Saturday, October 5, 2013

Teaching: It's Not All Cupcakes and Glitter

Teaching is an important job, and important jobs aren't always usually easy, but the past two weeks have been exceptionally hard. Of course, there have been bright spots--always from my students (fits of uncontrollable laughter and several "lightbulb moments" and even one "Math has been so fun today!"), but for the first time this year, the good didn't outweigh the bad. I guess I am writing this as my own reminder that sometimes, teaching is like that.

My co-workers and I met before school started this year to divvy up the units we would be teaching in the first quarter. There are three of us who teach Algebra exclusively (the fourth member of our department teaches one section of Algebra and several sections of Geometry), and we decided to switch off so that we each plan every third unit.

My second unit of the quarter was a two-week unit on inequalities that was supposed to end with a unit test yesterday. During the past two weeks, this has happened:

Last Week
  • Homecoming Week (so kids are dressing up each day meaning, in their minds at least, that nothing important is happening in class)
  • Monday: Pep Rally which shortened my last class by nearly 40 minutes
  • Thursday: PBS Break (which shortened each of my afternoon classes by ten minutes)
  • Friday: Homecoming Parade (which took up two of my morning class periods and affected all of the others with Homecoming Excitement)
  • Friday: I wrote my first referral of the year--for a sexual harassment incident that occurred during the class change.
 This Week:
  • Monday: Bus Evacuation Drill (which shortened my first period--an inclusion class--by about twenty minutes)
  • Monday: Compass Learning training (which took our entire planning period)
  • Monday: I assigned my first detention of the year
  • Tuesday: Fall Picture retakes + Club Pictures + Class Picture (which affected each of my three morning classes)
  • Tuesday: Data Meeting (which took our entire planning period and left us feeling frustrated, dejected, etc. because for the first time, we realized just how much of a deficit our students are working with. We actually walked out of the meeting discussing the possibility of scrapping everything we've taught so far and "starting over.")
  • Wednesday: Department Meeting (A meeting that lasted nearly our entire planning period, a meeting we called in response to the Data Meeting, a meeting during which I barely managed to avoid bursting into tears.)
  • Thursday: Club Day (which shortened each of my morning classes by ten minutes)
  • Thursday: I wrote my second referral of the year--for a bullying incident--and assigned four more students detention
  • Friday: I wrote my third referral of the year--for an incident involving an interactive notebook launched at a student's face (This is enough information for me to forever champion working a fall break into our schedule. These kids are tired of looking at one another and need more than the two-day break a weekend provides!)

My classes finished a full two-days behind my original plans and will test a full day behind the other teachers' classes, a decision I made late Friday. I don't feel good about being behind my co-workers especially in the unit that I planned, but I couldn't face the idea of the abysmal test scores sure to come if I tested on Monday. I'll be honest and say that I have never, never been more excited to pull out of my parking space on a Friday afternoon. Factor in a few personal things (e.g., two very sad anniversaries for my family and an out-of-the-blue text from a significant old boyfriend), and you get the two worst weeks so far this year, and I am so, so glad that they are over.

Having said all that, I'm off to school today so that I can catch up on the grading that didn't happen during planning this week, because while I've made great strides in not bringing physical work home with me, I haven't quite learned to turn this "being a teacher" thing off.