Saturday, November 11, 2006

I Hate Teaching

Even as I type those words, "I hate teaching," I know they aren't true. I really don't hate it, not every day anyway. But this has been a rough week.

I know most of the things I deal with are common to all middle school teachers. This week we got into a discussion about MySpace in eighth grade; the kids were incensed that teachers might look at their MySpace accounts. I pointed out that anybody in the planet can; they aren't private. (I know you can make your profile private, but even those who do often comment on others' sites that are public.) My favorite quote: "If I want to endanger my safety, that's my own business." By the end of the conversation, the students were furious.

So many of my students don't turn in their assignments. We just got through report cards and parent/teacher conferences, with all the associated weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and we're three weeks into a new quarter. Parents made threats, removed privileges, and punished their children in ways I'd be mandated to report if I lived in the United States. Yet when I entered grades today in my classroom, I was horrified by how low some of them are already. (It's just amazing watching the effect of a zero on a grade.) How quickly they forget.

And as long as I'm whining, I get so tired of the complaining from my eighth graders. A friend who is an experienced parent tells me that that's just the way kids that age are. I know it's nothing personal, but it's hard not to take it personally sometimes, especially when they are complaining about what we're doing in class. I work six days a week to do a good job in my teaching. Sometimes it feels as though I don't have time for anything else.

So yes, dealing with middle schoolers is just par for the course. But this week I've also had to deal with a generator that's not working properly. We hardly ever have city power during the day here, and we run our generator at school from 7:20 AM to 4 PM every day. When the generator goes out, my classroom is quickly dark and roasting. It's 90 degrees outside, and I have two air conditioners in my classroom. Only one works, and not that well, but still, it helps keep the room pleasant. It's not completely dark, because I have two big windows, but it's dark enough that I hear whining about it. When I have a room full of sweaty seventh graders trying to do silent reading in the dark, well, it's just not fun. (And silent? Ha!) But the worst part is that I have to open my windows and door, and as a result we hear every sound from outside - the honking of passing cars, the street merchants yelling and screaming, the high schoolers on break. People walk past in the hallway and distract my kids. Finally on Thursday I had had enough, and I said to one young man (an eighth grader) who was lolling about in my doorway, "Just go away!" He got deeply offended that I would speak to him like that.

On Friday, the generator mostly worked, but there were frequent brownouts, and both of my classroom computers would go down. This led to much ranting and raving from my students. I told them to write on paper with pens, but apparently that is no longer something some of them are capable of doing. (Oh, and incidentally, my students have access to four computers in the library, which they share with the rest of the middle and high school, and two in my classroom. I have to admit I am really jealous when I read teacher blogs that refer to a laptop for everyone in the class.)

I feel as though nobody learned one thing this week. I found myself going off into elaborate daydreams about a desk job, where I could just do my work and then go home, leaving it all behind. I wouldn't have to deal with kids and, in this idyllic office, there would be reliable electricity all the time. So I guess it wouldn't be in this country.

Most days, I love teaching, and on my best days I think I do it really well. But this week, I hated it.


Matsu said...

Ruth, you are a Saint!

All good teachers are saints, but especially good Middle School teachers, and that's what you are.

Your description of middle-schoolers is an accurate portrayal of my 8th grade son. He has one teacher that has been teaching 7th and 8th graders for almost 20 years and she's really good. She holds the kids accountable for their actions (i.e. missing homework) but she is kind and encouraging. She creates a great combination of a strict, loving, and highly disciplined (they need structure) learning environment. She feels it is her calling to teach kids at that age, and she's good at it.

My son has that same teacher in the 8th grade and observed this fall that 'she has gotten a lot better' after the first week of school. The truth of the matter it, she didn't change at all. He did a lot of growing-up and maturing over the summer and began to appreciate and understand her, more.

So, Ruth, don't get discouraged. The kids will remember you, just as they will all of their best teachers. It just may take a year or two before they can fully appreciate all that you do for them. But, don't you change. Let THEM do the changing.

Ruth said...


Thanks a lot! I really appreciate your comment.

W Brown said...


We all go through this roller coaster each year. Keep up the good work. You are going to be fine.

Anonymous said...

It's great that you like your job. I hate teaching, and what to get out soon.