Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nearly Quarter 2.

According to one of my 9th graders, our first unit was due the title:

"Educational Revolutionary Mathematics"

That felt like the arising of my own personal cheerleading team.
That was also about three weeks ago.
Since then, I've been negotiating parent teacher conferences, failed experiments in the classroom, incorporating a student teacher (my first), dealing with longer darker evenings, the storming phase of group dynamics, and my own personal dramas around all of the above. Truth is it's felt like such a hard couple of weeks that I didn't want to look at the reality of it in my own head, much less write about it to anybody else. However, I did learn some things.

Highlights that I'll share:
If I feel disrespected, discouraged, frustrated, like a failure...
it's worth considering how my students are feeling. Because they are probably feeling a bunch of those things, and I want to be conscious and sensitive to how I respond to such volatile and hot emotions. Also because I feel immediately compassionate for them in a way that I struggle to feel for myself, and that's a useful button to push in me.
Because when I'm feeling pissed off at myself or them or the situation or whatever, I get distracted by all those feelings and forget to actually look at what's happening, pay attention to the math and the kids who are learning (or struggling to learn it). But once I hit my compassion button, and start looking out for my kids' feelings, then I'm paying attention again, and it's just a problem solving activity, rather than an ego trip or an identity crisis.

I can't be sure, but I think it's safe to guess that I'm not the only teacher who takes stuff personally when they shouldn't, and for all of you out there, I just want to offer this:
Whatever your worst feelings, your students' are worse. Focus on that and it's easier (for me) to let go of my own head trip and get back to thinking about something I can actually do something about (tomorrow, or right now) rather than impossibly fretting about the past.

I want to be your cheerleader now, assure you that somehow it's all about the process, all about showing up and doing your best and working hard and enjoying it as much as possible and in fact doing whatever you need to do so that the hard work feels good. Remember to sleep enough. Remember to eat three square meals every day. Remember to love yourself. Remember to tell them how awesome they are, whenever they are. Look for those moments so you can jump up and down and cheerlead them. We all need it, eh?

Hope your last three weeks have been fantastic. Hope that your Mondays are awesome.


  1. Great posting. It reminds me of my favorite quote that was my teaching guide: "You have to be in the right place to see a shooting star."

  2. This post is so awesome, and there's so much in it for me to take to heart. I missed your posts and I'm glad to see you're back :)

  3. glad to see you back at the blogging. the soaking-up-pain aspect of classroom teaching doesn't seem to have discouraged you much; good. you're doing important work and doing it well. keep the faith. easy for me to *say*... i've lost almost all of *mine*... but still it took a long time to burn me out and i'm content that i've done right. you're younger and stronger and probably smarter (for all my advanced work; pro mathematicians aren't any smarter than amateurs any more than pro rock stars are better musicians than the kids banging it out in the garage: it's mostly about access to resources). so keep on showin em how we do it (with hearts and minds open).

  4. Jessie,
    You are so inspirational to me, so transparent, real, and incredibly encouraging. I teach 6th grade math in a school in Texas that is awesome, but I don't feel the heart there that I wanted... Anyway, I am a teacher of children, and I love them, but your posts help me grapple with the logical math side and connect it to my emotional heart side.
    I don't know if this makes any sense at all, but for sure, please don't quit...
    You too have a great Monday.

  5. This is exactly what I needed today. I was searching for inspiration after a particularly discouraging time with Year 9. Thanks heaps. S