I have three months left, and I feel so guilty. What should I do?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by LittleShakespeare, Mar 29, 2019.

  1. LittleShakespeare

    LittleShakespeare Comrade

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    Mar 29, 2019

    Hey, everyone.

    Things have been going pretty well over here. I have three months left at my school, and my resignation letter is submitted. I had my last observation this week by my sweet, kind principal. He's really supportive, and I think he gave me a good score. I'll find out next week.

    I have a group of 29 kids in one classroom who are driving me insane, but it's nothing I'm not used to. I'm struggling a bit with my guilt, however.

    I had this "rigorous" assessment that was implemented by our district PD, but it is NOT effective in the least. The kids were supposed to pick out a book to do a Book Talk presentation and 5-page essay. It's a lot. I showed it to my VP since she told me I'm not "rigorous enough", and even SHE said it was good. I assigned this project three months ago, and it's due today. Back in January, I went to Barnes and Noble and the Thriftbooks website to get books for the kids to keep, a book on a topic they were interested in. I feel like all that money was wasted and here's why: only one of my kids finished the project, out of 75 children.

    I feel like I'm not servicing these kids. So many of them drop out and have no will to learn at all. They have told me that they're waiting to be 16 to drop out, so they don't want to read anything. All they want to do is watch movies. It's not them I feel guilty for: I feel so guilty about the kids that want to learn.

    I keep changing my lesson plans and canceling things at the last minute. I have found that when we read together as a class, they fall asleep and hate it. It's not engaging. When we do literature circles and accountable talk, they hate it because they "get distracted" and miss my voice when I read to them. I did skip a novel during our Holocaust unit (as per their request) but I did teach them all I could about the Holocaust with modern-day genocide, visuals, and movies. They hated it.

    I feel like I'm trying so, so hard. But one of my kids said to me the other day, "We're not really learning anything." It really hurt me.

    I know I shouldn't care because I am leaving the profession. When I leave teaching, I am going to close the door on it for good because I've never been this unhappy or stressed. I remember a time when I really loved this job, during the honeymoon phase. But why do I care so much about what these kids get from me? I know I'm an anxious person by nature, but I was up till about 3:00 in the morning just thinking about how I've had four years of teaching experience and nothing to show for it. I'm ineffective according to my VP, and ultimately, I feel like the biggest failure of an educator, even moreso because I'm leaving.

    Today, they are finishing up a project, so I gave them a survey on how I can better help them for the fourth marking period. We are going to read "Looking for Alaska" because that novel seems to be interesting for many of them and it's part of our curriculum. Over spring break, I'm going to work really hard on making better lessons and surviving these last three months.

    I'm sorry for rambling, but I just can't shake the guilt. Is there anything I can do about my kids? Is there anything I can do to lessen the guilty feelings? Thanks so much for your help, everyone.
     
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  3. tchr4vr

    tchr4vr Companion

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    Mar 29, 2019

    So, what grade level? Since you say they're waiting until 16 to drop out, I'm going to assume middle school or maybe freshman/sophomores. I would say a five page essay is rather extensive, at that level--my DE/AP students write ten page research papers, and they are super upper-echelon juniors and seniors. What was the essay about? Was it a traditional book report? A literary analysis? If it was a literary analysis--they probably would have a lot of difficulty with it, if I am reading your population right, and frankly, that is really long for an analysis. What do you mean by a book talk?

    I know your leaving the profession, but here's some suggestions for the 4th quarter.
    1) If you are going to read to them, if you're not, stop often--ask them questions, have them do short "turn and talks" with their classmates. Have them do a "graffiti wall" - have them draw what they see on large chart paper. Have them write a postcard about the events in that section. Read the 1st part, have them read the 2nd part on their own.
    2) If you're doing literature circles, give each students a job in that circle--that way no one is carrying anyone. Have their circles only be on a chapter, not the whole book--it might make it more palatable and easier to do.
    3) Try chunking the work--if they are struggling readers, reading an entire novel may be problematic. Have each child responsible for 1 chapter--give them a book talk or a visual assignment to share their chapter with the class.
    4) Give them more choice in their assignments--allow them to make videos, raps, poetry, posters, art projects--I know writing is important--but if they have a little more choice--they may be more excited. However, due to the content of the novel, be very careful about putting limits. Make sure the language they use is school appropriate, even if the words in the text are not.

    The point is--you need to get them engaged in school. They may be interested in this novel because it deals with issues they deal with themselves--and that is great! Get them talking! Maybe have an anonymouse discussion point box in class--have them ask questions or present examples that they can talk about, but allow them to do it anonymously--it may give the class the idea that it is a safe zone. With this book, I would also start each class with a discussion, based in the events of the text--relate it to real life.

