Two weeks ago I had an awful afternoon. My afternoons on Thursday are filled with teaching 6th graders, my toughest bunch. I am on my second year of teaching these students. Last year my experiences with them was glorious. I loved working with these kiddos and they responded well to me and seemed to really enjoy class. My 6th graders that same year were a different story. They were "too cool" for school. They were rude, noncompliant, and disrespectful.
This year I started out the year very optimistic that my 6th graders would be different. After all, we had foundation to grow from that started last year. At first, it was different. However, after Christmas break something shifted. I did not change. The way I teach did not change, but they did. Suddenly I didn't recognize these kids I was teaching. Those same rude, noncompliant, and disrespectful attitudes slowly started creeping into class. That awful afternoon two weeks ago it all kind of came to a head. By the end of class I was almost in tears. It's hard to pour your heart and soul into something and to care as much as I do about what I do and who I do it for and then get treated the way these students were treating me. I missed the students they used to be. Who were these kids coming to my class every Thursday? They certainly couldn't be the ones I know and loved last year. I didn't deserve to be treated the way they were treating me, I knew it, and I knew they knew it too.
All the way home I just wanted to pour out my sorrows of the day, but Jeff wasn't home and my children weren't the right people spill my sorrows too. The entire 25 minute drive home it was all I could think about. I had a ball in my throat trying to choke back tears. I rarely have days like this. Most of my time I love what I do and feel good when I end my day. So when I do have days like this it just hits me hard. I knew only way to feel better was to give myself permission to get it out. After 10 minutes or so of being home, when the girls were occupied, I locked myself in the bathroom, sat on the toilet and sobbed.
Afterwards I felt better, but not so much that I could just shake it off and move on. I dreaded going back and teaching these classes. I started to feel as though perhaps there was something I was doing wrong. I doubted my abilities.
The following day I had another break down overly an entirely different matter. Let's just say the expectations for teachers these days is so different from when I taught 7 years ago. The mountains of paperwork that is required for evaluations is ridiculous. The rate of change for these evaulations is quick and confusing. Expectations are unclear and standards are inconsistent. Have you ever heard a teacher say, "All I want to do is teach." I am totally feeling that with these changes. I hate all the red tape we are required to do to prove ourselves worthy enough to teach. A bunch of words on papers are not going to prove I'm a good teacher. Come watch me teach and ENTIRE lesson (I say entire because now all they do is watch you for 10 minute intervals), that's how you will know if I can teach. This causes a lot of stress for EVERYONE. Apparently, I wasn't the only one freaking out about this on this particular day. Several of my colleagues were dealing with the same anxiety about it all. It's so sad because everyone I work with is so good. None of them should have anything to worry about.
God knows me. It was as if he gave us all those snows days just for me. After these rough two days it just so happened I got a week off because of weather. It was perfect. I was not ready to go back and face those students. I was not ready to go back and deal with the new teacher evaluation system they had going. BUT....a week later, I felt recharged and ready to go.
I did a lot of praying. Praying for restoration. Prayer for courage. Prayer for forgiveness. BUT most of all, prayer that I could be a beacon for these students. A glimpse of his love no matter what they throw at me. What's weird is that during one of those prayers there was part of a song replaying in my head over and over. At first I paid no attention to it. My brain is always on autoreplay of some song or another. However, I think the spirit clued me in to really pay attention to this particular song that kept playing. The words were, "Keep on, keeping on, keeping on. Keep on driving ahead." It is a Christian song by For King and Country.
It was as if God was speaking directly to me to just keep on going. That it was going to be OK. So....I put on my big girl pants, splashed a smile on my face, and returned to work a week later. Day one back, I got a huge compliment on the paperwork (my unit) I submitted for part of my evaluation from my boss. At first, I was dumbfounded because I had just read the scores she gave me and they didn't seem so hot (which almost caused me another round of tears, geese!). Turns out I was using the wrong scoring guide when I was reading my scores and they actually were much better than I thought. Felt a little better after that. Classes that day went well. I almost felt back to my old self.
Flash forward to today. My first day back to my Intermediate school. I have not had those classes that gave me so many headaches yet, BUT I have had some of my 6th graders and those classes went smoothly today. One of my music colleagues actually came and observed me for part of my day. Later I asked him if he had any tips for me since he was an older, more experienced teacher than me. This was his response:
"The only thing I could think of while I was sitting there was, "I sure wish I was this good!" Sorry, all I can say is that you are a master teacher and everything I watched you do would probably never have occurred to me and made me feel both like I need to take a lesson and like our programs are in good shape for the coming years. You need to come watch me to give me some pointers... seriously."
Words can not express how good this made me feel. God knew just what I needed. Just like that, I felt assured that I was able to do this and do have what it takes to teach these ornery 6th graders. I just needed to keep on keeping on.