In a Slump

Everyone has bad lessons occasionally. At least that's what my AP tells me. And most of the time I don't beat myself up too much when a lesson of mine goes off track, because more often than not I can pinpoint one or two things that I could have done differently to teach a much more successful lesson. As soon as I target what went wrong, I feel better and ready to apply those lessons.

Lately however, I feel like I'm in a bit of a slump. I had an informal observation with my principal that went less than perfect, to put it diplomatically. Okay, to be honest it was pretty much a disaster. While I immediately recognized some issues with the lesson after she left, I didn't see it as fundamentally flawed. My principal had a different opinion. And since that conversation, my confidence has been seriously shaken.

The rest of the day Friday I was in a funk, kind of fumbling through lessons. I spent all day yesterday planning for today, hoping to bounce back, but instead felt even more frustrated. With all the planning, the question is what went wrong? Did I follow my lessons carefully enough? If I did, then I need to question my ability to plan effectively. My lessons follow the laundry list of criteria - they have a clear objective, they are standards-based, differentiated and based on the needs of my students as demonstrated by data I've collected. They have a connection, guided practice and independent practice. And yet today felt like a struggle from start to finish, and is inspiring a serious crisis of confidence that I haven't felt since my first year of teaching.

The problem is, until recently, I felt that I had made enough progress as a teacher since my first year to no longer be considered a novice. While I was still getting the hang of a few things, I felt like a better than average teacher. Lately I'm feeling downright incompetent. As a 3rd year teacher I may still be entitled to "novice status" but as someone who got into teaching to be an immediate "game changer" so to speak, the feeling of being mired in mediocrity is totally unacceptable.

I'm still frustrated with myself over the failures of my first year, but I accept I can't do anything about that. My 2nd year had its challenges, but I believed it was a success overall. This year felt, until now, to be the one where everything fell into place. It wasn't as good as the Hollywood superhero teacher story, but it was narrative I thought I could be proud of. The past couple of days have shaken my view of my current abilities and with it my understanding of my progress as a teacher overall.

While it's been difficult, it may also serve as a much-needed wake-up call. I got into education to be part of the solution, not the problem. So it's crucial for me to have a realistic perception of my own talents, even at the expense of my ego. If I'm not doing a good job at this point, I need to seriously evaluate why, and figure out how to do better, quickly. If I can't put those pieces together, I may need to accept I'm just not a good teacher. I think the whole system would be better off if more teachers made this decision.

For now though, I'll accept an incomplete before I give myself an F. Instead of giving up I'm reassuring myself that everyone has a slump sometimes. Brutal honesty is something I need as a teacher, but it's also important not to let a couple of rough days define my abilities or overshadow positive feedback I've received. I know my kids have grown a lot this year. Hopefully identifying my shortcomings will be a way to help my kids further, and I can look back at this slump as a brief problem in an otherwise successful year.


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