Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Lost My Mojo

Warning - venting ahead. Don't say I didn't warn you... :-)

I am worn out. I don't think I have worked harder as a teacher than I have this year, and to be honest, I cannot say that I feel that this has been my best year as a teacher. With Common Core and the changes to the Algebra 2 curriculum, I have been doing everything from scratch for it. Some of the stuff I have used previous years has been all right to use, but for the most part, I am starting fresh. I almost hate to say it out loud, but I am not happy with how stuff has turned out.

I had high hopes for this school year before it began. The year did not begin the way I would have liked it and I don't think that I ever really recovered from it. It's not worth going into the details and rehashing it, but as I sit back and reflect, I know that the start of the year ended up setting the tone for me. I had one stretch during state testing where I was actually ahead in my planning, but most nights I am planning for the next day or maybe a day or so ahead.

I feel so incredibly lost at times in terms of how I should be setting up my classes. I have taught for 21 years and for most of that time, I was the "sage on the stage." I don't think I ever effectively learned how to be the "guide on the side," even though those two phrases have been en vogue for a while. I want to be less helpful and push my students to do more of the thinking on their own, however, I find myself going back to direct teaching when introducing new material. I do have to say that I think my questioning techniques have improved. I do feel like I am asking good questions and I have brought in Max's "What do you notice?" much more into my repertoire lately. As I reflect on what I have designed this year, I still feel that an awful lot looks like what stuff from textbooks have looked like for years. From what we have heard on Common Core, I know that's not going to cut it.

It's not that I don't want to design better lessons. I do. I'm just not feeling it right now at all. I keep going back to that I don't know how to, but the reality is that I could probably figure it out with enough time and energy. Right now, I lack the energy. I feel like I have lost my planning mojo. There are even days that I don't find teaching as enjoyable as I used to. Now, part of that may be that I am teaching the same thing 4 times a day. Some of it is that I need some new tools in my tool box and I just haven't had time to find them.

I miss sharing on Twitter. I still read pretty much daily, although I do a lot of skimming. But the conversations are not the same for me. I find it hard to have some of the richer conversations that we did at times in the last 2 years - especially as I was trying to figure out Standards Based Grading. I really ought to be having some of those types of conversations on Twitter about planning and how to implement the Standards for Mathematical Practice in my classroom and all sorts of stuff. However, honestly, as of late, it seems that when I post a query on Twitter, it gets ignored or lost in the shuffle. I suppose I have to think about how to start the conversation in 140 characters again.

Like Kristen Fouss, I have thoughts about leaving the classroom this year. I can't quite pinpoint why I am having these thoughts. I have taught in the classroom for 21 years and that's pretty much what I know. But this year has worn on me. I can't say I'm thrilled with the direction things seem to be heading, not that I am totally sure what that is right now. However, I have no idea what what I would do instead of teaching. Would I like it? What if I am not happy not teaching? It would be very difficult to get back in with 21 years experience and a Masters Degree. Not to mention, leaving public education right now would dramatically change our life plans later on for my husband and I. However, the idea does intrigue me a little. I can't say I have seen anything that is worth pursing, but it is an interesting thought.

So where does that put me at the moment? Worn out. Trying not to start counting the days until the end of the year (we just started the fourth grading period - that could be really bad!). Trying to figure out where my planning and teaching mojo has gone and desperately wanting it to return. So, please, if you've seen my planning and teaching mojo, send it back. I won't even ask where you found it. I'd be very grateful. Thanks.


Stephanie Reilly said...

This post broke my heart. I'm a new teacher -but old in age- (this is my 3rd year of teaching and my second HS), so I have new classes every year. I don't know anything but being a day or two ahead of my classes. Even when i am a day or day ahead, as the classes roll through, inevitably, I get better insight into what they are thinking and stumbling with and I dream up something that I just have to create for the next day, so I throw out what I did have prepared.
I hope to eventually get to a point where I've taught the same thing enough times at I am not in a constant state or reiteration!
I'm sure all of your experience is shining through and even if you are not as thrilled with your year, I'm sure your students are learning everything they should be learning. It's almost summer. I'm wishing for,you strength to get through this last quarter, it will probably fly by as we enter testing season...
Would love to see a blog post on what went wrong in the beginning of the year, I'll bet lots of teachers could learn from it.

Jennifer Cook said...

I appreciate the candor of this post. This is my 14th year teaching and I've often felt the same way. I'm trying flipping and plan on implementing INB's and SBG next year. I guess I'm trying to find ways to improve and get away from my own "sage on the stage" addiction. I've been frustrated because I didn't do a very good job this year. I'm a control freak and I have a hard time letting go of that. I'm also a push over who hates to have my students feel frustrated, so I don't let them struggle nearly as much as I should.
But I think the fact that we recognize these feelings in ourselves, and you were brave enough to put them in writing in this blog post, means that we want things to change. And that's the first step! I've always felt that my career and how I feel about it goes in cycles. I think the low parts of the cycles are there to keep me forward and always striving for improvement. Maybe that's what this year is for you. Or maybe you really are ready for a big change - a move out of the classroom. Maybe you could stay connected to the classroom by pursuing a career as a curriculum specialist (or something similar)?
I feel your pain and I hope you find resolution. Thanks again for sharing.

Fawn Nguyen said...

Hi Lisa. We share about the same number of years teaching, I think I'm on my 23rd. Your post resonates with me because I've lost track of how many times I've wanted to leave teaching for the same reasons you've stated, the last serious family discussion about this was 8 years ago. Like all the other times, something came up at the 11th hour and made me stay. Strange how things happen sometimes.

Your post brings me back to these times when I felt I was done with teaching, it took too much out of me. I was depleted.

"Right now, I lack the energy." Teaching is so so beyond an 8 to 5 job. We bring stuff home with us. We talk about it at dinner. We work on the weekends. After 20+ years, I still scour the Internet and books for lessons because many of us want to suck less at teaching by trying to improve each and every time.

"... I am teaching the same thing 4 times a day." That's really tough, Lisa. While I don't want 4 different subjects to teach either, but variety sure helps quicken the pace of the day.

Teaching is so tough, I think, because so many things have to align to make us feel adequate and fulfilled and driven to keep going. We need supportive admins, reasonable number of preps of topics that we love, reasonable class sizes, kids eager to learn, supportive coworkers, great lessons, less paperwork, less grading, more coffee,... the list goes on and on. And I haven't even mentioned the gigantic toll that teaching takes on our family members. Every paper that we grade outside of school hours is time away from them.

I appreciate your candor in voicing what many of us feel. I know you'll make the right decision for you and your family.

Mr. R. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. R. said...

Lisa, I am in year three after a relatively long, successful career in the business world. Teaching is the hardest but best thing I have ever done.

I also have been feeling like you do this year. The year was a real killer for teachers...tons of changes...teacher bashing....crazy evaluation changes by people that have no idea...and all the rest.

What keeps me going is that I have been on the other side and I know I will never go back. Nothing is as gratifying for a teacher as being a teacher. YOU are a teacher...even to me! Math Camp...early September pep talks....etc... Teaching is more gratifying than anything else I have ever done (even when it sucks). You'll get through the missing mojo...

Maybe we need to address teacher burn out at TMC13.

Ayway....hang in there sister!


Dean said...

You are not alone Lisa. I too am disappointed in teaching - perhaps for different reasons as you might have seen from my blog.
Have you tried flipping? - I found it worthwhile both for me and my students, but it puts a premium on students knowing the fundamentals.
Best of luck.

disillusionedbuteager said...

I feel your pain. This year has been hard for a lot of us. I just started blogging. Please visit.