Lately, I’ve been feeling like I can’t do this job anymore. And maybe that would be OK. People get that 7-year itch and change jobs all the time. But it feels more tragic than that for me. For me, this isn’t just a job. It is my career. It’s the thing I’ve been doing for years and years…in fact, I’ll be completing my 25th year doing it come June. It is also who I am. I am a teacher. It’s what I think about on the weekend. It’s why I buy and read so many kid books. It’s why I find myself crying at lunchtime as I reflect on what didn’t go well in the AM and how I still have 2 hours and 41 minutes more to go to get it right this afternoon. It is why I don’t think of myself as the perfectionist-type but as someone who cares.
As a human, I want to feel success. As a human who teaches small children, 23 to be exact at the moment, it never feels like all 23 are engaged and learning at the same time and that makes me feel unsuccessful. Maybe that shouldn’t be my measure of success. Maybe instead, it is that by June, all 23 have had moments of being engaged and learning. But that mindset feels like a lowering of expectations. It feels like a cop-out. And what about the ones in the class that are ready and willing at all moments. Do I meet their needs? Do they instead, intuitively read my body language and hear my sighs and wish they had a younger, more enthusiastic teacher?
I know I know so much about teaching and specifically about the teaching of reading and writing. I know I care. I know I want to keep doing this job for at least another 10-15 years. I know I can offer mentoring advise to those younger teachers with big ideas. I don’t know if I can keep spending my long day in the company of children who demand so much from me.
Currently,I feel overwhelmed by he demands of the children and the school system. In this 21st century world that these children live in, they are used to being entertained 24/7 and have short attention spans and higher and higher thresholds of engagement. I know teaching is a lot like being on stage. But somehow, this audience demands more from me than in past years. I try to find just the right video to get their attention, plan the hands-on game, checkout library books by the 100s so all can find one of their choice to get lost in, and continue to learn more ways to use their iPad as a tool to enhance their learning. Some days it works. Most days it never seems like enough.
The school has high demands, too. Because we can pre-assess and look at data and have meetings to discuss it all, we do. We meet three out of the five days during my 1-hour daily prep time. Which means I’m not able to spend any time prepping on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Fridays. During those meetings, our team is productive and gets lots done but that hour of collaborative work produces more things to add to the To Do List. Because time is a finite commodity, I never, ever seems to have enough of it. Plus, personally I don’t get a break on meeting days. I teach, meet, then teach again. No wonder on some days at lunchtime, I am ready to cry.
Typing all this now sounds like I am too rigid. I should just let it all be. Go with the flow. However, with 23 kids in my change, it instead is something I work hard at, both for safety reasons and engagement reasons so real learning can occur.
Ironically, I am sitting at Starbucks typing this right now on a Staurday and 3 very loud kids are at the table on the other side of the room. The girl in the middle begins to pound the table over and over again, trying to flatten the playdoh she is playing with. At the table beyond, are a group of adults but I’m not sure which of them is with these kids. I walk over and ask the 4 yr old-looking girl who is pounding very loudly, “There are lots of people here trying to chat and read. Please don’t pound. It is too loud and hurts my ears.” Once back at my seat, the dad and mom come over and yell at me. “Do not talk to my child. Talk to me. She is crying know.” They walk away and I sat crying. It’s Saturday and I’m not even at school and I’m crying.
Thinking about my current tears and those that come mid-day at school, I wonder. Maybe it is our current society that allows kids to have no manners in public that is making my job harder and harder as a teacher. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but when my kids were young, I took them to the park and places where they could pound and shout and be a kid. Inside a crowded Starbucks on a Saturday, surrounded by adults reading and chatting is not where I brought my kids. Not until I was sure they had enough self-control. The mom and dad also shouted at me, “You can go to the library to work. This is a public place.” But don’t public places demand certain civil behaviors, too?
Currently, I work at a brand-new school that looks more like an airport or children’s museum and less like a school. The wide open corridors are bright and open and feel more like a playground. I notice that inside the kids will run and shout, more than any other space I’ve worked in before.
Is it the environment?
Is it the lack of self-control kids are following on the weekends?
Is it me just feeling old?
I wonder what I should be when I grow up.