Teaching Middle School, Week 16: What I find most wearing and wearying

IMG_1504The main feeling I’ve had through these 16 weeks of teaching middle school is exhaustion.

Being in the classroom every weekday makes me tired.

Tired, tired, tired. And more tired.

That’s what I felt at the end of my high school teaching career 8 years ago.

And it’s what I feel now.

If you’ve never taught in a public school, you may be wondering, “What’s so tiring about teaching?”

For me, it’s the negativity and resistance.

I have so many students who respond negatively to anything I introduce.

Do we HAVE to?

That’s SO boring!

I don’t want to!

I can’t!

And the worst of all . . .

I don’t care.

I’ve brought in quite a few speakers, people who are willing to share their life experiences about their careers and personal paths. People who care about my students. People who want to give back.

For every speaker, I have some students who’ll say (out loud!), “This is SO boring” –  before the speaker even has a chance to say more than a few sentences!

How do 11, 12, 13, 14 year olds become so jaded, so negative, so expecting of the worst??

Why do they resist everything at first?

Is this what life has taught them so far? That everything will have a bad outcome?

Or is this their way of protecting themselves? From more disappointment?

As you can tell from my many question marks, I haven’t arrived at answers yet.

But I can tell you this, negativity and resistance are what have worn me down the most during my two teaching stints. It took about 20 years in the first stint to arrive at exhaustion from the negativity and resistance.

In this short middle school stint, exhaustion met me in Week 1 and has persisted throughout.

Negativity is not just a trait of kids in middle and high school, either.

Adults are victims as well.

I know you have felt that negativity in people, do feel it.

Some people and some environments are permeated with negativity.

I sense it as heaviness. Some people, some places are heavy. Burdened with negativity.

And it’s catching.

Negativity is like a virus. Anyone can catch it. It can spread through an organization like wildfire.

But negativity does have its counterpart.

Some people and some places feel light. Happy. Positive.

They are direct contrasts to those who feel dark, heavy, negative.

These kids who live in poverty carry that dark, heavy, negative burden.

Make no mistake, poverty is a burden, one carried by everyone who experiences it – not only the adults.

And those of us who work with kids who carry that burden can feel it.

We’re not immune. It affects us deeply.

I wish I could say that I’ve transcended that weight, that darkness . . .  that I’m unaffected by it.

But I have not transcended it.

I am very affected by it.

It manifests most obviously through my exhaustion.

It’s both wearing and wearying.

So my way of countering it is to expose myself to those energies as little as I can.

Which right now means I can’t continue to teach in a high poverty school, can’t expose myself to that negative energy every day.

It’s too debilitating. Too exhausting.

I have 10 more days with students and then 4 days of post-planning.

And then I can choose to find a positive daily environment.

Or  . . . .  maybe I’ll learn to transform negativity. To take it in and change its charge from negative to positive.

The latter will take a lot of work.

I’m willing to try, though.

Some say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Maybe I’m ready? Almost?

But first, I’ll need to recover.

If I can just get through 10 more days, I’ll get on the road to recovery.

Just a few more days.

I think I can, I think I can . . . .

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