifted the focus to kindergarten this year.  I was initially very excited about this.  Focusing on the primary grades is important because if students are provided with a great foundation, many of the issues in the upper grades can be alleviated.  I also have really benefited from many of the professional development workshops I've attended so I was looking forward to more opportunities for these.  Well, since the year has started, we have realized what a focus on kindergarten means:  Quantity over quality and added rigor and expectations which are often not developmentally appropriate for 5 year olds, especially our 5 year olds who have not had much, if any prior school experience.

So this is where we are.  All of us are stressed.  Morale is low.  I'm questioning whether I even want to continue to teach (a question I never even considered during my first year of teaching).

I love teaching, but this year I dread going to school.  I'm at school nearly 12 hours every day and bring work home.  School is constantly in my thoughts and I don't feel fully present in the other aspects of my life.

I have been trying to make "me" more of a priority, leaving earlier some days, but then I'm left with stress, guilt, and a fear that I may not have every i dotted and t crossed for administration.

I've been doing lots of soul searching.

  • Do I want to keep teaching next year?
  • Should I try to apply to some private schools where teachers are given more freedom? 
  • If I do switch to private school am I abandoning kids, who really need me?  I feel like I've been called to teach, but I also feel like it can't consume me and cause the other aspects of my life to suffer...
  • Do I want to pursue a new career, completely?
  • If so, what would I want to pursue and am I qualified for the other careers that I would be interested in?
I don't know what to do.

So, if you've been wondering why I've been so absent in the blog world and not always the best at responding to blog emails...that's why.

What are your thoughts?

Any advice for me?

Have you ever been in a similar spot?


Hope you're off to a good start to your week!

12 comments:

  1. This is one topic that I am totally lost in, I'm not a teacher and don't face the many challenges that come in the teaching world. This sounds like a very serious battle you're in, and as much as you may love the kids and want to provide them with what they need, at the end of the day you have to worry about yourself. If you're already this exhausted after your first year then I would suggest looking around at other schools, especially private ones. Again, I'm not an expert by any means, but it makes me sad to hear your question your love of teaching. Hang in there, pretty girl!

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  2. I know how tired and frustrated you are. My first year teaching was in one of the best school district in the nation, then I moved and taught middle school in a Title One school. The first year was hell. I had 8th graders on a 2nd grade reading level. College does not prepare you for that. I will say the 2nd year got better, we were under pressure for the kids to do well on state tests, but nothing like what you are experiencing. My only advice is to give it time. Those kids need you. As you know, your kids go home to nothing. The admin is under a ton of pressure as well and trying to navigate what works best for their school community. It is only October and I bet things will change as the year goes on. Everyone is getting used to the new demands and workload. Next year would be a whole new ball game, that you will be ready for. I will say that I sometimes regret leaving teaching and if I went back I would want to be back in a room where the kids need me. It is SO much more rewarding than teaching children like "us." We would be successful regardless of our teacher because we have families that support us. Lean on other teachers for support. Don't be afraid to be open with the administration about their expectations and why some are more challenging than others. They do NOT want a great teacher like you to burn out. Keep your head up, it will get better and easier. I promise.

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  3. PS - dealing with parents in "well to do" schools can be SO annoying. I had a parent who got upset with me because I didn't call her after her 8th grader missed one homework assignment.

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  4. I am in a very similar situation and it is frustrating, daunting, and saddening. I question this career path at least twice a week if not more.. I don't think people give enough credit to how hard teaching really is. I certainly didn't think it would be this chaotic and challenging.

    I am 4 years in and I can say that I am glad I stuck with it because I do feel much more relaxed and confident than my previous years but damn, I'm also exhausted. My advice would be to stick out for a little longer and see what happens. We got a ton of new teachers and a new AP this year and I really believe its made a difference. I'm still not sure this is my forever career but like I said, I'm glad I made it this far!

    Good luck and try your very, very best to leave work behind when you leave for the day. I couldn't leave work behind for my first two years and it had a negative impact on a multitude of areas of my life. You'll never fully leave the day behind but you'll learn to let it go a little bit more each year.

