My chocolate indulgence, last night, was definitely emotionally fueled. Last month, I was invited to work with a local university professor to put together a proposal to present a national convention for English teachers. This is a big deal to me! I’m the only middle school English teacher in my building, and my principal is a former math teacher (so while she’s very supportive of what I do, she doesn’t always speak my language). I often feel… lonely… isolated… sealed off and occasionally even forgotten. I really think it’s the natural consequence that comes with the complete autonomy that I also have. I wouldn’t trade my teaching freedom for anything, so I deal with the isolation. I keep up with online teaching communities and meet with my teacher writing workshop group each month.
Anyway, having the professor get excited about something I’m doing in my classroom, and inviting me to put together a proposal was really exciting! I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork to persuade my principal and superintendent, but they agreed to let me go to the conference. I spent most of winter break working with the professor to put together our proposal, and then, on Wednesday, we submitted it!!!! We won’t know until April if it gets accepted, but seeing the proposal all put together and posted had me clapping my hands and jumping up and down with glee! I emailed the final proposal to my principal to share my joy and got…
All day, yesterday, I was checking my email; looking for an acknowledgement. My principal was in the building; why wasn’t she responding? On top of that, my kids completely failed at direction following. This is a very common middle school problem (it’s actually a chemical brain issue caused by their surging hormones – they are, frequently, literally, INCAPABLE of following 3-step directions). Most of the time, I accept this fact. I compensate by writing, saying, and having them repeat directions. I have them use hand signals to reinforce important directions, and I have strong and consistent classroom routines to limit the variation of daily directions. But yesterday, none of that was enough. It made me feel like a sucky teacher at the same I was feel invisible and forgotten.
I started to think that my presentation proposal was a stupid thing and not a big deal. I started to feel stupid for being so excited about it. I started to wonder if I’m deluding myself into believing that I’m anything more than a really crappy teacher. I found myself questioning everything I do, which led to me feeling stupid for “wasting” so much of my personal time in my classroom working on unit and lesson plans.
So I ate chocolate.
Today started off even worse. The details don’t really matter, but by lunch (which I did not have time to eat) I was ready to find a short pier where I could go for a long walk.
And then my principal walked into my room to do a surprise formal observation. (At this point, you should picture me standing at the front of the classroom, banging my forehead on the whiteboard and crying into the salmon salad I was trying to eat while teaching 6th grade science.)
Luckily, my principal is awesome (even if it sometimes takes her a little while). She walked around the room (we were doing a lab), talked to the kids, checked out what we were doing, and emailed me a nice list of compliments – including a few about my presentation proposal – and her only comment about me eating during a science lab was to say that my salad looked “delicious.” And that was all it took. My day got better. I quit feeling stupid, and my confidence came back. I’m not a perfect teacher, and I still have a lot to learn. But I also know that I’m not a total screw up. Sometimes, I just need someone with an outside perspective to reassure me that my hard work is worth it, that I’m moving and growing in the right direction, and that I’m not lost, invisible, or forgotten in my isolated little classroom.
I did not eat any chocolate tonight.
I felt good about my food choices today! I ate because I was hungry, and my choices were healthy.
I also lost 2.3 lbs this week!