Ripped Down the Middle

Sooooo the last few weeks have been rough. Well this entire school year has been rough, but I feel like I’m on a downhill slide and I’m not talking about that fun downhill towards the end of the year.

I feel so torn right now. Like ripped down the middle and I don’t know how to put myself back together.

Being a teacher has so many facets. It’s not ‘show up and teach then go home.’ I often read blog post from people no longer in the classroom that say forget grades, tests, and focus on ___, this is why___. And I take that advice and put it in my knowledge of what’s right for kids and what’s wrong. Then I walk into my classroom and I feel stuck.

First days of school I share with my students my goals for them. To be honest the goal is never for them to learn Earth Science. My goal is for them to learn to solve problems, to become better thinkers, and scientist. I tell them our class focus will never be on passing test. These are really goals and ideas I believe in.

But here is where I’m torn. I am a science teacher. I am the last time between now and high school graduation my students will have a class on space, plate tectonics, weather, rocks, water cycle, etc. It’s it for them. I try so hard to deliver the content as many different ways as possible. I use formative assessments every day, which I use to drive my lessons. Not bragging just pointing out I do everything in my power to deliver this content to using best practices.

But I’m feeling like a failure right now. So yay they are getting better at solving problems, putting things on paper, having discussions BUT am I succeeding if the content knowledge isn’t what it should be. Meeting standards and kids learning these ‘facts’ are my job too, like it or not. Not so much memorize but to know this stuff so they can make informed statements. Everyday for 3 weeks I some how put low & high air pressure into my lesson. From lessons about winds to lessons about thunderstorms, air pressure was there. Not just a blip but tons of time reviewing it. Yet on a test they can’t tell the difference. I know tests aren’t the only method of measurement but I bet if I asked them in the morning, I still would have majority not answer correctly. And this is just one small example.

So I’m torn. Are all these methods I’m using wrong? Is it me? Should I still be doing this job? Because I’m not feeling like I’m worth a crap as a teacher right now. If you follow me on twitter, or even this blog, you may have (or haven’t lol that won’t hurt my feelings) noticed I haven’t been there in a while and if I am it’s rarely an education focused post. I don’t know what I have left to give to others. Who the heck wants to listen to the unsuccessful? I read tweets & blogs and get frustrated because these people are succeeding and I’m doing similar things and failing. Those that have known me for a while know I feel PD and working with teachers and tech are my biggest strengths, so am I doing my students injustice still being in the classroom?

I don’t know the answers but I know I’m tired. Completely tired and feel like I’m torn in two because I can’t figure out what is most important any more. Is it content? Is it teaching them to be thinkers? And how do I balance these? I do I piece it back together?? Maybe I have out stayed my welcome. I just don’t know any more. I know the tears must stop. I have to put on my big girls pants and finish the year. I guess now I just need to find motivation to do that.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Robin says:

    Amanda, I’m not a teacher, but from my own experience as an older adult in college, and dealing with public schools for the past 18 years with my own children, YOU ARE A GREAT TEACHER! It’s not you that is failing the students, it’s the system that’s failing them. Because of the “No child left behind” act, your hands are SO tied in what you can do. It doesn’t matter if 75% of your students are advanced, you are forced to teach to the middle-of-the-road student. Also, too much emphasis is on standardized test scores. The system is failing our kids by only focusing on how to score well on the test, not learning how to get that answer so they can function in life!

    In nursing school, thank goodness 95% of my teachers taught by example. They didn’t just tell us the answers, they told us HOW things worked the way they did and WHY a particular answer is chosen. The one class I did have that “taught the test”, I honestly didn’t learn anything in and is still my weakest field in nursing. I still made A’s in both types of classes, but I didn’t learn enough to take with me in the “teach the test” class. It’s scary to think that a medical professional that is taking care of you may have only been taught to pass the tests!

    My biggest fear with my 10 y.o. is that he isn’t being taught the How’s and Why’s in school. He needs to learn how to THINK/PROCESS/MAKE DECISIONS, not how to take a test!

    Sorry if this is rambling and for any grammatical errors. I’m currently under the influence of Benadryl! LOL

  2. Dean Shareski says:

    You hardly suck. You know the reality of teaching is that’s its really hard. Harder for you than most because you’re committed to make learning more authentic than it was for you and is for most kids. The system isn’t ready for that and you’re essentially stuck doing 2 jobs. The old one where kids sit still, listen to you and write tests. The new one where individual needs and interests take center stage. These two jobs, while not entirely exclusive are often incongruent and this is why you feel as you do.

    What I would say to you is that your intent, your care for kids won’t go unnoticed by your students. It may not seem like it but they know your intent and that’s going to pay off. Maybe not this year, but it will.

    You need to give yourself a break. I’d also add, acknowledging your struggles will also help others know and be encouraged because those same teaches who are doing two jobs feel this way everyday. Those that are fortunate to work in places where you only have to so one job are lucky. You aren’t so lucky but should be admired for doing 2 jobs.

    I got your back.

  3. Reggie Wagner says:

    I am also a sixth grade teacher. This is my 16th year of teaching. The solution is to utilize content to produce critical thinkers and problem solvers. You belong in the classroom but you are feeling burned out right now. Obviously you are very self-reflective but this quality can be a two-edged sword. I am sensing that you are torn between what you think you should be and what you feel that you actually are. The good news is that the happy medium lies somewhere between. Take care of yourself right now by doing some activities that are personally enjoyable to you and treating yourself to some positive self-talk. You can get through this. We have all been there and lived to tell the tale.

  4. Emily says:

    I read this and thought of a million things I wanted to respond to. I can start by saying I feel the same way. I start my year with these master goals for my students of becoming critical thinkers ,learning about the human experience, recognizing the power of words, becoming effective communicators. Included in that is diversifying the teaching strategies, implementing technology, trying to really make the students excited.

