Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Irritable End

If you've read any of this blog, you probably could predict that the end of my first year was anything but pretty. I dragged myself across the finish line after having limped for a considerable amount of time due to what I thought was irreparable damage done by the first year in the classroom. I was way off the deep end waiting for rest and a break from everything that was my first year of teaching. To say the least I was jaded and I was irritable with everyone and everything around me.

The obvious feeling I had was being sick of my students. Had my School of Ed Self read this past sentence, I'm sure he would have reeled in the disbelief of those who ever spoke ill of students, but there it is. For ten months they'd ground into me, pushed me every second of every day, and oftentimes succeeded in pushing me over the edge to where I was a screaming, unbalanced mess. The last thing I wanted to do was extend my time with them and I was certainly looking forward to a break wherein I could forget all about the exhausting effort I'd expended every day for what was approaching 300 days nearly without respite. Even with the few I'd enjoyed teaching and depended on to help keep the class in some semblance of order, I had no desire to interact with them. I was irritable and wanted nothing to do with any of them.

It's certain that my students held similar sentiments. They'd seen me for nearly a year, standing at the front of the class demanding attention, not getting it, then demanding more still. They were tired of their first-year teacher, someone who lacked the ability to command a group of thirty students in the setting they lived and went to school in. While they were unaware of the fact that it was my first year, they knew I was not familiar with what they were used to and that I did not yet belong in that setting. Their sentiments came out in their frustration with my inability to deliver instruction in a way they most needed and they were tired of me trying the only methods I had up my short sleeves. They were as sick of me as I was of them.

Lastly, I was incredibly tired of meeting with, talking to, and generally working with other teachers in my school. Even the ones that had supported me all year began to get to me with their very well-intentioned and sincere advice as to how I should close out the year. At this point I was tired of dealing with anyone and willing to just wait it out until the end of the year- a state I'd never resigned myself to with any other undertaking throughout my life.

And so it was with my first year. It was unlike anything else I'd ever been through and unlike anything I'll probably ever go through again (hopefully). My colleagues and I speak often of how the one thing we wouldn't wish upon anyone is teaching the first year in the city. It's absurd, monstrously difficult and if you simply survive the year without running for the hills it's highly likely that your efforts were laudable. Near the end you may very well be irritable with everyone and everyone may be (or at the very least seem to be) irritable with you.

If you're in you first year and still in your classroom teaching, I applaud you. Much like a soldier on the front line, no one- regardless of their experience with K-12 education- can know what you've been through unless they have done the same. Not a single other person on the planet can commiserate with you unless they've been there, much like many professions I suppose, but is very arguably (and I say this not trying to be self-aggrandizing) more difficult than the vast majority of other professions. Make it through the next several days and then we'll talk about the summer, relaxing and preparing for next year.

Today's Wine: Mark West Chardonnay 2008. My father was nice enough to pick this up for me while we were in town to visit for my brother's wedding. The bottle bills itself as "uncomplicated," which I woudl agree with. It was a pretty fruity, not at all buttery.

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