Friday, October 22, 2010

Little Victories

I've come to rely on what is perhaps the most cliche notion about teaching (a field just FILLED with cliche); the notion that we must celebrate the small victories.

Because this is a late night post after a few really awful and mostly sleepless nights, I might ramble here. My viewpoint will probably change in the course of my writing. Fair warning.

For a long time in the classroom, I was dissapointed and discouraged. I thought of myself as a mediocre teacher because I couldn't reach everyone, and I couldn't do everything. I had kids who misbehaved, and there were moments that I wasn't at my best. My deepest personal criticism took shape in the critique I gave myself while in front of a classroom. These are children- they deserve the very best we have to offer. I am doing them a huge disservice to stand in front of a room and not bring my "top game," not pour every ounce of energy I have into the lesson, not love them with everything I have to give.

And then I pacified myself by celebrating the small accomplishments that one can see every day. Yes, three kids might not understand what you are talking about- but fifteen got the message! Child A actually turned their homework in, and Child B responded well to the chat we had earlier. Child C might be a holy terror, but I brough Child D over to the good side. I developed the ability to excuse away ENTIRE lessons just filled with awful because I could find one or two or five tiny little good things. And so I convinced myself that I was a good teacher, that I was skilled, that I could do this. I developed the ability to overlook the larger injustices that play out in my classroom every day. When did I stop grieving over the social inequality I see in the eyes of my students? When did I lose my taste for real knowledge to take root instead of just compliance and understanding? At what point did I give up my ideals?

Romania is not ideal. I don't get my way in the classroom. There aren't nice spaces for children to be creative and expressive and free. I can't even freaking COMMUNICATE with half my students on a level beyond basic vocabulary, and I am so tired of saying "linistit" and singing "Head and Shoulders" and counting down from five to get attention. I'm tired of having 21 classes and 600 students and the overwhelming knowledge that I won't get to know all of them personally, which is the reason I wanted to teach in the first place. I'm tired of finding out last minute that classes don't have books and missing teachers meetings because no one tells me and I'm tired of being alone.

Always in the back of my head was the lingering notion that I was just quieting down the inner demon. He or she or it is rearing it's ugly head this week.

I am tired of feeling like a failure.

1 comment:

  1. hi!I recently started reading your blog and it reminded me of my English teacher I had when I was little.We had him soon after 1989, and I remember he was like a breath of fresh air.
    I don't remember much of what he was teaching us to be honest, but he was doing it with a lot of happiness and ... I remember that :) And its true most of all I remember his accent, and all the little games and plays he organized for us. I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed his classes, because he was so different from all the other stiff Romanian teachers we had.
    Anyway, just wanted to say that if you ever feel like you're not succeeding ...don't! Its already a great experience for most students to have a new teacher with a new insight. Probably they don't get it now, but here I am...20 years later and I still remember our English teacher :) Carmen