Edu-Confessional

Confessional MomentForgive me #edutwitter, for I have sinned. It’s been two weeks since my last post, but months since anything, you know… good

Where should I start? I teach history so I’m partial to chronologically, but—

Maybe it’s best if I just dive in with the worst of it, then move through the list from there. 

First, I assign a lot of videos in my AP World History class. My AP U.S. History class, too – but not as many as for World. “Required Viewing,” I call it, to go with each week’s “Required Reading.” Crash Course, Hip Hughes, Ted-Ed, Overly Sarcastic (not to be confused with OverSimplified, which in turn is quite different than Simple History). 

I think I even used It’s History! once or twice, when it really fit. 

It’s just… well, our textbook isn’t very good. It’s poorly organized and at times downright bewildering. My kids get frustrated with it – and not in the usual “but this is hard!” way. It has some good sections, but… well, it’s mediocre at best for most things. 

There are articles and supplemental readings I use, but when you can have animation and key points on the screen and entertaining personalities… Plus, we went one-to-one this year and there’s that unspoken pressure to use the damn devices, you know?

OMG – I meant, um… ‘gosh-darned’! Maybe we should add ‘bad language’ to the list. Sometimes in class. But not usually. But sometimes. 

Let’s see, what else?

Oh, yes. Forgive me, #edutwitter, for being so annoyed with my Early Civilizations class. They exhaust me, and… 

I don’t want to say it.

I shouldn’t feel this way, you understand, but…

*sigh*

I dread them every day. I don’t look forward to that hour at all. Ever. I’m relieved when they go. 

I don’t dislike them individually, you understand. But while my advanced classes aren’t all brilliant or intrinsically motivated or any of those other stereotypes, there are times when pouring hours of preparation and research and risk into a lesson WORKS with them. They’re not ALL great days, but great days happen. Most of the rest are at least GOOD days. They learn stuff, and do stuff, and show signs of life and everything. Most even have a pulse!

But not in Early Civ. I keep dragging that horse towards the river of rudimentary academics, but the hydrophobia is strong and honestly I’ve started just giving them graphic organizers or stuff I’ve lifted from other teachers. 

I do try. I put in the prep time. I’m definitely pouring more time and emotion into that one hour than they are collectively applying in return. And none of it’s fun, or fulfilling, or whatever. There are parts of this job that are never any fun – grading, meetings, discipline, etc. – but most days I look forward to going to work. Most classes have those moments that something clicks – that breakthrough – that discussion – that brilliant question. But not with this group. I’ve tried every trick I know, and it’s like trying to punch my way through a room of wet bread wearing toasters on my feet. 

They’re never discipline problems. Sometimes I almost wish they were ‘bad kids’, so I’d have an excuse. 

An excuse for what? Well… *sigh*. I mean, that’s just it. They’ve made it to high school. They’re not stupid or out to cause trouble or anything. So it must be, you know… me. I’m failing. Them. I’m failing them. 

I mean, yes – many of them have ‘F’s right now, but that’s not what I mean. I’m failing at what I’m supposedly ‘called’ to do. What I used to be pretty decent at, I thought. But I sure seem to suck now, and I’m not sure what to do differently. At the same time, I’m pretty sure the problem isn’t primarily me – but I’m the adult, and the one paid to figure it out. 

It makes me resent them. 

Anyway, those are the biggies. What else…? I need to check my notes. 

Oh! Here’s one – I’ve skipped lots of “required” paperwork from my district already this year. If it’s important, they’ll ask again, right? Even when I do it, I tend to, um… streamline a bit, for efficiency’s sake. Only once in twenty years has an administrator called my room to let me know they read through my professional goals for the year and noticed #3 was “Look, if anyone ever actually reads these, let me know and we can talk about personal and professional growth or whatever. Otherwise, this is merely an exercise in wasting my time while killing as many trees as possible.” 

They didn’t find it as amusing as I did. That happens a lot, actually. 

Forgive me, #edutwitter, for missing bus duty Friday, even though I’d been warned for missing a duty shift already this month. One of my kids came in right after school, and she was having a complete meltdown. Nothing that triggers “mandatory reporting” or anything, but she needed someone to talk her off the proverbial ledge, and I guess that was me. So, yeah – bus duty. I’ll be hearing about that on Monday, no doubt. 

Forgive me that sometimes when I’m grading I just scan the work to see if they took it seriously and count it as good enough. Twice I’ve thrown entire assignments away without recording them, figuring the goal is that they learn, not that I improve at data entry. It’s not like there are that many surprises – the hundred-and-four-percenters still do excellent work and the fifty-percenters still turn in stuff that looks like they ate it and threw it back up first. 

Forgive me, #edutwitter, for not reading that many teacher books. There have been some great ones, but most leave me feeling rather bleh. Honestly, there are about a dozen educators blogging for no money who are WAY more challenging and inspirational than whatever it was our district gave us at the start of THIS year for our ‘department books study’ or whatever. 

Forgive me that I find many of my students more interesting and even occasionally entertaining than actual grading or lesson planning. Lord knows I’m at school late enough in the afternoon, but so are many of them as they wait for band or theater or speech/debate. I could close and lock my door, but… I mean, relationships, right? 

I’m sure it started when I came to peace with spending time on things I found important and interesting even if that meant taking a few shortcuts through the mandated curriculum. It’s a slippery slope – gateway pedagogy on the road to serious classroom rebellion. 

Forgive me, #edutwitter, for not always knowing the best thing to say or do for my kids who aren’t there to be entertaining or even to get academic help, but who are hurt or angry or broken or terrified, anxious or numb or frantic. I listen – and I know that’s no small thing. But you can’t grant someone ‘perspective’ or ‘wisdom’ or ‘comfort’ or ‘hope’. They’re in pain and it’s not usually their fault and I can’t fix it. I’m not sure I always even help. I’m sorry. 

Oh – that reminds me. I forgot my door was ajar the other day and I had The Regrettes streaming rather loudly when sweet little Carmichael came in wanting help with an assignment. “Seashore” was motivating me through some tedious grading when I realized someone was standing in the doorway and it might have scarred her for life. I think it might be best if I stick with Coltrane or E.L.O. during school hours – even when I think the door is closed. In any case, I seek your absolution, cyber-peers. 

I used a district copy code the other day to run some class sets – I’m not sure if that counts, but figured I should mention it. I told a peer I couldn’t have lunch with them because I had students coming in to work when really I just needed the quiet for half-an-hour. I shared with a colleague about a close reading activity I’ve not actually used for a PD activity last week just to keep from drawing attention to myself for being unprepared. 

I think that’s about it, anonymous friends and virtual colleagues. I mean, there is one more little thing, but it seems to be ongoing, so I’m not sure if I’m making it better or worse by seeking absolution. 

Forgive me, universe, for never quite getting it as right as they deserve. I am ambitious with my lessons, to be sure, but sometimes they don’t quite do what I hope they’ll do. I feel like it’s always first hour my first few years – the potential is there, some good things are happening, but I keep looking forward to ironing out the problems, shoring up the weaknesses, and finally actually changing the damned world by dragging them into knowledge, skills, realistic self-images, a hunger for truth and justice, and of course… growth mindsets. 

I think overall I’m getting better, but not quickly enough. Not strongly enough. I don’t know enough or do enough or adjust enough or hold the line enough or... something enough. If only I had another twenty years, amiright?

I think that’s it for real this time, but thanks for hearing me out. I’m sure I’ll be back in a few weeks. Maybe a few days. Actually, what are you doing tomorrow?

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