School starts in two weeks. (Let the screaming commence.)
I have tons more resources to start out this school year than I have in the past two years that I have taught. I have supportive staff and faculty. I have academic resources to pull from that I didn’t have previously. I have professional development resources that I didn’t have before this past June. I HAVE LOTS OF STUFF TO MAKE THIS YEAR BETTER. Yet, I have had nightmares all summer about beginning the year unprepared and making shit up as I go along, nightmares about kids being disrespectful, about me screaming at them to sit down, shut up, and pay attention (something I have never had to do).
So, to those who say “teachers are so lucky, they don’t have to work in the summer time,” I say SHUT UP (and that’s me being polite). I have had to work under very stressful conditions for 6-7 hours a night in my sleep in addition to the professional development, reading, and lesson planning I have been doing ALL SUMMER LONG. Have you ever read The Illiad for fun? I didn’t think so. (If you have, there’s something seriously wrong with you. Homer has much better works to spend weeks reading.)
During the school year, I was freaking out about whether or not what I was teaching was sinking in. Were they learning anything? Why did they keep making the same mistakes despite my multiple attempts to reteach so they could relearn the things they should have known for the past six years (at least)? Would they do well on the state standardized test coming up in the spring? Would I be able to increase the pass rate? If I didn’t, would I lose my job? What about my honors kids? Would they do well on the state standardized test? Would I be able to increase our pass plus rate? While those obnoxious questions cycled in my head at dizzying speeds, I suppressed my anxiety and gave way to apathy as the BIG TEST passed, and I realized I couldn’t do anything more about it.
Then, the test scores came in. I was congratulated for raising scores 19%! My heart leaped for joy! THEY HAD LEARNED SOMETHING! As much as I HATE standardized testing, I had been able to prepare them for it well enough for them to pass. Then, while visiting my classroom over the summer to check in on a few things, I learned that zero kids had achieved pass plus. Zero? Seriously, someone must be joking. I laughed when I was told this. I laughed, but it wasn’t a joke.
With the news of my failure to produce above average scores, I deflated. All of the joy that had previously been inflating my ego left my body. Zero? ZERO? What had I done wrong? What could I have possible done more of? I did EVERYTHING I could think of to get those kids ready, and ZERO achieved pass plus? I looked at the examples for what designates “above average” on the writing portion of the test before they even took it; I can’t believe that zero kids wrote at that level. I rattled off a few names of kids who surely, SURELY would have achieved pass plus, but no. Zero was my answer.
We’ll work on “making our program better,” more suited to achieving pass plus on state standardized tests. We’ll do better “next year,” I was told. Only, I won’t have a direct shot at getting my students to achieve pass plus next year because I won’t have that age group next year. The evaluation of my ability to teach based on test scores (which, unfortunately, seems to be what things have come to thanks to Dr. Bennett and his cronies) will remain with solid results in “she can get the regular kids to pass, but she’s not good enough to get kids to achieve above average.”
That’s exactly how I feel, not good enough.
Even though I have an arsenal of tools at my disposal to be a more effective teacher starting in two weeks, I am terrified of not being good enough again this year. I’ve been given the responsibility of prepping the youngest grade of expected pass plus achievers, and I’m scared of failing again. Of everything I know how to do and do well, I know that teaching is right up there with my ability to snag a table at a crowded restaurant in 10 minutes or less and my ability to make an incredible, mouth watering lasagna. I am an awesome teacher. Why am I letting this worry me SO MUCH? Why is my glass empty instead of 19% more full?
Tomorrow, I face organizing and preparing my classroom first.
Tuesday, I face lesson planning and outlining my entire year.
Wednesday, I face the dreaded copy machine.
Thursday, I face organizing my files.
On the first day of school, I face my insecurities and give a big FUCK YOU to the state standardized test for making me feel like an inadequate teacher when I AM NOT.