Year Two

Clear Eyes, Full Heart

I’m not a sports person. When people say something like, “we’re gonna win this game tonight!” while referring to a team like the Gators, or Red Sox, or whatnot, and I tend roll my eyes, and offer a snarky comment at their use of “we.” “Really? I didn’t realize you played for the Lakers!”

I just don’t get it. I don’t like playing sports or watching sports, and I’m more dedicated to finishing season 5 of the West Wing than I’ll ever be to a sports team. I consider myself a Steelers fan, but I didn’t lose any sleep when they lost to the Jaguars.

However, I have soft spot for my students, and they ask me to attend their sporting events, and I do. I even pay attention (ok I try), but really only because I worry about them getting tackled and dying on the field.

I can’t remember the last time I watched my students win a game – baseball, softball, football, volleyball, anything. I think we won some basketball games, but I’m not confident that that happened too often. It sucks, and they’re always disappointed, but I don’t get sports so I’m pretty indifferent about the whole thing.

Except, so, on Friday, something hit my heart. I’ve taught every player on the football team, except the quarterback, but we share deez nuts jokes so he’s got a piece of my heart anyways. We played “the only school in SC that’s sorrier than us.” If we were going to win a game this season, it was going to be this one.

It stayed scoreless through the half. The second half was plagued with interceptions, and halfway through, the other team scored. Then they scored again. From the stands I could see their frustration building. With about 5 minutes left in the game, one of my boys punched another player, and was ejected from the game. The clock eventually ran out, they shook hands, and I sat in the empty stands as I watched the boys huddle for a post-game pep talk.

I watched one of my kids rock back and forth as he sobbed. I watched them walk back to the locker rooms with arms around each other and their heads hung low. I watched my kid lie on the grass, the last on the field, while coaches consoled him as he broke down.

And something in my frozen heart cracked a little. I sobbed the whole way home. It had been a bad day in class, and maybe a bad couple weeks. I’ve hit more road blocks this year than I expected, and I’m super anxious about my kids applying to colleges. I am tired, and hungry, and my heart hurts.

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Year Two

Round Two

Year two is WEIRD. Let me tell you.

I expected year two to be smooth sailing. I’m teaching algebra 1 and 2, both of which I taught last year, as well as computer science. It’s new to me and the students, but I was and am excited to learn it together. I have 113 students, at least 2/3 of which I’ve taught before. I know the ropes. All of the unfamiliar from last year – what to bring for lunch, what to wear, who to ask for help, where the bathrooms are, which kids not to sit together – I have that down this time around.

I remember having no idea what I was doing the first four weeks of my first year. I remember being incredibly optimistic about their futures, and setting high expectations. It was about the fourth week that reality hit. I couldn’t do everything. I couldn’t complete 3 meaningful preps, and grade, and call parents, and manage behavior, and get enough sleep at night. I started hitting walls with my students. I would ask them to do something, and they’d tell me no. The high expectations I had set for myself and for my students started to feel impossible. Everything became a battle, internally and externally. Why am I putting all of this effort in for students who don’t want to learn? How do I get them to care?

This time, there was no honeymoon. Day 1 of school felt indistinguishable from any other day. We had been refreshed by the summer, but every activity felt like pulling teeth. I’ve had to build investment, build classroom procedures, build structure from the minute they first walked into my room. Last year, I feel like I had a few weeks to get my grounding, and to develop a plan that would fit my students. This year, I felt like I was struggling on day 2, while last year that feeling didn’t kick in until the end of September. Yes, this year I have a better idea of what to do, but that doesn’t mean I feel confident that it’s working.