I’ve Failed, and I’m Almost Glad I Did

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Today was my last as a classroom teacher

My classes are being taken away from me.

My principal has lost confidence in my teaching ability.

So have I.

Oh, I do okay with my high-flying 7th grade class and they were distraught when I told them that I would not be their social studies teacher anymore. There were tears, some of them theirs.

I did not do so okay with my low-level 8th grade class.

I completely failed as their teacher.

I can make all kinds of excuses: there are 35 of them; all their other teachers struggle with them; they were a ‘bad’ class last year and more difficult students were added this year; and more, but the fact is, I did not reach them in any way.

Oh, there are one or two students in the class who I connected with, but not the other 33. My lessons were flat, my class management totally ineffective. A good day was one where the books flying around the classroom was the biggest behavior problem.

I had a double period with them today and they were oddly well behaved. Some of them even worked, but only three had the draft of their exit project written report due today. They did not know it was our last together.

They are not learning and I was getting more and more frustrated.
Tomorrow they will have a different social studies teacher. So will my other classes.

I have long championed the value of failure as part of the learning experience and I already know one of the ways this failure will benefit me (more on that in a moment), but it still does not feel very good to fail and I’d much rather have been a better teacher for those 8th graders and my three other classes.

Then again, had I not failed I would not have the exciting new opportunity presented to me.

Tomorrow I start my new job as the school’s media specialist.

I will be taking over the library and trying to drag it into the latter stages of the 20th Century.

I’d rather drag it into the 21st C. but the budget and some Department of Education regulations won’t allow it.

Even so, the late 20th C. is a big step forward from what we have now.

Now I know nothing about being a librarian.

TL09 View of School Libraries
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No worries; I’m fortunate to have some of the best school librarians in the country offering to help me out.

Through Twitter I have ‘met’ Shannon Miller from the Van Meter, Iowa schools, DM Cordell, a retired school librarian from upstate NY, Beth Friese from Georgia, Melissa Techman from Virginia, and Susan Myers from South Carolina. I am sure they will get me off on the right track.

What one does as a media specialist is undefined and seems almost unlimited, but I think it will have a lot to do with helping students make connections that will be as important to their learning as those librarians will be to mine.

Today one door slammed shut.

Tomorrow a different one swings open.

I will go through it smiling.

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Banging My Head Against A Wall I Can’t See

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I’m tired.

I’m sore.

I’m frustrated and drained.

I know that teaching is a physically demanding profession, but I expected to feel better after my first day back following two weeks of enforced rest due to an ailing knee.

Instead I feel like I don’t want to face going to work tomorrow, particularly since the 8th grade class is my first period.

It is so important to get off to a good start with a class. That didn’t happen with the 8th graders. I only had one session with them before I got hurt and apparently I did not establish myself enough to carry over for the two weeks I was out.

Where my 6th grade class wanted to talk about my knee more than they wanted to follow my lesson plan, at least they acknowledged that I was there.

The 8th graders barely noticed that I was in the room. The dozen or so I was able to reach for the first part of the class joined in the socializing of the other 26 before it was half over

All my apprehensions about having to teach a large class for the first time in my career are coming true. I so much want to go back to teaching special education classes of twelve.

I have no idea how to walk into this class two weeks into the school year and establish routines, especially when I can’t get them to stop talking long enough for me to say hello.

When the bell finally rang after 43 minutes of near chaos, I was stunned when about half the students crowded around me asking what the homework was.

As I was sitting in my car after school, waiting for the Triple-A garage to come deal with a flat tire (yeah, it was one of those days) I heard someone in a radio story on NPR say that teaching is a constant process of recovering and learning from lessons that failed.

Today should have been one hell of an education.

First period tomorrow I have to do something different than what I did today and different from what I did twe weeks ago.

Right now I have no idea what that something is.

I hate feeling inept.

And I have no idea how I’m going to figure it out.

I hate feeling this empty.

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