Back in Mississippi
In many ways, I wish I had been writing about my experiences from the first semester along the way. There were so many highs and lows, that if I even attempted to get them on paper this far after the fact, I’m afraid anything I were to write would hardly capture the essence of everything that went on. So for now I will stick to the present. School started up again this week, and I arrived back in Mississippi on Monday night. I’m not ashamed to admit I was dreading coming back. When I was on the plane it wasn’t so bad, but there were a few moments scattered out over the break when I foolishly let my mind drift off from my immediate surroundings and let it size up the daunting task facing me these next few months. Immediately my body was seized with terrible feelings of doubt and dread, and my thoughts repeated asked, “Can I really do this? Can I really go on with this job like this?”
I’ve decided that the hardest part of this job is that that you can never separate your life from it. It is always with you. On weeknights, weekends, even during Christmas break. I find it to be kind of strange that I never really have these negative thoughts during school; they only seem to arise during the time spent away from school. I went out to dinner on Tuesday night with two fellow teachers from Gentry and one of them referred to his phenomenon as being a “case of the dreads.” It is at least somewhat reassuring that almost every person I talk to has the same thought process upon coming back from break.
Wednesday, the first day back, went alright. Though as I drove to school on Thursday morning, I really wanted to quit. Now at certain points during this school year, in my mind I have toyed with the idea of what it would be like to quit. You know, the “what is life like on the other side” type of the thing (and by that I mean what would it be like to be a recent college grad living in a modern city in a non-backwards part of the country with a reasonable, lower-stress job and some semblance of a social life). Though until Thursday it was never a notion that I at all took seriously. Yet, Thursday morning, I was just about ready to be done with it all.
Another thing I’ve realized is that the days that are the most frustrating are the days when there’s no teaching going on. On weeks like Homecoming week, when nobody takes anything seriously, or state testing week when classes are frozen, you are left with the less desirable tasks of the teaching profession (controlling the kids) with none of the positive aspects (actually seeing the students learn).
The week before Christmas break and even Wednesday were very much like this. On Wednesday all I did was have the students do a writing assignment about how they thought the 2nd nine weeks went, made some announcements, and played a math game at the end of class. So Thursday was the first day where I had actually taught something new in a long time, and it really felt good. The topic was nothing special, multiplying radical expressions, but I had energy and most of the kids learned what was going on. Now it did not go perfectly. There was a little bit too much talking. I realize that on Monday I’m going to have to introduce some new components into my classroom management plan. I don’t think my classroom management had been bad up to this point, especially considering the changes that are occurring at my school, though my classroom management plan could certainly use a little re-invigorating. Yet despite all the minor frustrations, it felt like teaching was fun again. I went home after school on Thursday feeling pretty content with the state of things. It was hard to imagine that 12 hours previous I was on the verge of throwing in the towel. Friday was similar, a mixture of fun, minor frustrations, and more learning. With my Learning Strategies classes, since the kids didn’t have their individual books for this nine weeks yet, we began to act out A Raisin in the Sun in class, and the kids for the most part did an excellent job with it. It was interesting to see what the job of an English teacher is like.
So now as I sit in my room on a Friday night (of course I didn’t go out), and I look towards the rest of the school year, I feel like finally the task ahead of me is somewhat manageable. I know I still have terrible days ahead of me. And as JS made so clear to us this summer, that case of the dreads will probably never go away. Yet, if I have to be completely honest, I am, in many ways, glad to be back. Over Christmas break it was nice to visit with family and friends, but my life isn’t there anymore. It’s here, in Mississippi, with these kids. And much as I complain about being over-worked and miserable, I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.