On teaching - lately
I will begin by stating that: I do, love, my job. But at times, you reach a certain point where you hit a wall, and you think really? Is the path that I have chosen for myself? I learned a new phrase recently, at my job oddly enough. I feel sometimes that I am in “the trough of disillusionment”. The realities of my work life overwhelming me, the sinking feeling that I am just treading water, wiggling my toe in the ocean of education, scratching messages on sand in the face of an incoming tide. Bah, so melodramatic. It is really not so bad, but the feeling that it is impossible to make one iota of difference is, at times, inescapable.
Why so glum? I am not really, despite the expression on my face that states otherwise. (I am smiling on the inside 90% of the time, really! I am mostly just tired, honest!) To do what I do, you have to have a thick skin, be energetic and be accepting of failure, and more importantly willing to admit that you have failed, learn, and move on. You must also be aware that you are part of a system. A cog, constantly spinning at dizzying speeds, at certain times essential to the functioning of the machine, at other times, you are a spare part. The machine, the system, marches on with or without you, and will do so long after you have gone. It did so long before you came. The system is flawed, but I don’t have the answer, so for now: sheep. I have been thinking about this much lately, and it first hit me how seemingly insignificant we all are in this profession when I started this amazing journey to New Zealand almost three years ago.
I left my first job after four and a half years, in the middle of the year, at Christmas. I loved that job, the students, my colleagues, the comfort of it all. That January, whilst embarking on this adventure I realised how quickly I will become a footnote in that school’s history. A new person will take my job, form connections mould, shape, and inspire as I hoped I had done. Not six months down the road, one class would be gone, a new one filters in from the bottom to replace them, having no idea who I am, and then the next year and so on, and so on. In a few short weeks the fourth class will have left, of the five that I would have taught leaving only one. And I would have known them only half a year. How quickly time flies. I cling to the hope that somehow it all matters. I have received votes of confidence since then from the pupils of my past that suggest this is true, and if I didn’t believe it, I suppose I would be long gone.
Right now I am loving my job more than I have in a long time. I look forward to going to work. I feel relaxed. I feel little stress. This is problematic. I am a teacher and I have never felt this way. I have come to the conclusion that I am in denial, and I don’t know what to do about it. I have about two solid - no sleeping, eating, drinking - days of marking headed my way, that will result in a collective: sigh of disappointment, curse of anger/hatred, gasp of surprise, or shout of genuine glee from a collective 130 students as they get their results. This will last a combined total of 10 minutes, the end product of countless hours of planning and instruction summed up in such a tiny fraction of time. Such is life. But, having already faced a similar onslaught of “assessment” I can’t be bothered with this next batch. I am shutting down. I am refusing to confirm its existence. I am writing this blog/rant. I think this is the product of being in a larger factory of education. You are just a number as are the students. They change every year here for me as opposed to every five as they did back home. I tell myself this is what I wanted, but as I age it becomes harder to relate. Perhaps it is my accent? Or theirs? I miss the freedom of my department of one. Now I am in a department of twenty six or so - ones. (who are a constant source of entertainment, amusement, inspiration) Sometimes it feels like someone is always watching as I get ready for what seems like my 20th observation, it also feels like no one is noticing. No, that is not true. I know that I am appreciated, and I am noticed. But something is not the same, maybe this is just change and I need to get used to it. Maybe, I am by now making no sense and should go to sleep. But I want to write, I love to write. Instead of selfishly writing for myself, I teach others (hopefully) how to write. I am getting off track now, time to close.
Denial. I am not only in denial, I am distracted. I am burnt out. There is a light, and it is only three short weeks away. It is all I think about. I look around me and wonder how all my colleagues keep it all together: motivation, passion, energy. All I can think about is the Canadian summer a mere few weeks away and the seven days of relief I have to set as punishment. The system is wearing me down, I hope I will soon recapture my motivation. I hope #3 sleeps through the night. This latter point is, of course,wishful thinking. I wonder if my lack of stress despite the incoming storm-front I just outlined is the gradual abolition of my teaching “mojo”, my frustration with the system, or am I just looking beyond the now and becoming oblivious to my daily life? Perhaps this is the product of the profession. My failure to not figure out how to cut down on the three to five hours of work I do every night that every other sane teacher seems to be able to do in two leaves me feeling lost when I choose to do nothing. I need a beer. Ah well, tomorrow will be a great day. I am having a shared lunch with my year 13’s, they are truly awesome people and I love every second we spend together. And then I will have a beer, or five. And then I will do what I should be doing now instead of procrastinating.
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Happily married to my beautiful wife Stephanie, and proud father of three beautiful girls, Aurora, Brynn and Clara. Instructional designer, writing when I find time.