Posted by: rdkpickle | 10.19.2014

rate of change

I’ve been a bit worried, lately, that resolved anxiety has led to mild amounts of complacency and boredom. The issue is not that I am under any kind of delusion that I have no more growing to do as a teacher. (Please.) It’s that – absent the novice teacher’s quest for a comfortable teaching identity, the sizable (but satisfying) task of prepping a new class, or the “don’t-want-to-do-that-again-any-time-soon-thanks” crisis of navigating a new school – I have yet to adequately define the challenge I am supposed to be directing my energy and attention towards.

What are the conditions under which I produce my best work? How can I more clearly define my goals for this next phase of my career?

Is it selfish to do the exact amount of work required to make each day a reasonable “success”? Is it selfish to expect to be getting something different out of this job?



  1. Rachel,

    These are great questions, and ones I struggle with too. Teaching is weird, because unless you want to become an administrator, it’s not entirely clear what the “next steps in one’s career” are supposed to be (at least, it isn’t to me). In addition, if someone decides to remain a teacher, one then gets to the last 2 questions you’ve asked. I don’t know if there are absolute answers to either one, but for what it’s worth, I’m leaning towards these:

    1) (“making each day a reasonable ‘success'”): No, that’s not selfish at all. You’re allowed to have a life and things that define you outside of being a teacher. Perhaps you’re just getting to the point where you can start exploring those things more fully.

    2) (“getting something different out of this job”): I used to think so. I used to think teaching was supposed to be an avocation, not a vocation. I think differently now. I get a lot out of my positive interactions with my students and my colleagues, and by interacting with teachers I’ve “met” on Twitter like you. But in the end, it really is what pays the bills. (By the way, I don’t know if I really believe this last sentence, but I’ve heard others say it enough that I’m starting to wonder if there’s anything to it.)

    Good luck. Keep on keepin’ on.

  2. Perhaps that’s the challenge for this year – finding something that drives your growth that’s not crisis-driven.

    For me, there’s always been something I’ve seen over the year or over the summer that is driving me to try something new. (I’ve taught Algebra I for my whole career so far, at the same school, with some changes when we switched to CCSS.) But this year I’m focusing on gradeless feedback, new routines, and sprialing more effectively. And I’m also focusing on not spending every waking hour with my mind on the job. Those all work for me.

  3. I think you should continue to seek to improve, but this can be done on different levels. It is a struggle to find your base and core, but once you have something stable to build upon, refining the details are a different kind of work. Enjoy finding some identity and how that fits into the atmosphere around you.

    I think I am in a similar place as you describe. The year seems to be flying by (in part) because I am settled in and not struggling nightly to find a handle. I tweak and adjust and continue to try to find ways to meet the needs of my students, but the constant pressure to STRUGGLE is not there.

    Like you, though, I don’t know if this is something to feel good or guilty about.

  4. I swear, it’s like you’re in my head. I, too, have been feeling this strange complacency this year.

    I have no words of wisdom. Just wanted to say, “Me, too, sister.”

  5. I think there are two pieces:

    1) I need to clearly define goals for myself inside the classroom, and create conditions for me to meet those goals.

    2) I need to find ways to scratch that intellectual itch outside of the classroom, perhaps in areas that run parallel to my math/teaching interests.

    I am not always a self-motivator. I am scared as hell of letting myself coast.

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