It’s 7:40 am and it’s time to pick up the students from the multipurpose room. I slowly leave my classroom to walk down the three hundred plus steps hallway that it takes to get to the multipurpose room. It’s Monday morning, but this Monday morning was very different from all of the other Monday mornings. When I entered the multipurpose room I had to remind myself to smile and greet my students as I do every morning. As I walked toward my students I began to wonder how in the world am I going to make it to the end of the school year?
Each morning as the seven hundred students exit the multipurpose room my very cheerful and ultra positive principal greets each and every student and teacher. He shakes our hands and says, “Have a great day!” Most days are great but this day I was feeling tired and mentally drained. As he began to shake my hand I guess my face told him that something was wrong. He asked me if I was okay and I told him that I was mentally drained.
This is the first time that I have ever felt this way. I really didn’t know what to do about it. A few days passed and I saw my principal again in the hallway. He made the statement that he thought it was normal to feel the way that I was feeling because when he was teaching his ELL students were always so low. I wasn’t really sure because I always had enough of something ( I don’t know what it was) to get me through the rough patches. I just couldn’t figure out what was gnawing at the core of who I am as a teacher.
“Provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with uncommon effort and attitude.”
On Thursday nights on Twitter I moderate the #UrbanEdChat. This particular week we were going to discuss the themes from the book Teach Like a Pirate. In the midst of preparing the questions for the chat I suddenly realized why I was feeling disconnected and mentally drained.
There it was, as big as day! I was loosing my content passion. I have always loved teaching math but this year, by far, has been my most difficult year because my students were so far behind. Although I have moved many low students, this year was different because there were so many who were low and on top of that they had language deficits. These 2 factors were the reasons why I began to loose my content passion because I have been so focused on building their fluency and math vocabulary that I forgot to enjoy process. Like Iyanla Vanzant always says, we have to walk in our truth. The truth of the matter was that somewhere deep down inside there was this lingering doubt that I couldn’t recreate the successes that I had with other students with the 117 students that sit before me everyday.
Dave Burgess’ quote “Provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with uncommon effort and attitude” really made me reflect on the experiences that I had provided for my students this year. I had to ask myself, “What uncommon experiences did I provide for this group of students this year?” As I sat and reflected I came to the conclusion that even though I didn’t get to do all of the things that I wanted to do with them I did provide them with an uncommon experience. I believed in them everyday! On Friday when my students took their benchmark test they rewarded me with uncommon effort and attitude. Some of my students’ benchmark scores increased by 25 points. They were so excited and could now hold their heads high. They had finally found their self efficacy. This reignited my passion and reminded me why I teach the students that I teach.
Teaching at an urban school is not always easy, but it is the most rewarding and fulfilling work that I have ever done. My students have taught me lessons about who I am as a teacher and challenged me in ways that you can’t imagine. Guess what? I love every minute of it!