Thursday, September 18, 2008

There are days that I want to quit...

like today. I won't get into today's specifics, but I am glad the weekend is almost here. I need the time to get some perspective. In the meantime...

Teaching is incredibly personal business, especially if you take it seriously. I think I take it too seriously. Today was one of those days that included a series of interactions that felt like I got a knife in my gut. It left me doubting myself, my teaching, and who I am as a person. As a matter of fact, I am still so close to it and upset by it, that I can't write about it. I may never be able to. I can, however, give you some idea of the type of pain it is causing me.

When I taught public school, I was told that I couldn't fail a group of students because they met the attendance requirement. Didn't matter that they had averages below 60. I threw a fit and didn't get tenure.

I now teach at a public university. My second year, I gave a grad student a B+. It was a gift. She failed the final paper. She spent the first 8 pages of a ten page paper talking about how wonderful her childhood was. The purpose of the paper was to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of public education. When she didn't get her A, she went to the University Pres. and demanded that I be fired because I was clearly incompetent. I was forced to give her an A-.

I had a student cheat. I mean really cheat. Hand in the paper of another one of my students from the previous semester. Too bad he didn't bother to check that the midterm was a different test question. When I wanted to get him kicked out of school, the kid basically threatened me and I was told not to fight because the student was a star athlete. The coach could make my life a living hell.

I work really hard to challenge my students. I prepare them to be teachers. You would not believe the crap they give me when I make them read and then apply what they read. I teach them how to assess students. They learn how to write tests, construct essay prompts, etc., and how to effectively grade those assessments. And then they say things like I didn't teach them anything. I guess the hours and hours of out-of-class help and extensive feedback and comments was mental masturbation.

Of course I do a lot of other things with my students, and I have a lot of success with them. But it's days like today that overshadow the good, and make me forget why I became a teacher in the first place. And, it's days like today that make me question whether it is really worth it.

Like I said, today was a really bad day.


Mary Ehid said...

I'm assuming you're teaching future teachers and/or future admininstrators. I'm sure the lessons you're teaching your students will stay with them longer than you realize, even though they're complaining. I stay current on your blogs - you have some interesting posts - keep the day future teachers and administrators will realize that cheating isn't helping anyone...let's hope they don't teach their students to take the easy way out.

Edubabbler said...

Thanks. I needed to ground myself again in what's really important.

This week is starting off much better than last week.

LiveLoveLearn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LiveLoveLearn said...

I'm sorry to hear that you had such a bad week. It's really unfortunate that no matter how hard you try to do what's right, there is always someone trying to bring you down.

Whenever I tell people that I want to be an urban public school teacher, they always give me that look that says, "Why?!" It's hard to swallow the fact that no matter how thin you stretch yourself, for some people it will never be enough - I suppose it's just part of the job.

I hope that you won't let it keep you down for long, and that you can take solace in the fact that you stay true to yourself and fight for what's right. I hope I encounter many more people like that in my career.

Edubabbler said...

Part of what we do when we decide to teach in urban schools is also make the commitment to help people to understand what is good about urban schools. I am a proud supporter of urban teaching because I know what it can do, and that is powerful.

Stick with you commitment to urban ed. We have a great program called the urban teaching academy that might be perfect for you.

As for my bad week. This is a new one and it's like a clean slate, all new and full of possibility.

MissClio said...

I think there are times, in every career, in which we question ourselves and our impact on the world as a whole. But the important thing is to take a step back, take a deep breath, and try to concentrate on the things that ARE going right. For every bad apple, there might be two or three students that are REALLY inspired by your passion and commitment. So, keep your head held high, and "dust your shoulders off", as they say, you are probably inspiring more people than you can possibly imagine.