    Good luck. I'm sorry you've soured on teaching, but it's good you've realized it. Do the best you can for the rest of the year--don't feel guilty--you have to do what's right for you.
     
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  4. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Mar 29, 2019

    How many checkpoints did you have along the way with the book project?

    My 8th graders did book reviews and posters (with a list of required items, not just a picture) last trading period. I had to have multiple checkpoints or they’d never have gotten it finished. I think I ended up with only 5 kids (out of 85) not completing the assignment.

    A five PAGE essay? My kids write a lot of five paragraph essays, but they’d completely curl up and die if I asked them to write five pages. They’re not ready for that yet.
     
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  5. LittleShakespeare

    LittleShakespeare Comrade

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    Mar 30, 2019

    The five page essay wasn’t my idea, by the way. It was required by our PD. Every week, we had a check-in, but many of the kids didn’t even do those. :(
     
  6. Tulipteacher

    Tulipteacher Companion

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    Mar 30, 2019

    You can't take what one student said to heart. You've got to take it with a grain if salt, put it in context with what other kids are saying, with your own observations, and with your own student data. Also, as a teacher who often has students two years in a row, it's not uncommon for one of my 2nd year students to say a comment along the lines of "I didn't really get/like that topic when we were doing it but now I do."

    A year ago I would've said that you just needed to think outside the box and come up with more engaging or relevant lessons. This year I have some students like yours. They will not be engaged. Period. I have tried everything.It doesn't matter if I give them choice, make it relevant, make it at their level, partner them, use online resources, explain why they need a diploma, build a relationship, encourage them, call their parents, you name it.

    I also have some students who work so hard and are such a joy. Like you, I feel badly for them that their peers don't care, because the class experience would be so much better for them if the majority cared. I just try to make sure I tell them either orally or in writing on their assignments that I notice and appreciate their hard work.

    Like you, I haven't given up on finding the magic solution. That's why you are a good teacher, because you haven't given up trying even though you know you're leaving. However, I recommend that you set strict time limits on your planning. Spending an extra 30 minutes planning a more engaging lesson may reap some benefit. Spending an extra 3 hours probably won't. You will work yourself to the bone and they won't engage any more than on the lesson with fewer bells and whistles.

    You aren't a failure for leaving teaching. This year's students have so demoralized me that I'm looking for other jobs, but I have many years in so it's unlikely I can find something that pays as well as teaching.

    The end is in sight.
     
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  7. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Mar 30, 2019

    OP, you are walking away from the profession. The reality is that is only about 2 months of school left, given the late spring break, and Monday is 4.1.19! You did as told, the students did not. All the guilt in the world will not change that. The time for possible modifications, or a push for more one on one with students, either during class time or after school has also passed. I don't remember the grade levels you currently teach, but if they are freshmen, well, they could have probably used some hand-holding and guidance, but if they are seniors, then the assignment was a wake up call for anyone considering college.

    According to the concept of Universal Design, not everyone has to do the "same" thing to prove that they have comprehension of the work/understanding of the reading. Being able to incorporate visuals with a modified writing assignment, submitted in smaller chunks can be beneficial to many students, but if that wasn't something you could offer, then you are beating yourself up over things outside of your control. Why feel guilty over things outside of your control? I feel terrible about genocide, but not guilty, since I'm not causing it, either directly or indirectly. I refuse to carry guilt that I don't deserve. There are probably enough things that I do have control over that can bug me. The only person I can control is myself; past that, I am tasked to do my absolute best, which doesn't guarantee success for all students. As they used to say, it takes two to tango.
     
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  8. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Mar 30, 2019

    OP, I received a valuable piece of advice many, many years ago...the only one who can make you feel guilty is you.
    So, please take the advice you have been given, try to have a less stressful end to the year...and then move on to bigger and better things. Good luck!
     
  9. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Mar 31, 2019

    @LittleShakespeare, why do you keep doing this? Please stop feeling bad about yourself. You’ve done your part by staying until the end of the year. You’re leaving the profession. Move on. Look forward to the end of the year and the start of your new profession.
     
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  10. LittleShakespeare

    LittleShakespeare Comrade

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    Mar 31, 2019

    I realized that I really do love these kids. They've become a part of my heart, sadly. But I'm going to try my best to service them till the end of the school year. I did buy some books they might be interested in: "The Hate U Give", "We Beat the Street", and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." I got into a car accident, so my car is completely totaled, and my expenses are so high. I honestly couldn't afford the books, but I will make copies of the passages.

