In the beginning of the year, I gave off an air of confidence. I felt, without any formal training, I was a pretty good teacher. I wasn’t the best teacher. Over time, I started feeling like I was getting better and better. But being a teacher isn’t just teaching the content. There’s so much more to the classroom than that. It took a while, a long while, to fully realize what it meant to be a teacher. The philosophy of teaching seems to fall the wayside. It’s about procedure, organization, time efficiency, management. If you don’t have those qualities, you can’t just teach the lessons. And within the lessons, there’s so much more than the content. Is every student getting what they need? Do they know what they need to do, what they are learning, what’s the expectations, and how do they know?
My confidence in myself has dwindled as the workload has increased. Part of it is because I spend so much time planning for lessons; I don’t have the energy to think of everything else that makes a classroom run like a well-oiled engine. I’m burning all my gasoline before I start the day getting the basics done, I have a steering wheel, wheels, but the frame isn’t solid. The wheels fall off, but the gas keeps burning. What happened? You can’t have a car without all the little parts working in conjunction. The parts need to work in order, a complex algorithm of gears, on and off switches, individual functions, and emergency systems in place, an airbag in a final disaster.
I’m not trying to use a metaphor to get back into philosophy; it’s a way to look at my perception of teaching. I’m putting in the time and effort; there’s no doubt about that. I’m usually the first person at school – and the last to leave; and then still doing work until midnight. Lesson planning takes all of my time. My perception of having a curriculum has definitely changed. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of project based learning. I truly believe that it engages students in so many ways, that they really get to apply what they’re learning. They are doing learning, not just learning. Curriculum definitely has its advantages as well. It has all teachers on the same page; they aren’t just doing whatever they feel like (though standards also address this). It allows a lot of team planning (though so do projects). It (curriculum) is really useful to new/student teachers. Without literacy or math curriculum (and teaching three levels of grade standards), I’m exhausting all of my energy into research, planning, graphic organizers, practice sheets, etc. There are a lot of sources online, but it’s not always what my students need. I’d love to be like Ayers, and have a project where I learn along with the students. That’s a fantasy. Projects need to be done back and front before even presenting it to students. Then you can structurally guide the students to what they need to learn, and what they’re interested in.
How did the wheels fall of right before the finish line? Can I put the pieces back together? I need to ask for help. If I were writing a story, my character would have a huge flaw. He can’t ask for help. He bottles everything up, and tries to do everything himself. He collaborates with others, but never tries to hint at any weakness. His organization needs to be revamped. He needs to be more effective with his time. He needs to broaden his focus. He needs to see the forest and all the trees. He works hard, but he’s never had to work this hard before. It’s both physically and mentally exhausting for him. Things did come easy to him, for most of his life, and when they don’t; he does everything to hide that, but that all breaks down. And if we look at this like a story, we’re in the falling action. He’s been beaten up, and he’s down. There’s a nigh impossible goal he’s need to obtain. He needs to overcome all of his weaknesses. He needs to rise back up. Regain his confidence. Ask for help. Get the support he needs. Get organized. Look at the end goal, look where he is, and look at what he needs to do. He can’t just take it day by day, surviving on coffee and snacks. He needs a training montage with 80’s music so that when he faces what he needs to do, he’s ready. He’ll work harder than he’s ever had to do before in his life. He’ll sleep in the summer. He’ll show that as the days grow longer, his eyes grow wider, and he’ll strain against every obstacle.
Maybe it’ll end up like Rocky. Maybe he’ll do all this, and still fail. At least that’s how he feels. But what Rocky did something we can all strive for. He went the distance. And in that, he succeeded.
“Why do we fall? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.”