First Year Teacher Troubles.

As much as I’m loving my job as a teacher in Durham Public Schools, I have to say: this is SO hard. I enjoy the challenges that are presented daily and I love spending time with these kids and helping them learn. I really feel as though I’m learning and becoming a better teacher every day, but this week got me a little more frustrated than usual.

The other day I had my class working independently on some rounding worksheets so that they could practice their rounding skills. I was hoping to get a few more intensive reading tests completed (or at least started!) during this time, but that was impossible with all the questions my kids had.

I could not get to every raised hand fast enough. We tried working with a buddy, but that got too loud too fast. I made the working time silent so that other students could focus since some were complaining it was distracting in the class. Despite all of this, there were still so many questions.

Honestly it makes me feel like an ineffective teacher. I can’t even answer all their questions and spend individualized time with them. I can’t just sit with them in a small group while the others are working because the students can’t even get through their worksheets. Even when I tell them to just circle it and come back to it, there are still issues since then they just end up waiting on me to come answer their questions.

I graded my latest math common assessment earlier, and I truly thought I would have had more kids pass this time around. I thought we did a pretty good job with rounding, and I was excited to see how we’d do as a class. I had a few kids not pass who I expected to pass, which really threw me off. After looking at those grades, all I could think about were the things I should/could have done to do a better job in instructing them.

How do I do this on my own? I have some support on occasion, but it isn’t always the most useful. These moments make me feel like I’m not doing my job, and it’s so aggravating knowing that I can’t do anything about it. This injustice to my students’ education is absolutely heartbreaking — how is it that ten minutes away in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, teachers have constant in-class support with volunteers and TAs? How is it that Durham Public Schools has so little money to pay for beneficial, educational online resources? How and why is this discrepancy so large?

Actually, it infuriates me. This ultimate disservice to my kids makes me angry. These kids deserve my focused time and they have every right to learn just as much as the kids in the “better” school districts with more money. Does it not make more sense to have more support in a school with higher needs?!

Even though this frustration of mine grows a little more every day, there are always positives.

Wednesday, it was like the whole third grade was off the chain, and I blame it all on the rain. I had to break up three fights that day (and now I’m the go-to teacher for all fights apparently) — one in the cafeteria and two at lunch (note: the students in my class were involved in none of this, praise God), and two of those fights involved the same student. I had to pull this girl out into the hallway and talk to her during lunch, and then I had her sit on a bench with me for the remainder of recess. I gave her the option of cooling off and joining her class or staying with my class for the afternoon, and she chose to stay with her class. At one point I kind of felt like I was just talking at her and I couldn’t tell if she was listening, but I guess she was since she came by my classroom the next day for a hug and a little check-in to see how her day was going.


Despite the madness of Wednesday, I made some huge progress with one of my own students. AV has had this folder fort set up at her desk since maybe the second week of school when she pulled her desk away from her group. Since folders are made of paper, they fall down quite frequently at even the slightest tap of her desk. Normally, this makes her very upset and she usually has a small outburst of sorts. The other day when her folders fell, her outburst wasn’t nearly as explosive, and another student offered to help AV pick up the folders. AV got upset and started talking about how she needed to put the folders back up, but I suggested that she just maybe try to keep them down for that day. She asked why she would ever do that, and I just told her that she would have more room to work at her desk and maybe that could be nice. I’d just like to say that her desk has been folder fort-free for three days.


It also amazes me the self-esteem level of some of my kids. In all seriousness, I have students who have parents/guardians who do not support them, who do not encourage them, and who do not think their child is smart. I cannot imagine what it is like living in a home where my parents didn’t care about me, and this is every day life for some of these kids at this school, in this grade, in my class. It’s always at the top of my mind with every hug I get, because I then wonder if that’s the only positive interaction those children will have with an adult that day.

Isn’t that humbling? It blows my mind thinking about that. I was so blessed to have such an encouraging family who loved me so much. My heart hurts when I realize that all kids don’t have that.

Teaching is so overwhelming. Every single day I am flooded with emotions ranging from pure joy to sadness to frustration to excitement and everything else in between. My thoughts are consumed by how I can be better and how I can teach certain concepts to my students. I dream about my class…INSANE.

To my non-teacher friends, is your job like this, too?! I have a hard time imagining that there are many other professions comparable to teaching, but I suppose my scope is limited since teaching is all I know.

I’m hoping that I will be able to figure all this out soon — how to really make a difference in their learning. I want to reach all 22 of them in some way, because I signed up for this job to help kids grow as lifelong learners. I just want to be Superwoman, you know? Saving the classroom, one question at a time!

If only it was that easy.

I just need to learn that I can’t do everything, and that I’m doing the best I can for my kids.


One thought on “First Year Teacher Troubles.

  1. I was really missing student teaching and all my kids last night…I really don’t think there is anything like teaching! And your kids are SO lucky to have you as a teacher! 🙂

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