Could You Stay?

It’s been quite some time since my last post. Today as I nurse myself back to health from a lingering cold, I figured it might be worth while to try to rid myself of more than just the bacteria wreaking havoc on my immune system. Perhaps I should release some of the stress I’m holding onto as well.

This marks my second year teaching in a new school, grade level, and subject. This year I’m teaching English to 7th graders. The curriculum is set, my room looks welcoming, and we’re off and running. Or at least it appeared that way. However, with each passing day it seems  harder and harder to stay on course. Again. Still.

I’ve been teaching for two decades. I know who I am as a teacher. I’ve learned about myself as an educator by reflecting daily on my teaching practices. I pride myself on the relationships that I build with my students every single year. I reach out to hundreds of teachers on social media to discuss the passion we feel about this profession. I’m constantly trying to understand the ways my students learn and the roads I need to take to ensure that they find real meaning in the lessons I teach so they can apply their understanding to the world. Most importantly, I seek to instill in them, a love of learning/reading. I know who I am as a teacher. My students have always known who I am.

Until now.

Many of my students today do not see me. They don’t hear me. They don’t seem to want to know me, hear me, or care. And because of this, there are days when even I cannot recognize the teacher in me. Instead of showering my students with passionate reviews about a new book I’ve read, I’m showering them with reminders and warnings and consequences to stay on task. To listen to the directions, to get their work done, to pick their heads off their desk, to stop swearing or talking back, etc. I’ve gone from being the passionate teacher, to the very frustrated teacher who walks among her students feeling out of place, sad and quite honestly, an outsider to the world they inhabit. But it’s never for lack of trying. I attend their games, listen to their music, eat lunch with them, attend outdoor ed overnight experiences, talk to their families, find heroes they can relate to, talk slang, learned to dab…in short, I seek constantly to understand their lives, despite their seeming disdain of mine.

Teaching in an urban setting is not for the faint of heart. Many colleagues have tried to offer me advice on building relationships with students. Several have attempted to help with classroom management. Believe me when I tell you how appreciative I am of this support. I approach each day with the belief that something good will occur. I have not given up.

But today what I need is some honest answers. Because there’s a question raging in my heart. Some of you may not understand and/or like the question because you cannot imagine what it’s like to teach in a place where students don’t value an education. Where students don’t read. Where 7th graders are reading at a second grade level, but it’s not a special ed class, it’s a regular class of 25. Where students talk back, swear, and threaten teachers. Where administrators are seen screaming at students only to be laughed at, and ignored. Try picturing this place, or yourself in it. Place yourself – the teacher you know you are, in this place. A place where what makes you – you, is ignored, mocked, and disrespected. Imagine yourself there every day. And answer this question as honestly as you can. What happens when you’re a passionate teacher, but you’re faced with students who are apathetic toward school / learning? Apathetic toward you, the teacher, and all you believe and hold dear about education? Apathetic about classroom rules, expectations and consequences? Do you think you would be able to stay in that place? A place that leaves you stressed and sad? Every. Single. Day. 

Okay, so that was more than one question, but you get the gist. Just curious… do you think you could stay??

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