Earlier this week, one of my students did something incredibly nice. She bought me a new lanyard for my keys because the one I had been wearing was pretty wretched. That night, when I told my wife about this she said, “See, your students really like you.”
I shouldn’t have to hear words of encouragement like this. It’s nice, of course, but I shouldn’t need them because I should be able to look around my classroom on any given day and see students who are eager to learn or if they’re not are at least polite enough to indulge myself and their peers for 48 minutes. And they are there in all four of my English classes and on my yearbook staff (okay, my yerds are completely certifiable, but that’s a good thing), but I don’t often see that because when I close my eyes and think of my students, I immediately turn to the very few who seem to be on a mission to make my life a living hell because they think it’s hilarious.
What’s worse is those few are in my last class of the day and that means that more often than not I leave the building in a horrible mood and this has a deleterious effect on my state of mind for the rest of the evening (and sometimes even the weekend) because I’m not motivated to do any work and I dread the next day, even though 7/8ths of it are great. Yes, I’m making parent phone calls and writing discipline referrals where appropriate and rearranging seating charts, but the taste is there every single day (and now it comes with extra SMART goal pressure).
Needless to say, I’m frustrated and it’s only September.
“You’re going to burn yourself out,” my wife told me when I ranted on Friday about how abhorrent things were in my last class. And she’s right. Constantly worrying and stressing about the one bad part of my day will–if it hasn’t already–start to affect everything else. In fact, dealing with classes that are rough and students who clearly had no respect for me before they even met me (I’m not kidding when I say stupid stuff started on the first day of school) comes with its own five stages of grief. There’s denial (I’m going to pretend I don’t notice you making high-pitched noises or animal noises or talking to your friend when I’m talking), anger (time to whip out the discipline referrals), bargaining (well, maybe if I did xyz or let them have abc I’ll get them to behave), depression (I suck, I’m ineffective, I’m a joke, everyone else is having wonderful learning sharing inspirational moments of wonderment and winning awards and I am a pathetic waste of a teaching license who needs to be fired like every other ineffective teacher that isn’t held accountable), and acceptance (somehow learning to live with their crap, weeding out the true troublemakers vs. those who simply get caught up in it, and reaching them nonetheless).
At the moment, I’m experiencing a combination of anger, bargaining, and depression. I want to be at that stage of acceptance sooner rather than later and one of the ways to get there is to focus on what’s positive as well as who’s positive. Sure, focusing only on the students who seem to want to learn or seem to care is probably not the most sound teaching philosophy, but I don’t think that letting my mental health and my ability to do my job deteriorate because of a few people is sound either.
I’m not trying to be a Pollyanna or be completely naive about things, but I have to admit that I get jealous of the teachers in the lounge and the teachers on Twitter who seem to have nothing but wonderful inspirational moments of wonderment to talk about. Moreover, while this may seem arrogant, I know that I’m good at my job and I want to be able to share successes and what I know.