Monday, June 29, 2020

How Are You Doing? (This Post Is A Time Capsule)

I was going through my drafts folder last week, and found this time capsule from almost three years ago, when I was just diving into the winter of my first year of teaching. I remember it being tough, but this was super interesting to read. I thought I'd share it with you, as a view to where my head was at the time.

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I am very lucky to work where I am as a first year teacher. I am the only first year teacher in the building, most of the teachers have been there for 5+ years, and most of the teachers have been teaching for 10+ years. Which is great. Though I am teaching 2+ different classes, I am lucky that for both there is another teacher teaching that same content and grade. So not only do I have someone to work with and follow on both of those content/grade journeys, having someone to work closely with helped me to feel supported and connected to other adults in my building. Even for my section of SEI Algebra, which is a course that I was not prepared to teach, my New Teacher Developer, administrators, and other SEI teachers were also open, communicative, and collaborative with me about their work, further helping me to understand and survive. I even had a content coach from my teaching program working with me on cycles of inquiry around my practice. I am very supported.

This post, is drafted in the first week of December 2017, fall of my first year of teaching, though I imagine I won't post it until later. Earlier today, someone asked me, "How are you doing?" And I want to say, "Great," because I have all these strong collaborative relationships supporting me. And I want to say, "Fine," because I'm still pretty stressed about everything on any given day. And I want to say, "I'm not doing great," because I'm teaching two different classes that I don't understand, I'm teaching classes that are twice as big as any that I've ever had, I'm teaching classes to students with whom I do not share a language and who I have been unable to connect with all year long.

On one hand, I want to say, "I'm a first year teacher, everything sucks," but that doesn't do anything besides normalize the idea that it's okay when things suck. And I suppose, it's alright to normalize the feeling that it's okay for things to suck, because I would feel awful if everyone else was walking around claiming that everything was great all the time. But also, we never want to just say, "things suck," without actually connecting it to things that we are doing and things that are happening to us. Because then, saying that things suck only sends the message that things suck. It doesn't create an action plan. What sucks? Why? What can you do about it?

But it is December of my first year of teaching, and everything sucks, and I have literally zero headspace, time, or life-force to dedicate to understanding why everything sucks. The number of emails I would have to send, people I would have to talk to, things that I would have to do, surveys I need to fill out, bills I need to pay, letters I need to write is so overwhelming that all I can do is just try and work my way through it all and just drop as few things as possible.

And on one hand I want to talk to someone about this all so that I can connect with someone and feel validated in my experience. Which might help? But then what are they going to say? "Yeah, it sucks. You just have to survive." Now I feel hopeless. "Here, you should try this..." Great--one more thing I have to do. "Just do less." So now I am stuck teaching classes that I haven't contributed to, and so do not understand. Or I haven't called this kid's parents, and they are drifting away from my class. Or I now have not talked to my administrators about this problem, and it will continue to get worse, or when it comes up in a meeting I will appear to have not done my due diligence and so no action will be taken, or worse, I will be disenfranchised from participating in, or advocating for, action.

It's all just so much, and so much of it is so hard. I'm just not sure what I need.

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