    I'm sure you are a wonderful teacher and always remember that sometimes just being kind to a student can have more impact on them than anything you could teach them!

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  5. . Wow, I can totally understand why you are beyond stressed. Having an administrative presence in the classroom would make me nervous too! I tutored low income kids and that was very challenging..I can't imagine teaching them full time! It really is a wonderful thing you are doing, but totally understandable if you feel it is becoming too straining. At the end of the day, you need to do what is best for you, and perhaps that does mean trying a different school. I'm not a teacher and have no teaching advice to give, but I would suggest switching to a different environment first before making a huge career change. Hope some other teachers comment on this and help you!!

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  6. As a nurse in a field unrelated to education, I can honestly understand your frustration. Administrators are always the ones to implement change without knowing what it's really like to be on the front lines teaching students, caring for patients, etc. I've been a nurse for almost two years and already applying to nurse practitioner school because I could never enjoy bedside nursing my entire life. You need to do what makes you happy, because when you do, that's when your students will benefit the most.

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  7. If I didn't know better I would have thought I wrote this post. This is almost identical to how I feel and what is happening at my school. I have a little more freedom with planning. We do grade level planning but can change things to fit our class and our teaching styes. It's very frustrating that this is what teaching has come to! It's also frustrating that I don't feel like people can REALLY understand the pressure unless they are also a teacher. It makes me sad that I feel like I can't make teaching my career forever. The nights I come home after working 7-7 I wonder what I would do if I had a family to come home to. I know teaching is what I was meant to do and is my passion.. I just am not sure if it's worth the stress from all the "other stuff" that comes with the job. I'll stop venting now, but please know I completely understand where you are coming from! I can only hope things will get better in the future. Until then find those small moments in the day that make everything worth it!

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  8. I am in my 10th year of teaching and I hate to read this. Education is all about teaching to tests, not the child which is totally discouraging. You have to be happy in your career. Maybe try a private school or even a preschool? Good luck and hang in there!

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  9. So sorry to hear you are going through such a hard time love! I definitely understand where you are coming from working at VCU and serving some of the most underprivileged children and families. There are so many times when I buy my patients meals and extra goodies at Target because I know they can't afford them and then feel conflicted because I know that's not my role. Teaching was my major before I discovered Child Life and I can honestly say when completing my practicums and internships, it was SO hard. Teaching is unlike any job out there and requires so much of you that I don't think everyone realizes. As far as your predicament, I definitely think its something to think about what you truly want and whats worth sacrificing. Is it worth being stressed and unhappy in life or is it worth knowing that your making such a difference in these children's lives. Such a hard decision to make, but you will be a wonderful teacher wherever you are! Keep your head up and keep up the amazing work you are doing! Drinks are a must soon!

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  10. Keep teaching, but maybe change your setting. You can have a positive impact on children's lives anywhere. Affluent kids in private schools need good and caring teachers too; they may be rich in money and poor in human kindness. Good luck!

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  11. I wish I could give such kind advice as previous people have, but I'm 18 and feel like I haven't had to make such a large decision as you do. I think what you are doing for the kids is so kind and I know your students will remember. I think that is truly the most important thing-no matter where you are going, you are working to help others, and I truly believe you are committed in maintaining this goal as your priority.

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  12. Hi. Your story has touched me. I know your struggle. Do you think some of the issues are because of common core standards? They were developed by people who are not educators and not familiar with child development. The Gates Foundation. And the threat of withholding federal funds resulted in quick adoption of these standards just in the last 4 years. My degree is in special education. I taught 2 years in public school than switched to private. I had my first baby almost 5 years ago and haven't been back to work. When I left, there was no common core. Today, it's everywhere. So sad. My advice would be to start looking at private schools. But some private schools in my area are using common core so you have to research it. I will be enrolling my son in bayshore Christian school. I am telling you the name so you can look it up and read about what a classical education model looks like in case you have one in your area. Good luck with your choice.

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