Octoeber Woes

I have been wanting to blog forever but lacking the time and motivation, I did not. I didn't read any and I only got on Twitter when I was in some type of dire need. My love of teaching has been withering away. This year is much suckier and harder than I remember last year being. Last year, the prevailing feeling was that I had no idea what I was doing. This year my feeling is, I thought I learned what to do and now things are worse than when I didn't know what to and I am too busy to learn anything.

Let's just recap my current frustations.

SBG sucks.

I have been reading other people's blogs that just started sbg this year and how it is more work than expected but soooo beneficial. I am jealous of your juiciness.  I have not had success. I actually kinda hate it. Shhh, don't tell. I have had about 5 out of 70 kids come in for reassessments. Four of the five are geometry students and one.One.ONE was an algebra student. The quiz is clearly labeled with the skill and their score for that skill. Each day in our lesson, I introduce the skill and the skill is at the top of their notes. They don't care that they get bad grades. None of them. And since that's all they are worried about, they aren't even realizing that hey, I don't understand very much.  My quizzes suck. For the most part I give two questions per skill. My past 2 quizzes addressed only one standard and so they each had 8 questions on it. Does that make any sense whatsoever? I'm grading using a rubric but I think I hate it too. I've found myself still trying to give them more points on the rubric if they showed work or 'tried really hard'. I've been using ExamView to create quizzes. I create a bank of all the questions offered for that skill and then I pick the ones that aren't super easy but that I think they will know how to do. What kind of assessment is that? Ugh, I hate it. I am just starting to try backwards design with my coach and hopefully that will solve one of my problems.

I don't know, everything is just sucking. With the creation of my common core pacing charts, my skill list kind of flew out the window which leaves every day up in the air for me. I have not went to bed before midnight the past two weeks and as a result I am cranky and impatient and unforgiving in class because I just want to go home and take a nap. Our coaches are challenging us to implement new teaching strategies that involve more cooperative learning than my default direct instruction and my beloved powerpoints which I was just beginning to master. Every day I have no idea what to do.

I am a firm believer of routines and systems. Currently, I hate my notetaking system, homework system, assessment system, and grading system. Not forgetting my downfall of catching students up who have been absent. I literally feel like nothing I am doing is working. I am working harder and accomplishing less.

I have not been grading homework but my coach has been pushing me toward recording completion, even though I insisted on not giving a grade. I understand that students should be held accountable and I need a paper trail to cover my butt, but right now that paper trail is about 6 inches tall, lying in a chair untouched.

So I am assigning homework and the kids say, 'oh you said we didn't have to do homewoek,  and me correcting them by saying 'no, I said homework isn't graded'. They still don't do it. We spend time doing it in class. Which is whatever.

This blog post is just rambling on with no direction because I have none. I can't even complain effectively.

My coach helped me admit realize that I was rushing to have a quiz every Friday even though the kids weren't ready for it. I liked it just because I like routine. Also because then I don't have to lesson plan for Friday. You know, since I currently hate lesson planning. I currently hate everything. I have no motivation to do anything. Usually I love reading blogs, tweeting, reading pd books, decorating my classroom, and doing fun things for the students. Now, I just want to come home and do nothing. During my plan period last week, I literally sat in a chair and stared out the window for the whole hour because I couldn't even think what I needed to be doing or motivate myself to figure out. Also last week, I feel asleep during tutoring. I only had one student who was studying her terms so I could quiz her for a test. I laid my head down and fell asleep until the principal walked in. Oops.

We have a 4 day weekend and it's Saturday night and I still haven't attempted to do anything related to school. I have a stack of tests to grade and lesson plans for the week to attempt but I. don't. want. to. do. anything. I spent the last three hours catching up on blog posts that just made me feel bitter toward those of you that are enjoying your year and having success. It de-motivated me, if that's possible. This is sad. I don't want to feel this way. I am too young and inexperience to be burnt out. I have already lost my joy of teaching.

