Why is it that the weekends always seem to fly by in the blink of an eye?
I'm getting personal and real on the blog today. If you're looking for my usual cheery, picture filled post, come back later this week. Today I'm opening up about school and sharing the challenges I've been facing.
As I've mentioned, school has been off to a rough start this year.
I'm tired, stressed, spread thin, frustrated, and unhappy.
I'm feeling lost and disconnected.
Let me explain a bit more...
I work in a Title One school. For those of you, unfamiliar with the term, Title One is a federal program in which schools with high populations of low income students receive additional funding and support staff. Approximately 60% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch and we receive Title One services for both reading and math.
Many of our students come from homes without many resources and we don't have a lot of parent support. Our kids face great challenges. For example, each of us have had kindergartners starting school who can't sing their ABCs, don't recognize their name, and know 0 letters. We have a big job. In a lot of ways I feel like I was meant to teach these kids. Every day I know I make a huge impact on them.
And now for the BUT (there's always a but, isn't there?).
BUT, our kids don't perform as well as students in higher income parts of the county. There is only so much we can achieve from 7:00-2:00 each day. Our kids show HUGE growth, but they don't always make it to the "end goal" according to state standardized tests.
Because of this, our school has tremendous pressure. We are state accredited, but just barely and so this year lots of changes have been implemented to try and improve our scores.
The problem is, these changes are tanking morale and quite honestly they're too much.
On any day, we may have not one, but sometimes two administrators popping into our room in addition to new weekly visits from the Title 1 math and reading teachers. I don't mind having an administrative presence in the classroom. Quite honestly, I think it's important. But multiple visits, multiple times a week are too much. We all compare notes at lunch about whose come into our classrooms. It throws the kids off and also leaves teachers feeling nervous. What if the kids are having an off moment when an administrator pops in, what if your plans for the day aren't quite working...
Our lesson planning expectations have also changed. In the past, when we met weekly, we would discuss the standards for the following week and share ideas. From there, it was up to each individual teacher to decide how to teach the standard and what was best for their students. This year, we are expected to have nearly identical plans across the grade level. I don't feel like it's fair. We all have different teaching styles and students. Just because I love one lesson doesn't mean the rest of the team should have to do it and vice versa. As long as our kids are learning the standard, that is what matters. Our meetings are taking double the time they used to take and by the end we all feel brain dead. I feel like there is no trust in the teachers to do their job right. I also feel that my creativity is stifled and certain plans are not as engaging for the kids. On top of that, with the new lesson plan changes, it seems like as soon as we have everything figured out we learn about a new change to the requirements or an added requirement. Another teammate and I discussed that we feel like the planning expectations have become so high that we feel like we plan more to please administration than to focus on actual instruction.
Finally, the last big difference is that the county has shifted the focus to kindergarten this year. I was initially very excited about this. Focusing on the primary grades is important because if students are provided with a great foundation, many of the issues in the upper grades can be alleviated. I also have really benefited from many of the professional development workshops I've attended so I was looking forward to more opportunities for these. Well, since the year has started, we have realized what a focus on kindergarten means: Quantity over quality and added rigor and expectations which are often not developmentally appropriate for 5 year olds, especially our 5 year olds who have not had much, if any prior school experience.
So this is where we are. All of us are stressed. Morale is low. I'm questioning whether I even want to continue to teach (a question I never even considered during my first year of teaching).
I love teaching, but this year I dread going to school. I'm at school nearly 12 hours every day and bring work home. School is constantly in my thoughts and I don't feel fully present in the other aspects of my life.
I have been trying to make "me" more of a priority, leaving earlier some days, but then I'm left with stress, guilt, and a fear that I may not have every i dotted and t crossed for administration.
I've been doing lots of soul searching.
- Do I want to keep teaching next year?
- Should I try to apply to some private schools where teachers are given more freedom?
- If I do switch to private school am I abandoning kids, who really need me? I feel like I've been called to teach, but I also feel like it can't consume me and cause the other aspects of my life to suffer...
- Do I want to pursue a new career, completely?
- If so, what would I want to pursue and am I qualified for the other careers that I would be interested in?
I don't know what to do.
So, if you've been wondering why I've been so absent in the blog world and not always the best at responding to blog emails...that's why.
What are your thoughts?
Any advice for me?
Have you ever been in a similar spot?
Hope you're off to a good start to your week!