Reflections on Frustration

I have one class this year that has caused me a bit of frustration.  Not because they are noisy or disrespectful, but for quite another reason.  The problem is not that I feel they are not learning – in fact, when looking over their performance they have done just fine.  In fact maybe thats what gets me – the class feels satisfactory, and no more.

When I came to my current school, one of the things I told people was that I wanted to be at a school where the focus was not on achieving a minimum in the classroom, but maximizing my impact on kids.  And though I have a long way to go, my job has felt more like the latter these last two years.  Except for this class.  Frustration.

I have been relying on advice from mentors both physical and electronic: avoid blaming students, identify specific breakdowns, consider how teacher actions contributed to the classroom culture.  My reflections have bubbled the following things to the top of my mind:

  1. I wasn’t explicit enough about how my expectations for their thinking were different from their pre-high school classes.
  2. My lesson planning for this class was less than what this group needed.  I didn’t recognize early enough that they needed more than I was giving them.
  3. I wasn’t able to leverage personal interactions into the class culture I wanted, as I have been able to do with other classes.  I need to utilize other ways to create the kind of culture necessary for what I envision my class to be.
This reflection is good for me – keeps me from just feeling overwhelming failure.  I do believe I can do better next year. Sometimes it feels like this drive to be better is what really keeps me in teaching.  I just refuse to leave off where I’m at.
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