“It’s so HAAAARRRRRDDD!!!”; and What I’m Learning

--Originally published at Mrs. Gibbs Flips Algebra 1

(Please read the first part of the blog post title in your best whiny voice.)

Sometimes I feel like this baby. I feel like I become one big whine. Like my friends should ask if I want some cheese with that.

It's that time of year again. The time of year that produced this post last year and this post two years ago.

I'm beginning to notice a pattern. I don't understand the pattern, but it obviously exists.

Yes, things are hard. I have a challenging group of students. Students who are pushing and stretching me and wondering if I mean what I say when I say I care about them and am committed to their learning. I am still creating and changing lessons and doing things differently than I have done them before. I am still at school way too late each day. I am still out of my box and in an uncomfortable space where I wonder if I'm doing things correctly. I end many days feeling like a failure. I am still challenging kids to go deeper and think harder; they don't always like or appreciate that.

Teaching is hard. And lately it's felt dang hard.

For THIS post, though, I don't want to explore all those challenges in depth (again).

I want to list some things I've learned. Or continue to learn. What is happening as a result of the challenges.

1) Challenging kids ... challenging groups ... need something.
     a) They need to be challenged. They need depth, context, something to hold on to that lets them know what they are doing matters.
     b) They need choice. A voice. Ownership. They need to know we're in this together.
     c) They need to know I have their back. I'm on their side. Their behavior may need correcting, and they may need to be reminded what is and is not acceptable or appropriate, but they need to know that I will never give up on them.
     d) They need ME. The best me I can give. They need a me that is unswayed by frustration or fatigue.

2) There are lots of good, thoughtful, kind kids. Kids who look out for their fellow students. Kids who step up and do the right thing. Kids who smile and tell me, "Good morning, Mrs. Gibbs," and "Have a good afternoon, Mrs. Gibbs," and make each day a little brighter.

3) I have good friends. Friends who listen, offer encouragement, pray for me, assure me I'm not alone. Friends who laugh with me and cry with me.

4) A lot of the time, even in the midst of difficult times, I still have way too much fun doing what I do.

5) My kids are growing. They are budding mathematicians, and I beam with pride when I read a coherent, mathematical explanation or hear one of them explain a concept to a peer.

6) The darkest week of the year - the week before the time change when I'm driving to school in the almost-dark - has beautiful sunrises.

So far, it's been a challenging year. I really don't see that it's going to let up. But I'm trying to embrace the process and let the struggle produce the growth - in me AND my students - I know is possible.


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