As the 2013-2014 school year draws to a close, I find myself filled with mixed emotions about teaching. While I still feel called to teach, I often wonder if teaching in a public high school is right for me when so many factors that impact my students’ abilities to learn are beyond my ability to influence effectively, much less control.
My rich pedagogical toolkit (see here, here and here for representative examples), deep content knowledge, growth mindset, vast career and life experience, and my strong desire to help students achieve at their highest levels are grossly insufficient when attempting to bridge the gap between students’ prerequisite knowledge and skills when they enter my classroom at the beginning of the year and the district’s expectations of what they need to learn within the course, especially when troubled youth represent a growing percentage of a classroom’s population. The enormity of it all often leaves me frustrated and emotionally exhausted.
For too long, I’ve skipped weekly routines such as exercising, relaxing while pursuing a hobby or personal interest, or going to church, all so I could grade papers, design a new activity or assessment, or plan out a series of lessons. While I make progress on these tasks, they, too, leave me feeling empty and low on energy, for they consume, not generate much-needed emotional and physical energy.
Luckily, as today was Mother’s Day, I accompanied my wife and boys to mass, where I served as lector, my wife as eucharistic minister, and my sons as altar servers. More importantly, we sung “Go Make A Difference” at the end of mass. It energizes me when I hear the song, as it did today. A simple song can have such power to rejuvenate.
So, I returned home to finish grading AP Calculus final exams, map many Common Core math standards to Khan Academy videos for my students, and finish roughing out my plan to teach algebra 1 this summer. While these are yet more tasks for a teacher like me to complete on their free time, as a Sunday used to be so many years ago, my passion is recharged for the week. While it may not be fully recharged, it should get me through the week.
I hope listening to the following version of the song makes a difference for you today, so you may continue to serve and make a difference in the world.