My Emotional Roller-Coaster
Have you ever been in an emotional state in which you couldn’t tell whom you really were? Have you ever been familiar with states of unstable adrenalin pumps that wake you up in the middle of the night and chase sleep away? Have you ever “caught” yourself gritting your teeth while asleep?
I never lost passion or doubted my love and dedication to the teaching profession. Nevertheless, I experienced some moments of pure physical as well as moral stress which caused me great pain and which, subsequently, led me to change many aspects of my teaching-related practices.
I assume my readers know that I was so eager to teach, and was very enthusiastic to give the best of me when I began practicing. Unfortunately, this zeal and enthusiasm were a bit out of control as I set high and unrealistic expectations. Of course, I didn’t realize that my goals and expectations were unrealistic back then. I just wanted to make a positive change in my students and I refused to believe that they were beyond help as I was informed by some experienced teachers. “They just don’t know how to deal with kids” I’d tell myself.
Now that I think back about it, I realize that those kids were not totally beyond help. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel STUPID; how can anyone, especially in my circumstances, aspire to change students radically in very little time? I’m talking about students who are literally illeterates here!
As a newbie, one always tries his/her best to stick to the literature on teaching, or any other profession, I guess, trying to implement the most up to date principles, methods, techniques and procedures, and trying, if possible, to integrate the most state-of-the-art technological advances.
Now, when you do this, you expect to get the same results you read about in methodology books, watched on teaching videos, and heard about from other experienced teachers. Nonetheless, the reality is sour and the classroom isn’t that magical after all. It was then when I wrote an imaginary letter saying:
Dear Chomsky, Vygotsky, Tannen, Harmer, Maslow, Celce-Murcia, Nunan, Larsen-Freeman, Krashen, Hymes, Piaget, Rogers,…F@ # $ YOU, none of your S^ & * works!
You can imagine my frustration after trying hard to be a cool teacher just to see my efforts yielding no results. A mere waste of time and effort. Using games, music, videos, role plays… didn’t make my students better ones, it just made me suffer more. My students weren’t familiar with these techniques so they thought I was kind of “weird”. I even happened to hear the following conversation between two students who weren’t in my room but were close enough to be heard:
- Student A: Look! The students are up and walking inside the classroom hitting each other with a rubber ball.
- StudentB: what do you think they’re doing?
- Student A: I have no clue, but today’s teachers have gone really mad!
In fact, my students were engaged in an activity called “hot potato”. In this activity, students are required to mingle and hit each other with a rubber ball which we pretend is a very hot potato. Meanwhile, music plays in the background. When I stop the music abruptly, whoever is holding the ball has to present himself to the class.
This made me feel bad. I was bringing new things to the school and yet some students think I’m crazy! I felt under appreciated and frankly, I felt sad.
Anyway, this is just one example of many constraints I had to deal with. The greatest burden, however, was my students results. The results were really catastrophic! Only 10 percent of my students got good marks in their first test. The other students were either totally lost that they didn’t know what the test was about, or had handwritings that were totally illegible.
Reading my students test papers was a heartbreaking task. Even though I knew they didn’t prepare well, that they didn’t have the adequate level to be there and that they were passing from a class to another without having mastered the previous curricula, I couldn’t blame anyone for their results but myself.
The time that followed my first test was very difficult on me. I started thinking that I wasn’t a competent teacher and that I couldn’t make my students progress. It’s true that I knew that there were things beyond my reach which I wasn’t responsible for, but a sense of guilt chased me day and night and made my life a nightmare, …literally!
At this particular moment, I was starting to become schizophrenic. I would spend a lot of time thinking of my teaching and reflecting back on my mistakes, blaming myself for my students extremely low level, and being harsh on myself because of their low marks. On the other hand, I would stop myself and tell myself that it wasn’t my problem, that my students hadn’t studied enough before they sat for the test and that there was nothing I could do about it. “I just can’t make up for 9 years of education in one month” I’d tell myself.
So, basically, there were two sides of me, one side was blaming me and making me feel guilty and another side comforting me and making me see that it wasn’t my responsibility, and that I was a victim of the educational system’s ineffectiveness.
This emotional roller-coaster would continue for a relatively long time, a period of some months on which I visited doctors more than I had done in my entire life. A period of time when sleep got scarcer and “good mood” was just some rumor.
Thankfully, this had to change soon 🙂