Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Feelings of a Frustrated Teacher

The joy of traveling has a dark side--the side that rears its ugly head when I return home. I always go through a little funk at the end of a trip because traveling reveals to me exciting opportunities, adventures and feelings. Returning home shows me the realities of my life that become obscure when you are just toiling away on a daily basis.

My recent trip to New England was amazing and when I returned to work I was surprised by the note left by my substitute teacher. I pride myself that I work very hard to keep control of my class and I try very hard to build relationships with my students so that they will stay behaved. Five out of my six classes are great and the substitute loved them. But, my eighth period class is full of students that don't want to be at school, could care less about learning and generally dislike anything I do in my class. This does not mean they don't like me...they just don't like my class.

I had tests planned while I was away, but apparently my eighth period class would not settle down until the sub called the office and had the Dean come and talk to my class. When I read about this, I told my class how disappointed I was. I look at their behavior as a reflection of my shortcomings and thus I have been a little frustrated all week.

As a whole I can't complain, the rest of my classes are great and we have a good time together. Sure more than half of my students are failing, but this is the story in everyone's class...not just mine. It's a reflection of the general apathy of students in Las Vegas today.

To cap off my week, Friday we had a staff development day. I try to be positive during these days, figuring there must be something I can learn to improve my teaching and my classes. The class that our department attended was taught by a woman who I became acquainted with last year when I was taking some AP World History classes. This woman is an amazing teacher with fantastic ideas, so I was excited that she was teaching the class. A nearby high school's social studies department joined with us and within 5 minutes of her presentation everyone (my school and the other school) were bad mouthing her and just generally being rude.

The frustrations from a week with my students, added with my anger at the unprofessional behavior of my colleagues gave me the most wretched headache and put me in a foul mood the rest of the day. By the end of the presentation, the presenter was looking at only three of us because we were the only ones still paying attention. Everyone else was either talking to their neighbor or playing on their computer. After it was over I apologized to her. I do like the people I work with, but I was ashamed at everyone's behavior. I did not want to be associated with them.

I am aware that I have a lot to learn about teaching and Friday just demonstrated to me that I will need to add patience and understanding to my list.

Yesterday, I dropped by my department chair's room to drop off some paperwork he had requested when we got into a long conversation. I told him about some of my frustrations and he shared with me some of his own. He basically told me in no certain terms that he considers me the best teacher in his department. Although I am flattered by his response, it doesn't make me feel any better. I want to learn from others and if I am at the top of the list in our department, who do I look to for support and ideas? I want to grow and I don't know if I have the motivation to push myself to grow without any external triggers. For this reason, I am going to start looking for employment outside of Las Vegas.

I am currently looking at companies that recruit teachers for oversea schools which would be an exciting opportunity. The contracts are usually 2 years. The only downside is that most of the locations are in the middle east. I want to visit these countries, but living there would be a challenge. I don't want to sacrifice 2 years of no church service for the opportunity. I am also looking at some of the high end private schools in the States. If any of you know about recruiting fairs or exciting opportunities in your area let me know. I am up for anything.

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