    I just don't want to be a sh*tty teacher who walked out, you know? It makes me sad that I couldn't inspire them, like Erin Gruell from "The Freedom Writers." I think I would have had more luck at another school, but I'm going to do my best. I can see the finish line. :)
     
  11. LittleShakespeare

    LittleShakespeare Comrade

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    Thanks so much for your help, everybody. I am eternally grateful. :heart:
     
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  12. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Mar 31, 2019

    You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Likewise, you can take a student to a classroom, but you cannot necessarily make him or her think. THEY have to be in it, too, as there is a certain degree of reciprocity. You can give them all the resources at your disposal to help them learn and to change their ways, but they don’t care, obviously. It will only bite them in the butt throughout the rest of their lives and THEY will only have THEMSELVES to blame, NOT you!

    Your students’ situations closely parallel a friend’s of mine, who lives at home with his parents (at the age of 27) and cannot keep a full-time job to save his life. He barely has any marketable skills, has largely been relegated to minimum-wage jobs with virtually no upward mobility, and did very poorly in school. The worst part is that he couldn’t even finish his associate’s degree over a period of 9 years and he failed multiple classes (academic, technical, trade, you name it) in that time. He completely has the wrong mindset (a defeatist mentality) and will most likely never make anything of himself unless his attitude and work ethic change. He, like your students, just doesn’t/don’t care. But, of course, they’ll (the latter) complain later once they “graduate,” read pushed through the school system, and loudly exclaim that society has “wronged them” and that there are socioeconomic barriers preventing them from getting out of the figurative, and in some cases literal, ghetto. This is demonstrably false. As Morgan Freeman says, “The bus runs every day.” No, it’s their lack of work ethic and lack of discipline and refusal to do what is necessary to get out of it that is holding them back.

    Now let’s pivot and talk about my job and economic outlook. From a monetary standpoint, I’m very successful and was as poor as it gets growing up. YET, I didn’t use that as an eternal excuse not to be a good student. Sure, I couldn’t afford the textbooks or transportation or really much of everything, but those things were provided by the school districts and so I had virtually no reason not to excel and excel I did. In fact, not only did I not let my poor economic outlook stop me, in a way it helped me because it caused me to obsessively think, “If I don’t pass this test, I won’t master this skill or pass this class, then I’ll not get into a good college and I won’t be able to get a good job and I’ll stay poor.” I kept repeating this mantra to myself time and time again and it forced me to work tirelessly such that I graduated with roughly a 4.8 GPA in high school and 21 honors and AP classes under my belt. I then went on to one of the top institutions in my home state (CA) and graduated with top honors. And you better believe my home life wasn’t any better in that difficult time. However, I was constantly (and still am) working, working, working, working, working.

    And I told my friends that they are going to be impoverished their entire lives if they don’t shape up and get it together, but they kept not showing up to class, goofing off, and generally being useless. Well, guess what? Those that did those aforementioned things are all poor and struggling to make it and they still, to this day, think it wasn’t because of their own machinations. And the select few (like myself) who arduously worked nonstop are doing incredibly well. Imagine that.

    BUT, they (the loafers) had devoted, wonderful teachers who tried their darndest to help them, but said teachers couldn’t get through to them as they can’t make someone help themselves who isn’t a willing participant. Just like you can’t occupy your students’ minds to get them to think or to do what they should. THEY have to be willing to do so, okay?

    Take care and look forward to your last day. Your mental and physical health will be all the better for it. Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
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  13. Tulipteacher

    Tulipteacher Companion

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    Mar 31, 2019

    If I'm not mistaken, Erin Gruwell is no longer teaching and did not stay in teaching long either. And her marriage fell apart while she was teaching.
     
  14. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    Right. And the only person who can make you happy with yourself is you. Look back and see how many times you posted this exact same thing. At this point you should really know what we're all going to say.
     
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  15. LittleShakespeare

    LittleShakespeare Comrade

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    Apr 2, 2019

    Thanks so much, everybody. I'm in great appreciation for all your help over the past four years. I won't forget your guidance and kindness.

    Tomorrow, I actually took a personal day to head over to my college's career center. My new journey begins soon. :heart:

    This is actually going to be my last post. I'm going to finish off this year in stride and take everything I've learned from teaching with me on my new journey.

    I wish you all the best. Thanks so much, everyone, from my heart of hearts. Have a wonderful spring break and a restful summer! Take care of each other, your kids, and most importantly, yourselves. :)
     
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