Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pre-School Funk 2012

Well, it's back and worse than ever. The pre-school funk. The one you get about 2-3 weeks before school when you realize that summer is coming to an end and it's time to go back to work. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy teaching. Some days, I can honestly say I even love it. Most days I can say that I like it, and that's a good thing. But I have enjoyed my summer and I love not having to work.

I can certainly pinpoint reasons why it is so bad this year.

We had a wonderful trip to Johnson City, TN in June for the Monte Carlo Nationals which included a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway for a tour and laps around the track.



Twitter Math Camp. Enough said.

Well, maybe not enough. As awesome as Twitter Math Camp was, I honestly think it is what is having such a profound affect on this year's funk. I guess it's for two reasons. One, as much as I hate to say it, I am experiencing such a let down after TMC finished. For a week, I did NOTHING. Most of that was I had done a lot in the days and weeks leading up to TMC in addition to Mommy duties. I am finding at this point that I am missing my friends a lot. It was so wonderful to be together with people that I have conversed with online for years and who I feel "get" me. It was phenomenal to have the conversations we did - about teaching, about math, and about life. I have never been in a group of math teachers who "get" how I feel about teaching and mathematics. It was great to feel "normal" and in a group of like-minded individuals and I miss them all immensely. I am grateful for their presence in my life and I am glad to know that they are only a tweet away.

But there is a second reason why I am experiencing such a let down. As I approach this school year, I am feeling awfully inadequate. I have been reading what others are doing as they start school and I look at what I am planning and it feels so mundane. I am struggling to figure out what math I want my students to do the first day and I see everyone's great ideas and find myself frustrated that I can't come up with something as good. Then I reflect on how my class tends to go and, again, I look at what everyone else is doing and what we shared at TMC and think about how mediocre my class is in comparison.

Now, before you all think that I am having myself a huge pity party (which I am to an extent), I also know that I don't totally suck. I realize that when we blog about stuff we share our good stuff, but also that we don't do the good stuff every day. Kristen Fouss taught me that when I visited her class 2 years ago. However, with Common Core, there is certainly the pressure to change how we teach. I am encouraged by Mrs. H (Math Tales from the Spring if you're not familiar) that I can make changes even after teaching for 20 years. It doesn't change that I am nervous and scared about it, though. I also know that good teachers aren't afraid to beg, borrow, and steal whatever they think will work for their classroom and adapt it accordingly. I've done that the last two years in particular and I am getting rather good at it. It doesn't change that for once, I'd like to come up with a good original thought and have others be able to use it as I have done with their stuff.

I wish I had favorited the tweet that had the link to a short article I read last week. The article was addressed to veteran teachers and one of the things that stuck with me was about enthusiasm. It made the point to not be overenthusiastic the first day because that's not what you (as a veteran teacher) are. It shows you are trying too hard - which is oftentimes what first year teachers do. As I have been looking at first day posts (this one by MissCalcul8 sticks out - I really like this by the way), I have really liked some of them but I keep coming back to "this is not me." But what is "me" at this point? I'm not sure. Some of the stuff I have seen I have really liked, but trying to make it work in my classroom doesn't make sense - I'm a 40 something teacher with 20 years experience, and, let's face it, we aren't exactly known for being "hip" and "current." My twist on "Call Me Maybe" probably wouldn't come across real well. In fact, I'd be more afraid that it would come across as being a has-been trying to hold on to her youth (which I'm not).

Which brings me back to my funk. I'm not a teaching has-been trying to hold onto my early teaching years. For that matter, I don't want to revisit my young teaching years (for the most part). But I do want to be the best teacher I can be. There is a part of me that knows I cannot let go of how I have taught in the past. I still think that showing students examples and letting them work through them with guidance in the classroom is an effective way to teach mathematics. It may not be the best way all of the time, but I still think it's more effective than some will give it credit. But how much? What is the right balance? Where do I begin in making changes without completely going overboard?

I guess I better figure out the answers soon. Students come a week from Wednesday and I go back a week from Monday. There isn't much time left in vacation. Although, really, at this point, vacation is a loose term meaning I'm not at work. Honestly, the real work starts this week with prepping my room and beginning lesson plans for the upcoming year. So long, Summer 2012. I will fondly look back upon you often this year.


Angie said...

Lisa, what beautifully written sentiments! Like you, I have twenty years of experience, and your thoughts echo many of mine. I, too, struggle with finding a balance between the tried and true that I know works well and the new "stuff" that is exciting and fun to play with, even though I'm not sure what the outcomes will be. It's kind of like I'm walking on a tightrope without a safety net below.

If you're anything like me, that excitement will manifest itself the night before the students come back. Even after twenty years of teaching, I still find that I get absolutely no sleep the night before I meet my new students. There's something special and wonderful that kicks in - a kind of synergy that happens once we start interacting with and teaching our new kids. I'm looking forward to that feeling and I'll bet you are too!!! :)
Angie :)

@malynmawby said...

I loved your post because it's so honest and heart-felt and if I was there next to you, I'd give you a hug...instead accept this virtual hug and comment.

We live in exciting times because change is afoot and inspiration abounds. It is unsettling though and finding the balance is both exhilarating and exhausting....without any guarantees. And though we're all roughly on the same journey as our tweeps, we all have our own walk and, as I'm finding out myself, walking the walk is tricky. Read more here.

That you still look forward to teaching is very much a good sign.

I think it's high time I pay this forward - please watch Be amazing.

Sue VanHattum said...

Hi Lisa,

I've taught (mostly college math) for over 25 years. There have been years where I wasn't eager to go back, thought this isn't one of them.

I was so full of great ideas after my sabbatical 2 years ago, I was definitely eager to go back. But then 2 of my 3 classes had hostile students in them, and were no fun. (The 3rd was amazing. I made a difference in their lives.) I had a bit of trouble the 2nd semester too. So last fall I was not eager.

I finally decided that the low level classes (beginning and intermediate algebra, which pretty much = algebra I and II) are a crap shoot for me. I might be their favorite teacher ever, and change their lives, or we might painfully get through the semester, with students pushing the boundaries the whole time. And I decided not to teach those for a few years.

Last semester was great, and I'm trusting that I'll be able to do a great job this semester. So I psyched.

I still do new things, but many of the things that excite the high school teachers whose blogs I read don't excite me. I definitely evaluate what I read in terms of my own style.

Good luck finding your pace, and I hope you get some kids who make you know you couldn't do anything else.


Sue VanHattum said...

(Oops. Forgot to edit... though, I'm, yeah yeah...)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

Your post really resonated with me. I too am squarely in the "over twenty years of teaching" phase of my career. Although I have been a mathblog lurker for years, my experience of "jumping in" and sharing my own thoughts, comments, posts, and tweets has given me some of the same sense of inadequacy that you are feeling from your twittermathcamp let down. I am bombarded daily with so many good ideas, but how do I fit them in, within my own comfort zone of teaching?

I think the title of your blog says it all. You ARE willing to learn "new tricks" and your willingness to do so is what makes you a good teacher. Never "settling" and always looking for ways to improve :)

Cindy W

justagurl24 said...


I thought I was the only one who has been in a funk. Can I say how much I can relate to this post? After TMC, I also felt that I came out with tons of ideas and felt like my class wasn't up to par compared to these fantastic teachers.

And your comment about how the TMC people just "get you".. I can't agree with you more..

Thanks for this post..