Even though teaching isn’t anything like I’d envisioned, I’m still very happy to be where I am. These students need me whether they believe it or not.
That belief has wavered at times, though. You’ve seen it on my Facebook page. The responses and support you’ve given me has been invaluable. The first year of teaching truly is your toughest year. I believed it from when I heard it the first time. I simply had no clue how hard this would be.
I actually broke down and cried a bit one morning, in the cafeteria, because I was so frustrated with myself. I couldn’t control a group of 12 middle schoolers to save my life and I couldn’t figure out why there was such the huge difference between them and my high schoolers, who had only moments of teen angst.
What broke me was hearing another teacher say, “They act like they have no respect for you.” She didn’t mean it as a slap in the face but it punched me in the psychological gut. Hearing those words aloud brought a painful truth to the forefront, condensing into one word: failure.
I’d been dreading middle school P.E. for at least the last two weeks.
Said teacher was there when I shed a few tears and she quickly brought the situation into perspective. Middle school is probably the toughest age to teach, and this school’s group is no exception. They give every teacher a hard time and push their limits at every chance.
You guys (and my fellow staff) echoed her words and helped bring me back to center. Thank you for that. My boss and two teachers guided me towards better ways to handle the situation.
My problem has been consequences for bad decisions. I know what I can do for college students, but not for minors. My boss equipped me with the tools to alleviate that. My other problem was that I made the mistake of being too buddy-buddy with them. I want people to like me. They liked me at first, so that fooled me into believing I was doing things right, but it quickly turned into disrespect. It grew into a mutual dread of what should have been the most enjoyable class of the day and we reached a breaking point at the same time.
I hit a soft-reset on the class with a talk and a writing assignment. I stopped caring whether or not they liked me and that freed me up to do what was right for them, instead of what gave them instant gratification. The whole process feels like I’m learning how to parent backwards.
The turnaround has been huge. I was expecting a long battle for things to change but the next day proved to be a 180. Peer pressure pulled the stragglers to conform, which is neat to watch. We went from no one wanting to have a basketball team to them asking me when they’d get their uniforms. We went from a roster of 6 to 9. It could be 11 but one student’s parents won’t let her play because they live too far away from the school, and the other is not allowed due to bad behavior. My 12th and final student simply has no interest in basketball, which I can respect.
So, not only have I been learning how to teach two different age groups and three classes I have no prior experience teaching, I now I am learning how to coach basketball. Thankfully, the first aforementioned teacher played college basketball and has been helping me a LOT. And I mean a LOT. She doesn’t have the time to be head coach but she’s been an indispensable asset to me and the team, a wealth of information.
I’ve been scouring websites and youtube for how-to-teach-basketball as well. I have to start with the very basics, like how to dribble the ball and move your feet. Every time I thought I’ve simplified it, I’ve had to break it down into even smaller chunks. It’s been a huge mental exercise but the payoff has been amazing.
Yesterday, the more skilled students marveled at how fast the novices were progressing, and it was then it finally hit me that I just might be onto something, that I might be doing this right (with lots of help). Their eagerness to be a team has jumped to the forefront. They are helping each other catch on to the basics. Arguing has almost vanished, and when one snapped at another, she looked at me and apologized.
The weirdest part of all this is my voice. Sometimes it sounds like someone else is talking when I open my mouth, like a whole another person’s voice is coming out. Or is this my “teacher voice”? I don’t know. It’s strange. It’s like my consciousness takes a backseat to someone else speaking through me.
Can’t wait for our first game on December 4th! Go, Panthers!