Middle School Hero

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 02 2013

The tiniest rays of hope that get us through the days

I was going to write a really negative post today, partly as a form of catharsis and partly just to let the world know how bad things can get once testing is over and student’s motivation goes out the window. I’m floundering and at the end of each day, all I can think about is how few hours are left until class tomorrow starts.

I was thinking about writing this negative post while I was standing in the middle of the room during second hour, presiding over the type of chaos that hasn’t existed in my room since October. Testing had rendered all my lesson plans obsolete, deprived me of all technology, and given me a multitude of students who should be suspended but can’t be until they’re finished taking their state mandated tests. Two students tried to chase each other around the room while two groups got into a loud argument and several students sat quietly, doing absolutely nothing.

In that moment, all I could think about was how tired I was.

Tired of having my stuff stolen.

Tired of being mistakenly called by the same name as the other white male teacher.

Tired of being called a racist.

Tired of hearing kids swear in Spanish because they think I don’t understand and tired of hearing them swear in English because they just don’t care.

Mainly, I’m just tired. I ran the Oklahoma City Marathon last weekend and have TTL training this weekend. I teach five days a week and then I teach Saturday School. My students and I have been in school for three weeks longer than anyone else because of our takeover status. Right now, I’ve got a group of kids who don’t care because they know they’ve already passed and another group of kids who don’t care because there’s no way they’ll pass.

I need a break.


So today I was standing in the midst of this madness, feeling sorry for myself and being a generally not-very-good teacher when one of my students spoke to me.

Juan is a 15-year-old, 200 pound 7th grader who almost definitely has MR but has been passed over by the special education system for reasons unknown. Although it is a nightmare getting him to read or write, he loves his more hands-on classes such as tech ed. He’s failing all of his classes but the kid’s got a firm handshake and he always says hi to me in the hallway.

“Mister, are you sad?”

“Yeah Juan, I’m just having a rough day.”

“Mister, when I feel like that I do this with my head.”

And with that he hung his head and assumed a faraway look in his eyes, which I can only assume mimicked my own expression.

It wasn’t much, but it gave me the hope that I could get through the day.

To be completely honest, it was the only time today that a student actually treated me like a human being with thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities.

It was such a small moment, but it’s carried me to the end of the day, where I can grab a few hours’ respite before marching back in.

Looking back, there’s still a negative tone to this post. I get that. I wish it wasn’t that way, but I also think that this feeling and this mood is an important part of the story that I have to tell, so it’ll stay. I truly do hope that I’ll write here within the next couple of days and say that the storm has passed and the inspiration has returned, but for now I exist at a low ebb.

One Response

  1. Ben

    I’m sorry about the way things are going. It is inevitable to go through stages and periods of negativity in teaching. I think back to my year of student teaching and realize most of it was similar to what you’ve just written — perhaps not the same circumstances, but definitely the feelings of self-pity, frustration, and exhaustion. I wanted to quit then, but I’m glad I didn’t because it’s gotten better. I still have bad days, for sure, but they are less frequently and generally, I take them less personally than I used to. Good luck with the rest of your school year.

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Chronicling teaching middle school English in OKC

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