I have been teaching for 28 years. I have a whole list of laurels I could share with you. There are amazing accomplishments over the years that I am very proud of. At one point in my life a sticker chart would have been my confession. (I remember when I came to that realization - it was a very long time ago.)
So what then? I must confess, if only to admit it to myself, that this last year I gave up. I'm not sure exactly when it happened. And once I realized it, it felt like it was too late to fix it. It was the most frightening thing to ever happen to me professionally.
I am the only full-time Kindergarten teacher in our building. We have a part time classroom as well (all day every other day). The person in that spot is typically a new teacher who has not been able to find a full time position. And once they do find a full time position, they are gone. Sometimes even in the middle of the year. These new teachers come in with wonderful ideas, but also need a lot of help and guidance.
It was also my third year with a Principal who did not appreciate my strengths, had no experience with primary education, and thought the best way to motivate the staff was to always point out what was lacking.
This last year I had the most challenging group of learners I have ever had in all my years of teaching. They tested my philosophy and beliefs about educating young learners at every turn of my head. They exhausted my bag of classrooms tricks by the end of September with no effect.
It did not take long after the year started for me to realize I was in trouble. I was in need of collegial support. I unabashedly asked. I asked the Gr. 1-2 multi-age teachers in our building. I asked my Principal. I asked our C&I Director. I asked a former principal who is still in the district. I asked other Kindergarten teachers from other buildings. Responses varied from no response to shrugging shoulders to an empathetic head nod. But no help came.
And I gave up. I gave up on myself and I gave up on my students. It was a horrible long year. We did manage to have some good memories and I know the children learned. But that was not me teaching. I don't know who that was... But she sure could do all that accountability stuff - even without a heart!
When I gave up I lost my passion for my child-centered, holistic, inquiry based, context/meaning centered philosophy of education.
So I am fighting my way back. Kinderchat was the first buoy I found. Literally an answer to prayer. I had to go over my Principal's head to get permission to go to a PreK-K conference. The presenters were not great, but spending two days with teachers who do nothing but work with young learners like I do was a huge help. I am trying to focus on real and meaningful things for Fall.
My greatest fear is that the difficulties of last year will still be there when I get back in August. Everyone tells me not to worry. That I will have a new batch of kids. We are getting a new Principal. But I know one part of the equation will still be there: me.