Blue Shirt Tuesday

Monday, August 14, 2006

The First Week of School; or, How Buddha's Gonna Save My Life

I hope that there are few experiences as hard as the first week of teaching.

I now have six days under my belt and I feel so much older and so much younger at the same time.

Last week was tough. I don't think that it was harder for me than it was for most first year teachers, but I had kinda thought it would be easier, or at least the reality of how hard it would be never registered until I was doing it myself. My classes aren't that bad- AP Calculus, Algebra 1, and Geometry. Calculus students are great. Algebra 1 students are kinda scared, kinda immature, but we'll learn to work together. Geometry will be the toughest because they're not new to the school, and they are not scared of me, and they don't like to work. But they can be great, when they want to be.

I think that the hardest parts about last week were the amount of new information I had to deal with- I was trying to act confident in a setting that I was entirely new to- and the responsibility I put on myself to make sure I don't start the year off on the wrong foot.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were the worst days. I really wanted to quit. While driving home, I thought about how easy it would be to just keep driving all the way north. At that point, only my guilty conscience kept me here- I didn't want to be here any more. I thought I was an idiot for signing up for this, that I was being punished for thinking I'm better than others and that I have some kind of obligation to help others. I didn't want to be a hero. I just wanted to curl up in my bed and go to sleep.

But things got better. My dad compared this experience to military boot camp, which breaks the soldiers worse than I'm going to be broken, forces them to be less productive than I'm going to be, and leaves them a lot better off in the end, for the most part. As a pacifist, I didn't care much for the metaphor, but it was nice to be reminded how much worse things could be. I could be in Iraq shooting people in the hot desert with no contact with my friends or family. That would suck.

My dad also encouraged me to start meditating, which is kinda weird because he doesn't really meditate or anything, but he pointed out that it's cheaper than psychotherapy and anti-depressants, so I figured it'd be worth trying. I don't know if it has actually helped, but I feel a lot less stressed out now than I did last week. The thing is- life isn't that bad. I have a high paying job, a comfortable house, tons to eat, loving friends and family, good health. Yet I getin these funks where I just feel sorry for myself because of this job, which, admittedly, is really hard to do well, but not that hard to do well enough to survive. So if I can get rid of hte worries, my life won't be that bad, and maybe I'll continue to be able to turn off the cruise control on my car when I hit the Leland exit, rather than keepin' on goin' all the way home.


  • At 5:48 AM, Blogger Ben Guest said…

    No one is successful at teaching right away. It takes time. Lots and lots of time.

    And meditating is a great idea...

  • At 7:28 PM, Blogger TeacherMan said…

    mr winston, i love this post. it encompasses so much of what we were saying, back and forth, that first week. and like i said, that first day, i had the same thought - i could just keep on driving, and be home and comfortable in less than a day. but just keep in mind, there are geometry classes in the gym and auditorium

  • At 11:55 PM, Blogger Mr Khaki Pants said…

    no kidding, man... same thoughts shot through my head several times last year -- those bad days really get to you, and you realize: i have a college degree; i don't need this shit! then you breathe deep to escape the day, take a cold shower to escape the heat, and set your alarm clock for tomorrow.

  • At 2:42 AM, Blogger T said…


    I think I know exactly what you're going through. I'm currently in a tiny mountain village in Japan teaching English. Nobody else speaks English here. I'm completely isolated. And I'm about *this* close to packing up and going home. The only thing keeping me here is guilt. My anxiety knows no bounds. I have no idea how to teach children. Aaaweown56wovevhgopsae4!!!1!

    I hope things get better for the both of us. Maybe meditation isn't such a crazy idea after all...


  • At 7:13 AM, Blogger barclay said…

    stu, i don't have a comment about your actual post, but i wanted to say that i'm going to link my page to your page if that's ok. i'm leaving for france in 5 days!!! we'll see what teaching in france is like. if you get the urge to go to paris again, that's where i'll be.


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