    I don’t know what happens but you do begin to feel defeated when you finish these great lessons and look at all the extra time you spent creating and motivating only to see that they have still missed the big connection.

    Then you throw in testing standards, and state standards and you’ve created this impossible monster to tackle in 48 minutes a day. I’ve read so much from fellow educators about moving away from testing, yet that is on the basis that we believe all of our students are intrinsically motivated enough to just want to do things for “the sake of learnng” yet I struggle everyday with students asking me how much something is worth in order to decide if they want to do it.

    On top of that I hear so much in the media and society about how we as educators are failing the kids and I do feel very stuck. I don’t have the answers ,these are just ramblings about how I feel as well. I know I am a good teacher, but I have those moments where I ask myself am I really doing anything? Are they learning anything? It’s like being pulled in so many directions that you lose yourself. That’s the thing that people have to understand about education- it isn’t something that can be measured in one way. Sometimes the fruits of our labor don’t show up until students are mature enough to grasp the oppurtunities they’ve been given.

    I yearn to be that teacher on an Oprah episode that takes the under performing children and turns their lives around in a class setting that ends in high fives and applause. That’s the model we have for success. Not sure how to get there.

    I had a parent conference yesterday that left me feeling so unappeciated. I know you can’t let one comment bury you, but it was devastating to hear someone make you feel like you are failing when you get to school early stay let and give all of yourselves to your students and their success while you are there during the day. I really feel like we are losing some responsiblity at home that is creating an impossible situation for us in the classroom.

    This is probably full of mistakes because I am writing on my ipad as my toddler is begging to play puzzles. But, you are not alone!

  5. Michelle says:

    It really is all about fatigue at this point in the school year. March is brutal on us all. Hang in there, sweetie! You will feel better in April!

  6. William Chamberlain (@wmchamberlain) says:

    I’m not going to tell you it will get better and all you need to do is hang in there. I feel like a failure on a daily basis too. I have spent the better part of the last six months preaching learning not grades, thinking not following formulas, being proactive instead of reactive and every time I give an assignment that the students aren’t comfortable with (group work, projects, non traditional assignments) I get some much push back from them. I find this happens especially with the ‘advanced’ math group who are so hung up on grades and being spoon fed that they go catatonic when I try to do anything with them.

    I have taken to quit judging the lesson based on the group response, instead I look for one or two students that seem to be enjoying the assignment. Often these are students that are marginalized by the more traditional teaching methods. After listening to the complaints for fifteen minutes I often find myself watching one or two of these students and that helps me make it to the next lesson.

    I wonder if this is why we keep seeing so many classroom teachers move on to different jobs…

  7. Diana says:

    Nothing earth-shattering to say – just wanted to state that you are not alone. Do you have a support network in addition to your blog/Twitter community? For every success in a classroom, there’s a tanked lesson, an epic fail of a teaching day, a test that stank (stunk?). People (including me) can definitely connect with your feelings right now. You aren’t alone.

  8. Aviva (@avivaloca) says:

    Amanda, there’s so many great comments here that I’ve been struggling with what to share that’s different. I definitely will echo those people that say you’re not alone. I’ll also share with you a conversation I was having with one of the Grade 7 teachers at my school. We were meeting the other day, as he’s a more “traditional teacher” and he was eager to try out some new things in the classroom. He asked if we could sit down and plan together. My student teacher was there at the time, so she joined us as well. During our planning session, we spoke about the differences in our teaching methods, but we also spoke about what the “ideal classroom” probably looks like: maybe it’s a combination of both extremes. I do with my students much of what you speak about here, but sometimes I notice what you’re noticing too, and that’s when I go back to some more “traditional methods” to ensure that the students have the foundation that they need. Maybe we can’t completely replace one teaching style with another one.

    In our curriculum document, we have an achievement chart, and there’s four levels of achievement: Knowledge and Understanding, Thinking, Communication, and Application. From your blog post, it sounds like your students are possibly struggling with the lowest level of achievement (Knowledge and Understanding), but they might be doing better with the other three. Does knowing this make a difference? For me, sometimes seeing where this gab is, helps!

    Please though do not stop sharing what you’re doing — successes or failures — because there’s so many of us in your PLN that really look up to what you’re doing. It takes time to make a change. Your students are lucky that you’re trying to make this change. Here’s to hoping that the rest of the year improves!

    #YouMatter, Amanda, and all that you’re doing matters too!
    Aviva

  9. amandacdykes says:

    Ok I am finally able to reply to the comments above. Every time I start reading them or replying I seriously break down. I can’t say everything is better but I am getting to a move on point. So many of you are friends or I secretly look up to and your words do mean a lot. I have thought about what y’all have said. I wish those feeling the same way didn’t feel this way. It’s not fun. (Emily, maybe we need a girls night like we used to have in HS, the old group, I’ll even go to Applebees.) I have been taking y’all’s advice. I have thought a lot about what Aviva said and this week we went old school and did vocabulary activities. Finding this balance is hard. I am very glad my spring break starts now though. Thanks again to all of you. Means more than you will ever know.

  10. gordonberg22 says:

    Hang in there! I think you have to have a balance. I teach third grade in a California public school and know that I want to teach my students to be thinkers. I am starting to win my prinicpal back over by starting my class website. I showed it to her. It included a project that demonstrated my students understanding of a volume lesson by allowing them to use their creativity and work in partners. For a minute she was lost in my website, thought it was brilliant and told me to keep it up! However, not so fast! I know that she is also under pressure to raise test scores so I’d better be able to show her when we get the results back in the fall that they got all the math questions relating to volume correct on the CST. I hope that helps.

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