Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Confessions of an Incredibly Emotional Teacher

So...I've been avoiding my blog all day because I literally can't concentrate on anything besides the class I have to teach tomorrow night. I know I've joked and talked a little bit about the difficult class I have this semester, but it goes beyond the few silly questions and excuses I have received. This is truly the most challenging group of students I have ever had at one time. I would even go as far as saying that this class is more challenging than the first English class I ever taught, which was when I was a scared, inexperienced 21-year-old. Now...at 31...I feel more scared and inexperienced than ever. And here's why...

You see...half of my students are these bright, hard-working, talented writers who are clearly not being challenged enough. I only know this because one student came to me after class two weeks ago and told my directly, "Jen...I think you are great teacher, but this class is boring the shit out of me". I always appreciate honesty, but man...that hurt a little. He went on to explain that the reason he is bored is because the other half of our class, the half that is a combination or hard-working, well-intentioned students who are not prepared for college level English, and those who simply can't and won't apply themselves, are spending quality class time asking questions that have already been answered multiple times in multiple ways. 

But what's a teacher to do? Leave behind the students who are working hard to grasp the material but can't, or do I continue to teach high-school level English in a college course, abandoning all of my hard-working students who are actually qualified and ready to be here? I feel like I am failing at both ends. My talented students are bored, and my challenged students are lost. I can't find a happy medium. And that makes me so frustrated and so SAD as a teacher! So sad, in fact, that I actually got tears in my eyes last week. Yep...my students saw me cry. I played off my tears of frustration and I am hoping that some of my students didn't notice. But they were there, and I am incredibly embarrassed to go to class tomorrow night. I want to walk in happy, perky and excited to talk about English, just like I do every other week, but to be honest...I am not excited to talk about English. For the first time in a LONG time, I don't want to go to class.

And the stress of all this is effecting me in a very negative way. The classroom has always been my happy place. Ever since I became a mom, I find myself even more excited and giddy to be on campus, dressed in work attire, sipping a coffee and enjoying some intellectual adult conversation. I feel blessed that I get to go to a job that I can honestly say I love. I LOVE teaching English and it is something that I have always felt confident about. I have always felt like a good teacher. I try hard, I work hard, and I genuinely care about my students. But this semester...I feel like I have lost some of my confidence and the pressure I am feeling to "fix" this situation and bridge the gap between my students is giving me an ulcer.

Literally. 

So I find myself a little lost tonight. I am blogging instead of writing my lesson plan for the 5th time because I wonder if writing down all these feelings and confessing them to a bunch of people will give me a sense of peace. I wonder if it will help spark my creativity. I wonder if it will help me sleep tonight. I wonder if it will make my week-long stomach ache go away. I wonder if you all think I am a lunatic :-)

I really hate using this blog to complain, but I suppose that if I look at this blog like a journal (which was it's original purpose) then I suppose I have a right to let it all out from time to time. And maybe there are other teachers out there reading this that have felt the same way as I do. Maybe you don't even have to be a teacher to understand how I feel. I think we all have moments where we feel like we suck at our job, even if we are trying harder than we ever have before. I even feel this way about motherhood. Sometimes I feel like I suck as a mom. Sometimes I feel like I suck as a wife. Or a daughter. Or a sister. And so on and so on.

So what do we do when we feel like we've been beat up? What do we do when we feel like we are giving something our all, and still can't get the results that we want? Do we sit and cry about it? Well...I usually do...but what do we do after we cry? My husband's answer would be to suck it up...and keep working hard, just like I always do. My mom would tell me to remember why I started teaching in the first place. My BF Tara would tell me that I am probably reaching more students than I realize. My sister-in-law Dana would tell me to be my happy self in class, and then come home and drink wine. And if all that doesn't work, my Dad would tell me to drink a big glass of milk because it'll ease my ulcer :)

Well...now that I've got all that off my chest, it's back to work. Thanks for the vent session friends. I feel better already :-)

7 comments:

  1. First of all, I'm sorry I haven't been keeping up on blog reading lately. I've missed you!

    Also, I think everyone feels this way about their career at some point or another. I think every other month I think "What am I *doing* with my life!?" And I question everything that has brought me to this point. It's distressing, for sure. But I'm sure you'll find a way to work through this. I have faith in you! :) Hang in there!

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  2. I think you are right about what I would say! I think it's tough when you are typically really good at something (or everything--b/c you are!) and a big bump in the road happens. You are doing the best that you can with a difficult situation, and the fact that you are stressing so much about this shows how much you care about your students. I would probably focus on the students who want to be there and are "getting" it and offer extra help for the students who want to be there but aren't getting it. And screw the ones who are throwing attitude!! :) Good luck tonight! Let me know tomorrow how it goes.

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  3. I'm sorry you are feeling this way! I get annoyed with the slacker students that don't want to participate or do the hard work. They do ruin it for those that want to further their education. Maybe you can give the students that are smarter/working harder other assignments that will challenge them?

    On a happy note, BONES premieres tonight!!!!! :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

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  4. Jen, take it from the BD teacher.... the kids who are asking the questions 100 times know that they have been answered, but they also know that by asking them, they can't move on. Offer your email, your work number and cell, but it's college. Time for them to put their big boy and girl pants on and deal. Have them contact you if they need help. Be the bad ass teacher you are and make THEM do the work. If they can't cut it, then you are forcing them to be advocates for themselves... and that is ok.... You are a rock star... don't let others make you feel any differently!

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  5. I have been reading your blog for a while now, and this one caught my attention the most! We all need to vent and I can definitely relate to this! Take care..

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  6. ~Hugs~ and if I were closer I would bring over a bottle of wine:)

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  7. ---OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD--- Stupid blogger just ate my comment!!! >:(

    Long story short, I know you're great at this seeing as I've been to one of your classes. ;) I don't have any fantastic advice... mine would be a combo of Eric & Dana's! HA! And, I kept thinking the entire time I was reading this that I would be fuming at the college system in general. These kids/adults should never have been placed in your class. How in the heck can THAT many get through the placement exam!??! Sheesh. Anyway, you deserve students who want to do their best!

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