This week I came to a realization that I’ve been lying about my school year. My writing hasn’t been total fabrications, but a series of lies of omission. I’ve been trying to craft a narrative of positivity and a fresh start. Who is this narrative for? Myself most of all.
The truth is, I’m feeling exhausted, burnt out and discouraged. And I haven’t yet finished my first full week of teaching.
What is going wrong? What is so different from the past two school years which began with (relative) calm and optimism? Why does this year feel chaotic and overwhelming?
On a practical level, it’s the number of bodies in my room. Last year I had a ridiculously small roster of 19 students. While my classroom was still full of challenges including non-readers and students without basic number sense, the small class size made most management much easier. This year, with 29 students, including three who are new to the country and two other non-English speakers … not so easy anymore.
Beyond the logistics of a class that’s almost double the size of last year, I just don’t feel psychologically ready. I mentioned that I felt I had spent the summer backsliding, but I think I may have understated that feeling. Slowly I’m getting my bearings on all the pieces that go into teaching, but it feels like a struggle in a way I haven’t experienced since my first year teaching.
The students (a handful in particular) are talking nonstop. During class discussions, they’re having side conversations. When they line up for lunch or dismissal, they’re talking. When I’m giving directions, they’re talking. And it’s only the first week of school! Where’s my honeymoon period?
But then of course, there was a glimmer of hope in yesterday’s teaching. I felt a hint of rhythm in my teaching. In class discussions I caught a glimpse of what could be some awesome accountable talk. I know enough not to declare “Mission Accomplished” just yet. Still, if I can build on yesterday, I might create the narrative for my school year that is positive and completely truthful.
About our First Person series:
First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.