Teaching high school is so immensely difficult. I am too stubborn to give up, but lately that feeling of wanting to give up is getting stronger.
Lots of people have been asking me questions like “What is the hardest thing about teaching high school?” I still can’t fully articulate an answer to this question, but here is a first attempt.
1. It’s so easy to stop caring. Most of the kids at my school are disrespectful to me and each other, do not care about learning, do not seem to care about their future. For these first few months, I’ve been drawing on my enthusiasm for the job and compassion for these kids (many of these kids have rough circumstances, they need someone to care for them, they need someone to explain to them why getting an education matters, etc.) to make it to work every day and try my best. Lately, my “reserves” are running empty. I put out so much energy and get so little back from the kids. The moments when I feel successful are too few and far between, and sometimes seem like delusions: one day I feel like I’m getting through to a kid, the next day he/she is behaving worse than before. The ups and downs are emotionally draining. It’s hard to keep going like this. It would be far easier to just do a mediocre job, stop hoping that kids would achieve more and feeling disappointed, and quit caring.
2. It sucks to know you suck at your job. I am fragile, prideful and have an ego. It’s a real shock going from my university where I felt good at my job and felt validated, appreciated and respected for it, to a situation in which my skills and knowledge are inadequate and I do not feel respected by students. I am good at some parts of teaching high school, in other areas I am lacking (for example, discipline). The other day I wrote about how intrinsic motivation is strongly tied to a feeling of self-efficacy–well, that applies to me too. It’s hard to feel motivated when you feel ineffectual. And when you force yourself to do something when you’re feeling unmotivated, you lose the joy of it all.
Who in their right mind would take on a job like this? No wonder the public school teacher attrition is so high.
If it weren’t for a friend and colleague who reached out to me today, listened to me vent, and encouraged me, I probably wouldn’t have the presence of mind to write these words. Our schools need more teachers like this person.
Winter vacation can’t come a moment too soon.