Slice of Life 2013

Something’s Missing

on January 10, 2017

Slice of Life


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Something’s Missing

It has been a really long time since I’ve written a “Slice of Life” entry…not that I haven’t written, but I haven’t submitted to the SOL blog. I’ve been feeling the need to get back into writing and submitting and I guess this gift of a “snow day” is the impetus I needed to get going.

Here’s what is on my mind this morning: A close friend of mine and I have been sharing our mutual discontent and lack of enthusiasm and creativity for teaching lately. We used to teach at the same middle school, but I left to go to the high school almost two years ago and she stayed on. (This is my 17th year teaching; she’s at 19 years).

When I left middle school I was hoping that the switch to a new school, a new grade, would be just the ticket to kick my creative juices into gear, and that needed kick would carry me through to retirement (10 more years before I am eligible to retire with full benefits). I have enjoyed being a creative teacher and am used to spending a lot of time reading, researching, creating, collaborating with others to bring energy to my classroom. Over the years I have been blessed to work with other teachers who have been eager to collaborate with me and as a result I was successful at keeping my own energy and enthusiasm up for teaching in middle school. The last two years of teaching 8th grade language arts, I was growing more and more frustrated by the micromanagement of my administration and felt that it was limiting my creativity and interest in teaching. I knew that it was time to leave and try something new.

Since moving to high school, I have found it difficult to find that same level of energy and enthusiasm that I once had and I am trying to figure out what caused it and how to fix it.

I am now in my 2nd year of teaching English 1 (Fall semester) as well as English 2 ESL Sheltered (Spring semester). I started teaching an ESL English 1 sheltered class (co-teaching with an ESL Teacher) in my first year at the high school and found that I really enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I petitioned my principal to ask if we could create an English 2 sheltered class that I could teach so that the students who were in my class could catch up and finish two English classes in one year (most of the students were older to begin with—average age of 17). He agreed and I ended up keeping this group for the entire year. I loved teaching these kids because they were eager to learn English and it was easy to form relationships with them as we were together for the whole school year. I received a lot of gratification from working with my ESL students and they were the highlight of my first year of high school teaching.

For a number of reasons, I have had a difficult time forming relationships with my current students. My colleagues say that block scheduling is to blame…that students know they only have you for one semester so why bother getting to know you or building a relationship when you will not be in their lives in four or five months? As a former middle school teacher, I also notice that unlike middle school, I only see these students when they are in my classroom. They are off to other parts of the campus after that and I don’t often run into them like I would when I worked on a “team” and saw them all day between classes, lunch, and then bus room. Also, unlike middle school students, I have found that high schoolers are largely uninterested in their teachers. They have other more important things on their minds and/or they are completely absorbed in their phones. I often feel as if I am completely invisible in my own classroom.

Teaching high school is a completely different animal than teaching middle school. I am not sure why I feel this way but I do. While we are not “required” to teach certain texts, most English teachers still do, leaving those of us who prefer standards-based teaching out of the loop. It is difficult to find other teachers to collaborate with because so many of them are deeply invested in keeping things as they are. Last year I felt very much alone. This year I have a first year teacher who is eager to collaborate with, but with his lack of experience, much of the planning falls in my lap. I know that I have always done my best work when having a collaborative partner. It’s just not as easy to find one where I am now.

So all this is to say I am trying to figure out if I can somehow muster up the creative juices needed to remain vital and connected to my students in my classroom. Is this just a phase I’m in as I adjust to the transition from middle to high school? Am I able to find what I’m looking for where I’m at?

Some of you may be thinking that perhaps I need to move again, find another school, go back to middle school, etc.  I work at a good school, and was recruited to come here by my former principal. He has been and continues to be supportive of whatever it is I am doing in my classroom, so administrative support is not the problem.

Am I just in a slump? Winter blues? I am not sure. I have been struggling with these feelings for a while now, so I don’t think it’s a phase.

Am I being prepared for a different role? Is this a natural phase for someone at the tail end of their teaching career? Although many at my age might be retiring, I am not able to do that for at least a decade, so I can’t and won’t just get by until then. I owe it to myself and my students to figure out how to be the best I can be in my classroom.

Anyone else out there feeling these things, too?

I would love to hear your thoughts.






11 responses to “Something’s Missing

  1. Michelle @litlearningzone says:

    First of all, welcome back! I think you already made one of the best steps to working through all this — writing about it and sharing with the TWT community! I don’t have any answers for you, but I think it’s important to stay connected with those that do fuel your fire and passion for teaching. Connecting with your students is essential — disregard the myths and what kids believe about you! You are there for them, always. Keep pushing on! I’m sure you have great accomplishments to come!

  2. Wow. You have the same thoughts that I have! I am so glad that I am not wondering all alone. I said that some people are WANDERERS – never settling, but I am a WONDERER – always questioning. I hope you find some peace and connection soon! I will be thinking about you!

  3. terierrol says:

    I am very sympathetic for your situation and certainly hope for the best for you. Yes, sometimes we don’t know exactly what is right, but I think by you questioning your position, the correct path for you will follow. I still believe good things come to good, hard-working people. Best of luck and hope you keep posting.

    • gstevens1021 says:

      Thank you for your response. When I am in the midst of questions, writing is often how I find my way. I sometimes forget that, and I am grateful for this blog and all the slicers who helped to remind me.

  4. Leigh Anne says:

    I switched grade levels after 7 years. I went from elementary to middle school and loved every bit of it. But…I am beginning to see myself getting restless. I have tried to start doing some PD presentations to add a little bit of creativity and newness. Maybe this is an avenue you pursue if you like to do that sort of thing. It has given me a new outlet to show my passion. Good luck and I hope you find some answers.

    • gstevens1021 says:

      Thanks, Leigh Anne. Yes, I was very involved in curriculum writing and PD a few years back while I was still teaching middle school. Like you, I was very energized by it and it carried me for awhile. I do know that change is good and I guess I am just surprised how short-lived this benefit has been this time around. One thing that I do know is that writing is usually the way I find the answers I am looking for, so I am grateful for this spot for giving me that outlet. Thanks again for your encouragement!

  5. Amy Warntz says:

    I am going to suggest to stay connected to your PLN. You will have the opportunity to find so many new and creative ideas. That might be just what you need. I wish you well and look forward to reading more of you posts! ~Amy

  6. gstevens1021 says:

    Thanks, Amy. Staying connected to my PLN is vital! I appreciate your feedback.

  7. GirlGriot says:

    Forming relationships with my students was always one of the things I liked best about teaching. It must be so difficult to not feel that connection. I can feel your disappointment and frustration.

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