Friday, December 18, 2015

#351: They aren't out to get me!!!

I have taken things personally pretty much my entire life. I suspect this is one of the main reasons I didn't become a teacher straight out of college: something inside of me knew that my lack of healthy boundaries and a very soft skin would destroy me.

Working 4 years at the alternative school forced me to get a tough skin, which was really good for me. However, an unintentional byproduct of my time there was an attitude of cynicism towards my students. Or maybe it was distrust. All I can say about it is that although I really loved the students and teaching, at then end of my four years I felt exhausted at the end of each day and felt like I was going into battle every day. A colleague of mine always reminds me that teaching is supposed to be fun. It was not fun anymore.

As this year at a new, non-alternative, school has progressed, I have really had to take a look at my attitudes towards myself, teaching and the students. I've found myself at various times feeling like all teachers feel at some point: tense, frustrated, joyful, inadequate, excited, exhausted. But what I didn't ever experience was relaxed or trusting. When a student came up to ask me a math question, I felt attacked and found myself snarky. Or when a student asked me to help them find an assignment I felt put out, like they were trying to get away with something.

And guess what? The last month I found myself feeling frustrated and tense and exhausted and not having fun.

Then today, I was walking across my classroom and all the sudden, I realized that I didn't feel threatened. I reflected that this entire day I hadn't sniped at a student because I didn't feel like they were trying to take anything from me or out to get me. In fact, a couple of students even gave me Christmas cards.

I suddenly got it: these kids, even the kids at my former school, aren't out to get me. They are just figuring out how to act and what to do and they don't know how to do all the things for themselves I used to think they should. What I didn't see before is that they really do want to learn. They are not out to get me.  I felt my whole body relax for the first time all school year.

This changes everything. It's a whole new job! Now I am free to become the teacher I know I can be!

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