Confession and Commitment

August 7, 2010 at 9:00 pm 11 comments

Test results are coming out across the country, and it is a time of intense reflection. When confronted with lower than expected test results, some people blame the tests. Some people blame the system. Some people blame the kids. For me, it’s just time. When you are doing the same thing long enough, it’s easy to get burnt out. And with burn out comes a slow lowering of expectations. In my case, this came in the disguise of work/life balance. I started doing less so that I could spend more time at home. I wasn’t being selfish, I just thought I knew what it took to teach and could relax a little bit. I didn’t realize that one of things it takes is a feeling like what it takes will never be enough.

That is why I am so grateful there are standardized tests to let me know when I am starting to take the backward slide. I am also wary of standardized tests because I think a few years of good results made me think I had this job down.

More than anything I am grateful that there is the work of other teachers out there to remind me what is possible and exactly how hard it is. That is why I plan to spend a lot of time observing other teachers in rigorous, high-performing classrooms this year.

I suspect that everyone feels like their job is uniquely difficult, but man, isn’t teaching so hard? If it is not hard, it is not being done right. But that is also what makes it so rewarding.


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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jonel  |  August 8, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Well said! I sure wish there were more teachers like you! Can’t wait to hear about the classroom observations.

  • 2. mrsbasement  |  August 8, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    keep being good to yourself, teachies.

  • 3. Wifebian  |  August 9, 2010 at 12:56 am

    Try to remember that it may take you as many years to be “good” at work/life balance as it did for you did become a great math teacher. do NOT think that whatever choices you made for yourself last year were for naught. you must paint murals, have successful relationships, etc. in order to bring passion to the babies. you will find the way that works for you and the kiddies.

  • 4. Emily VA  |  August 10, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    “I didn’t realize that one of things it takes is a feeling like what it takes will never be enough.”

    If this is true, it’s the most depressing thing I’ve read about teaching… it makes it sound so stressful and unsustainable. I’m going to hope it’s not really true, that it’s just that getting the work/life balance thing figured out takes more than a year.

    • 5. Carrie  |  August 11, 2010 at 2:51 am

      Getting the work/life balance is a constant struggle. Most times your work wins, rarely your life. But, I am sorry to say, it is true that it takes feeling like whatever you do, it will never be enough. That is what drives teachers to grow and improve – that kind of reflection and evaluation, and the desire to tweak this and that so they get xy too. Or campaign to buy books or whatever. Yet I have never found this desire being driven by test scores. Kids are more than a test score, and so is my effectiveness as a teacher.

  • […] One teacher’s falling test scores make her thankful, and vow to work harder. (Year Seven) […]

  • 8. rantingwoman  |  August 11, 2010 at 1:11 am

    I know what I do in the classroom and I know I work very hard. When the kids don’t do well, they have to take some of the responsiblity. I refuse to blame myself when I have spent hours preparing and on the phone with parents. I refuse to blame myself when they sit in class day after day and do nothing.

  • 9. sobro  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    “…but man, isn’t teaching so hard? If it is not hard, it is not being done right. But that is also what makes it so rewarding.”

    i love this – and while it may mean teaching may not be sustainable for everyone as a lifetime career, those who aspire to such high standards are certainly doing the best by their students while they are in the classroom.

    thank you for your honesty!

  • 10. Another Teacher  |  August 11, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    What it takes will never be enough, because “enough” is beyond the capacity of a single human being. We work in violation of the laws of physics as it is, even when we attempt to balance our lives against the work. Do you have children of your own yet? If you do, then you know the gnawing feeling of being neither a “good” parent nor a “great” teacher when you are trying to be both.

    All test scores do is confirm one’s sense of inadequacy, or bludgeon one’s sense of efficacy. It’s obvious by your blog that you are an excellent teacher. You should read Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry by Todd Farley.

    Then, stop blaming yourself for the inevitable plateauing and /or zigzagging of test scores. The martyr schtick will burn you out faster than the hard work itself.

  • 11. Jose  |  August 17, 2010 at 4:28 am

    First, I should thank teachies for “name-dropping” me up in the comments. Good to know people are still reading. Secondly, I’m not sure if this was already mentioned, but we can’t rely on our local test scores to tell us whether or not we’re doing well. My #1 factor in knowing whether or not we’re doing the right job comes from the students themselves more often than not.

    Teacher made tests go a long way, and so will focusing on the NAEP, which is more focused and standardized, and not adjustable to the whims of billionaire politicians (yes I said that out loud). Keep the faith, because whether we’re 5 years in or 20 years in, we know we still have a ways to go before we’re the best teachers we can be.


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