One specific class has already ended up being something I dread. I spend most of my time at the board with arms crossed giving them the death stare so they might actually stop talking and pay attention. As I'm writing on the board, I'm thinking to myself, "I hate this class. I hate this class. I hate this class.' And as I engage in confrontational conversations with them, I think to myself 'I do not want to come back here tomorrow. I cannot face them one more time.' And then the next day I come back. I've tried a few investigation-y cooperative learning type things but their behavior and my utter failure at classroom management produces a chaotic mess.

Not to mention all the RTI and 5-step lesson plans and extra meetings and parking lot duty and tutoring and so on that eats up all my time.



  1. Dear Ms. CalQl8,

    Oh gosh, dear, I know exactly how you feel, only, I'm in 24 years! I am confident that what I have to say and what I deliver can be really fabulous if the kids would just SHUT UP! I spend so much time parenting the students and their parents, I think I'm going to throw up. There are so many kids with so many needs, and I feel like there are times I fail them when I don't have time to personally reach every last one of them.
    You probably want me to say how I can help you. I have the tricks up my sleeve to a least know when I am losing them, that I can switch gears. That is a relief that comes with time. I learn something new nearly every day. That is cool. I would like to offer you manipulatives and just a few little easy things that can make some ughs turn to something a little brighter. I applaud you. Hang in there!

  2. I've been there, too...the "dreaded" class, the drowning under paperwork and plans, new curriculum, parking lot duty....

    First step: stop reading blogs. Seriously. They make sometimes make *me* feel like a bad teacher, and I know I'm not. Plus sometimes it's just an over-abundance of information.

    Second step: I see you have quarters, so I assume that the end of the quarter must be near. What a perfect time to reassess what is and is not working and try to fix it. You know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results. It's obvious SBG isn't working for you or the kids. So throw it out! It doesn't mean you can't go back to it next year or next semester, or even just for part of quizzes or test; e.g. "It seems that a lot of us did not fully understand writing in standard form. We're going to practice during warm-ups for the next two days, and take a requiz Thursday at the start of class." It's still showing that you won't let them get away without learning, but in baby steps. And if those same five kids come back for help, let 'em retake it! It also seems like you need to go back to grading homework, but maybe just go around the room and check for completion while they're working on their warmup instead of collecting it. Teaching is all about making adjustments based on your current students (and admin).

    Third, cooperative investigative lessons are hard! Maybe challenge yourself to changing one lesson a week into a investigative lesson. Don't throw everything out you've perfected last year. Google Henrico county geometry or algebra-they have some really great geogebra lessons that you could incorporate in the start of your lesson as a discovery activity.

    Fourth, talk to someone in real life. Sounds like your coach may be a good resource, or maybe another new teacher on the block. They may have some ideas on how to get you back on track or maybe some good resources, but I think what you really need is to get all of your worries out in the open and out of your head so you can focus on setting up a game plan.

    Hope you get over this hurdle soon.

  3. Oh my. You sound like you're feeling *exactly* like I felt last year. That year was the first time I had come back to the same school for a second year, so I also thought things would be easier. They weren't.

    I also had lots of changes on my plate--most of them delivered in the form of top-down admin decrees. You do have the ability--like Meg points out--to decide to change what you're doing if it isn't working out. And from earlier posts you've written it sounds like your principal would support you.

    A lot easier said than done, I know. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of faith to throw out what you're doing and start something new. But you have already done that. No wonder you're feeling like you're back in your first year mode--you're doing everything differently.

    I hope that you find a way to regain your balance and rediscover your joy in teaching. And to get some sleep.

  4. My heart goes out to you -- you are trying to do WAY too much! I'm in my 4th year, and I've also been teaching algebra and geometry (last year and this year). You can only focus on so many things at once.

    For example, I love to read blogs to get new ideas for lessons, review structures, etc, but I ignore all the SBG info. Why? Because I know there's no possible way I could implement a completely new grading system while continuing to focus on improving my instruction and classroom management.

