The F Word

Patience. Optimism. Perserverance. I’ve written about all of these concepts in some form or another lately, but today I’m writing about a very different word. One that’s frowned upon in many of my professional circles. A forbidden word.

The F word.

Frustration. (I know I scared some of you for a second there). Anyone who has ever been unemployed, and had to job search knows the feelings that come with rejection. These feelings are part of the process, and should ultimately help you to become more driven, passionate and focused in regards to finding that perfect job. But today, after receiving yet another rejection notification, I’m not feeling motivated in the least. Instead, I’m tired. I’m angry. I’m sad. It’s left me feeling short on patience and confidence. In a word, I’m frustrated.


“Chin up, something will come along soon.” “Do what makes you happy.” “You are talented- you have so many options.” I’ve heard all the positive anecdotes from family, friends, and colleagues. I’ve sold many  such promises to myself over the past months in the hopes of reinforcing a positive outcome. And every single time I think I’ve finally found the perfect job – one that meshes with my experience and my passion; one that I know I’m perfectly suited for, you guessed it… I receive another rejection. I can only be left to wonder what other applicants put forth, and what I lack. My rejections are followed up with questions asking what I might have improved upon in order to increase my chances of getting hired next time, yet most companies rarely take the time to explicitly answer these requests.

I’m frustrated because no matter how much experience I have, how well read I am, or how many connections I make, the doors keep closing on every opportunity I seek to pursue. It makes me question my beliefs about myself, about who I am as a professional, my worth, my dreams… This process has left me feeling lost. Each time I pull myself back up, I get knocked back down, and can’t help but question why. I’m certainly not the first person to seek  new opportunities within a chosen field, yet my unsuccessful attempts make me wonder if such a move is in the cards for me. These doubts lead to the frustration of which I write about today. I don’t want to remain stuck, trapped, or without options, yet this is exactly how my circumstances have left me feeling.


I know that many of my friends who will read this piece will kindly reach out with words of encouragement. Rest assured that your advice has not fallen on deaf ears. I know I wouldn’t have survived these past months with your constant support, and I wonder daily how I will ever repay you. For those of you who think I’ve complained far too long about the whole relocating/ seeking a job ordeal, I agree. I’m tired of myself. I get it. It’s … frustrating. However, this post was not written as a means to garner pity, or to apologize. It was written simply for this writer to release some raw emotions. Out of frustration.

Inspiration

It’s been 4 months since my last post.
FOUR MONTHS.
I can blame this absence on work, time, parenting…just life getting in the way. Which, to some extent would be the truth. There are days when my brain and body are spent – seemingly running on empty. Days when just making one more decision seems insurmountable.

Fortunately, sandwiched in between these kinds of days are times where I feel energized. Usually this is when you will find me engaged in an edchat on Twitter reading up on the latest/best classroom practices. It is from these chats where I become re-charged. Connecting with my PLN motivates me in ways unlike anything I have ever experienced. Teachers, and administrators from around the globe have supported and inspired me every single time I reach out. In short, delving into this space has saved my career. Were it not for the positive support I have found on Twitter, I am not sure how I would have survived in my current job. To all the Twitter naysayers – you are definitely missing out on something grand,… but that is an opinion for a different post.

So, while these past 4 months have resulted in a hiatus in my blogging, suffice it to say that I have not been sitting idly. I’ve been reading, tweeting, learning, and most importantly – getting closer to understanding what inspires me. Hopefully this inspiration only serves to push me closer to fulfilling my passion…

Stay tuned in 2015…

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Teaching: Art or Science

I’ve been doing much self-reflection as a teacher these past few months. I think about the profession, how it’s changed, and where it’s headed. This reflection has forced me to come to terms with who I am in the classroom. As someone who has always struggled with self-confidence, I have spent much of my career second guessing myself as an educator, telling myself that I’m not equipped for the profession, that I’m not as good as my colleagues down the hall. Recently, we hired a very ambitious teacher at my grade level. She spent the summer creating hundreds of lessons, she can recite any math standard as it relates to the Common Core and uses formal/informal assessments on a daily basis to gauge where her students are academically. Yes, you read correctly, on a DAILY basis. Hers is a classroom of constant pre-testing, re-teaching, and post-testing. She has it down to a SCIENCE. Well, this would probably cause even the most seasoned teacher some level of discomfort, never mind one who struggles with confidence issues. So when the school year began, we all felt like we needed to step up our game. Which, in this profession is always a good thing. For me, however, it again brought up feelings of inadequacy, that perhaps the time had come for me to leave teaching to those better suited to this “science”.

Miraculously for me, and I would like to think for my students, something shifted for me a few weeks into the school year. I started reading more, I started to blog and most importantly, I started using Twitter more. There I joined several chats to develop my PLN. Little by little I have begun to feel validated, respected and encouraged by the teachers and administrators who I now turn to whenever I need support. Twitter is where I have learned more about myself as an educator, than in any PD I have ever taken. And the things that I have learned about myself are things that I embrace, rather than question.

Here’s what I embrace: 1) I am not someone who wants to teach the same way every year.  I am creative, and when my creativity is squelched, I die a little inside. 2) The students who sit before us today are far different from the students of yesterday.  3) Assessment is important, but it cannot be what drives us in the classroom every day. Instead, we must strive to make learning meaningful, and dare I say it, a little bit fun.  4) Preparing students for high stakes testing day in and day out is not the reason I became an educator.

To say that I no longer have doubts about myself as a teacher would be untrue.  I will forever seek the approval of my peers. However, today that approval seems less and less important to me. It no longer worries me that my colleagues down the hall may have this teaching thing down to a science, because I believe that teaching is an art.

Stuck

Being “stuck” is certainly not how anyone would choose to describe any situation of their life. Stuck in traffic, stuck in a relationship, stuck in a career. Yet for so many teachers, this is exactly what comes to mind when asked how we feel about the profession we once loved. Trapped. Caught. Stuck in a situation because we are highly qualified and overpaid. Stuck in a situation where politicians, and marketing companies continue to dictate what is taught in our classrooms. Stuck in a situation where we are constantly being given conflicting messages. We know that children are not all cut from the same cloth, that we need to reach individual students by differentiating our instruction. Why then are we asked to assess them all the same? It makes no sense, but as teachers we have no voice, irregardless of the fact that we are the ones in the trenches with these students. We are the ones being held accountable on many fronts: NCLB, teacher evaluations, MCAS, CC, etc. We are in a word, stuck. Of the nine veteran teachers I have spoken with at my school, every single one would leave this profession. Every single one.

I’m sure at this very moment there are people reading this (I can only hope) who angrily scoff at this post. People who are retorting that we should leave, that no one is stuck who doesn’t want to be, that perhaps we are selfish and lazy. After all, teachers do have the best hours, they have summers off, and like today, the occasional snow day. Believe me, I’ve heard the arguments. To the naysayers, I have neither the energy, nor the desire to defend my hours both in and out of the classroom. To know most teachers is to know the depth of our devotion to this profession. Which is why being stuck is such a sad place to be as a teacher. We are fully dedicated to the children in our charge. It is solely for our kids that we do in fact stay “stuck”. We have not given up on them, though many have given up on us.  Apparently for all of our dedication and years of service we can be easily and more cheaply replaced. Ironically, should teachers ever get back some of the many principles lost in recent years, (autonomy, decision-making, planning time, authentic assessment, curriculum design) there is no doubt in my mind that every teacher would no longer feel trapped, caught, or stuck.