It has been an exhausting first week, but one in which I have learned a great deal. The most surprising thing so far has been that, for the most part, my repeating students have been my best leaders, and I confess to having seriously misjudged that at first. When I was able to look past the initial attitude and give them an opportunity for leadership, I realized their potentially and immediately moved quickly to first neutralize and then win those students over, or at least those with the most extroverted personalities: NM, MB, YW, and Moose, whom I will almost certainly call Mufasa by mistake at some point this year because he is good and enormous and sounds like James Earl Jones.
The notable exception, of course, is KS, and that situation is a fiendishly complex bag of beans. We got off on the wrong foot because I called her by another student’s name by mistake several times, and my attempts at Love and Logic have been interpreted as “nosiness.” (Though when she questioned that and I explained that I was only concerned for everyone’s safety in such a large class, she seemed to accept that without much ado.) As luck would have it, she is in my largest class that has the most other demanding students, and of course it is my third class of the day and I am already well-drained by then as well. I am wondering whether having a snack might make a difference for them and I me, so I might try that next week.
At the end of the day yesterday, I felt pretty disgusted and frustrated with the week but couldn’t quite pinpoint why until I started debriefing with the other new science teacher, who to my knowledge has never taught in an urban district before. I realized that I am laboring under the delusion (for that is what it is) that I “should” be an expert at this by now because I’ve taught for a grand total of one year at an inner-city school. I also feel guilty for not wanting to try harder with certain students and frustrated by the limits of my capacity to care.
I suppose I need to review my conclusions from last week and to accept whatever level of emotional availability I’m at before (but not in lieu of!) taking the necessary steps to increase that availability. There is the factor of whether or not I want to, of course, and I am asking myself that very question right now. Another hate-spiral thought that’s creeping up on me is that this year will be no different from last and that I was crazy to think I could change and be more whole. While there is some truth that history seems to be repeating itself right now, I need to remember several things: 1) that is most likely my flight instinct talking; 2) I am not bound to my past; and 3) the way I view the present shapes how the future will unfold. (All of these are things we are discussing at Continuum, of course!) So for now, I am still hanging out at the bottom of the learning curve, which just happens to be where my students are, so maybe that is not such a bad thing after all.