    Plus, everyone's students and school culture are different, and it may work better in some places than in others. I have a 9th grade inclusion class where not all of the students are independent readers. Most count on their fingers, and some came to Algebra 1 not knowing how to divide. I know that SBG would not work for them. For that level of student, the "soft skills" are VERY important, so while i do give them every opportunity to assess and reassess their skills in different ways, I will also ALWAYS give them points for completing their homework.

    I realize you probably don't even have time to read this long comment. :) But take a deep breath, and try your best to prioritize. i.e., I don't think the giant stack of old homework should ever be touched. But maybe next quarter, you can check off the assignments as students turn them in. Powerpoint notes are great and still useful in class, even as you try to add in more cooperative learning activities. There's room for both!

    I try to come to terms with the fact that I will never be doing everything I should do or want to do as a teacher. (At least not in the foreseeable future!) But that doesn't mean that I still can't do a good job, and you can too!

  5. You are certainly not alone in your October blues. I present a lesson that I think is a miracle of clarity and organization, and the students seem genuinely involved and listening, and then they totally bomb the quiz. **sigh**

    I agree with the commenter above that you might be trying to do too much. You might want to get rid of everything you are not required to do, at least long enough to get your feet under you.

    On homework, I grade on completion, but I treat it as extra credit -- that is, if a student turns in 100% of their homework during the grading period, I add 10 points onto their grade (90%=9 points, etc.). This way there is only incentive for doing the homework and no penalty for not doing it. This is the first year I have tried this, and it seems to be working very well.

  6. First off, slow down and relax, take a deep breath

    Next - spend time remembering why you went into teaching and your love and passion for teaching - use those good feelings to rebuild your faith in yourself.

    Then - realize that Rome wasn't built in a day and that's okay! At the beginning of the summer, you had a huge to-do list of things you wanted to accomplish and that's even before your plate got even fuller with coaches, and 5-step lesson plans, and cooperative learning. Sit down and write 2 or 3 things you would like to work on this year, ignore the rest! You have the rest of your career to implement new methods and theories, you don't have to do it all during this year. Reflect on where you've been, where you are, and where you want to go. It's okay to regroup and go to the classroom and say, "kiddos, this isn't working for me, so this is what we're going to do for the rest of the semester"

    Finally - give yourself permission to relax and have fun. No one expects you to be super-teacher that takes on everything. It's okay to say "no, not right now". Take the time to really enjoy teaching and your students.

    I know you had a 4 day weekend and hopefully you took the time to go out and relax and have some fun.

  7. I'm so sorry. I read your post and I felt pangs of ... Empathy. Frustration for you and all you're going through. Wishing I could do something.

    I don't have any advice except for throwing SBG out the darn window. It's not working for you or your kids. At the new quarter, start with what you did last year.

    I too know that feeling about the dreaded class. It sucks, and we all (most all?) have had them.

    Just know that you being honest here is helping others because they are -- in little ways or in major ways -- in the same boat as you are. Or they have felt similarly. And for that, alone, it's meaningful.

    And the fact that you've mixed things up this year, to try SBG, to worry about if your quizzes are appropriate/good, all of those things say YOU CARE. It's only because you care so deeply that you are able to get this frustrated.

    And if you need to take a blogging hiatus, just do it. When I get in a funk, feeling like I'm sucking at everything I do, feeling like I'm sucking at life, reading blogs just exacerbates that.

    Thinking about you, and hoping you figure out a way to bring back the joy...


  8. Thanks for all the comments and sympathy.

    I am the one who expects myself to be super-teacher.

    Emily and Sam,
    I can't just throw out sbg without knowing why it isn't working. If it works for everyone else then that has to mean I'm doing something wrong.

    And there is nothing I can really get rid of. Because of the grant, we are being required to take these extra steps. I am on the leadership team that is supposed to help promote, motivate, and encourage others to participate and change and so I can't be a bad, burnt out example. I just can't. The kids deserve better than that.

  9. Whoa whoa whoa:
    "If it works for everyone else then that has to mean I'm doing something wrong."

    Please don't think like that! You haven't figured out how to make it work for you yet, and that's part of learning. Nothing ever works perfectly right out of the box, and failures just tell you what you can improve next time.

