I'm being the kind of cranky teacher I always wanted to avoid, and sadly, it really didn't take me as many years as it should have.
Yesterday I had lunch with the other accelerated English 8 teacher. Our plan was just to ease into things, start thinking about what we'd like to do, and maybe take some notes on a to-do list. Of course, after we spent half the lunch catching up, we started talking about what we'd like to do differently this year. That is, we put a microscope on our weaknesses, and it didn't take too long before I started feeling like I can't do anything right.
But then, of course, why would we talk about the things that work? We have so many other kinks to work out. Too many kinks to work out. I'm no newbie, so what's with all the kinks?
- There are just too many things to teach, and not enough time. Although English is pretty flexible, as there are a lot of ways to approach teaching the skills through speaking, reading, and writing, English class is like five different subject. I just named three. Let's toss in research. Okay, that only makes four. There's always grammar and vocabulary, but apparently, they falls under writing, and those areas vaguely mentioned in the standards now. However, without those foundations...
- The pressure for students to achieve on tests is unrelenting. I feel that when I teach what I am suppose to, the students will leave with what they need. I believe that I could structure my classroom in such a manner that I could probably get to the things I need to, but with testing pressures, I have to teach in a certain way, placing emphasis heavily on one or two areas. Oh, and the tests are in February and March. I wish we'd test in May. Give me a whole year.
- In the program in which I teach, there are some conflicts with the ideals--students centered, project-based, technology-rich, multicultural, well-rounded learner--and the testing mania. I am held accountable for both, and sometimes I cannot get it to work smoothly. It's taken me a few years to fully realize this, and last spring when our program was under review, these conflicts came to a head. I thought it was the big elephant in my head, but it turns out, he was right there in the room for all to "see." I don't know if anything can be done about these conflicts in ideals. It's just the way it is.
- Finally, and this one gets my blood boiling, has to do with students' performances and expectations. Some of the things we are working on improving are things that students simply did not do last year. Like reading logs and projects. And along with that conversation, we return to what we do if students don't turn in work. Take it? Take it with penalty? Give academic detention? So much of what I need to tweak in my classroom has to do with me making it difficult for students to blow-off or cheat on assignments; it has to do with me thinking of ways to keep them from academically hurting themselves. (Last year I saw the worst apathy, and we've heard it might be bad this year, too.) Sure, I can accept that sometimes I do things in my classroom that may not be best practices. Perhaps sometimes I'm wrong. However, there are many times when I do know what I am doing--I have plenty of experience and training--and the whims of teenagers screw it up. They have too much power, and they use it in the wrong ways.
I'm so full of self-loathing right now that I shouldn't post this. Do I hate my job? Do I hate the students? No, neither. I'm pretty cynical, though. I wish I had my rose-colored glasses because I'm pretty pissed off at the system and feeling stubborn and cranky toward the students I haven't even met yet.