    I also wanted to clarify that I wasn't trying to get you to throw out SBG, just trying to encourage you to be kind to yourself as you figure it out. Teachers in your building might do the best job helping you troubleshoot, because they have experience with your particular students, curriculum, and administration. And depending on your administration and school culture, it might need some adjustments compared to what works for others.

    You want to be the best teacher you can be, and that won't happen if you spread yourself too thin.
    Remind yourself that you only need to get halfway to perfection this year, the rest can happen next year. :)

  10. I have faith in you! From all that I have read you really do care, even about the class you "hate", and yes, we all have one! Just have to focus on the few good kids, there are some in there, right? It is your caring that will pull you through, just take some time to care for your sanity too. Take heart...I still don't know what SBG even is and I am okay with that! ;)

  11. Emily,
    You're agreeing with me in different words. You're right, I haven't figured it out yet which means I'm doing something wrong. I'm not giving up, I'm saying I can't give up without finding where the problem lies so I can correct it. I know the system works and am trying to figure out why it's not yet working for me.

    Thanks for you faith. I have no problem caring for the kids but lesson plans are much harder to care about!

  12. SBG does not 'work for everyone else'.

    It may not be working for me. I'm not sure. It's working well enough that I'll stick with it through the semester. (I sure wouldn't want to switch in the middle!) But I'll evaluate it carefully in December to decide how to proceed next semester.

    But I'll bet there are plenty of people experimenting with it, and not liking what's happening. This 'reform' isn't being particularly well-documented yet.

    Not everyone blogs, and it's especially hard to blog about what's not working.

    It seems a lot of us are having a tough semester. Hang in there. You've gotten some good advice in the comments. I don't think I have any good advice. I've been teaching for over twenty years ,and still struggle. (And I'm teaching college, which I think is way easier.)

  13. I can confirm that SBG was not working for me. I had to revert back to a more rudimentary grading system. Was a bit gutted at first, but the I reflected, the more I realised that my teaching future did not lie down this path. Was a bit sad really.

    On the flip side, my lessons got better.

    I found I was spending that much time arranging assessment materials and grading etc... that I was constantly tired. Reverted to a six weekly test for all classes and was feeling less stressed within about 2 weeks. Going to keep it like this now.

    I beleive that for me, my kids get the best out of me when I am well rested and well planned. For some reason that was not happening with SBG, but is now. Shame, I put a lot of time into developing it too.

    I stopped writing my blog since I started SBG, might pick it up again now I feel myself.

  14. It's really hard being such a perfectionist, type A+, super teacher! You care so much about your kids that you have taken the time to do SBG. You are working so much that you are burning yourself out. You are not feeling the joy in teaching right now but I can tell from your comments that you still love your kids.

    Is it possible to still do SBG but to step back from it a bit? I have the concepts chart so that the students know what skills they need to work on, but I do not reassess. I knew with all of the new things I wanted to do this year I could not do it all. If you were to go back to traditional grading, but keep marking their concepts and not reassess it may alleviate some of the extra time you are spending on SBG.

    As far as investigations, I would shoot for one every couple of weeks. They are time-consuming to plan and just because it is an "investigation" lesson does not mean that it is more effective. I would start with your worse class. A big project that I assigned brought me and the class that didn't like me much closer together. It was a bonding thing for us. Very unexpected.

    I did not want to grade hw either but my admin didn't think that was a great idea for ms. So, I borrowed a teachers system where they get 50 points for the trimester and each homework they don't do is counted 2 points off. This works out to be equivalent to a test grade. I just walk around and don't even write on their papers. I just make a mark in my book if they DON'T have it. It is a big time saver over old systems.

    I admire you and all that you try to do for your students. Reading amazing blogs always make me feel lacking. Prioritize and get lessons done first, quizzes graded next, and throw away that hm in a chair.

    How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Don't be so hard on yourself, just remember how amazing you are!

  15. I totally understand your frustration. I was in the same boat two yeayears ago sans the SBG stuff. My biggest and best suggestion is to take time for yourself. I sure hope you have!