Thursday Morning Ramblings


I’ve reached the point in my teaching career where I feel like I’m wasting my life.   The skills I teach, writing, critical thinking, and to a lesser extent reading, seem life relics of a bygone era, and every semester, not only are the students less prepared coming into class, they also tend to act more resistant to learning even the basics.  Sure, there are the occasional gems and the dedicated adults, but their numbers dwindle with each year.  Now, after 14 years in the classroom, I truly feel burnt out, used up, frustrated, and ready for a substantive change.

Those who have followed me for a while have heard me gripe about these feelings before, but now, I can’t stress loudly enough that I really, really, really need out.  I feel like I’m suffocating from the demands of the job, and with each passing hour of class prep and grading, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve lost yet another hour that could’ve been spent doing something more productive and more fulfilling for me.  Right now, I’m honestly only here for the paycheck, and considering how paltry the money is in comparison to the effort required, that’s simply not adequate motivation to continue.

The downside is that I know I’m stuck for at least another year and a half because I’m too close to having my retirement vested to walk away today, and while that amount of money may not be enormous, it is enough that I would be stupid not to tough it out for at least 18 more months.  But with every single day and every single essay graded, I feel a little piece of myself die and know  the time wasted on most of the papers is that much less time left in my life to write my own works.  I know there are some of you who feel trapped in your jobs and can relate to what I’m expressing.

The good part is now that my health is coming back, my focus is returning to the farm.  Without that prospect of hope, I’m not certain I could make it, but having the opportunity to get it going provides me with at least the sense of an escape route.  Over the next few months, I’m going to throw myself back into that project and make as much progress as I can.  With a little luck and a lot of hard work, hopefully it will become productive enough that two years from now I can walk away from education permanently.  One of the only things I know for certain is that I don’t have much more than that left in me.

9 thoughts on “Thursday Morning Ramblings”

  1. I am sorry to hear that you are thinking about walking away from the classroom… but it is a feeling that I can certainly understand. Liike you, I see a general decline in student ability and a lack of preparation from their prior education. It is hard to keep excited about what you teach when faced with a classroom of students who, often times, can;t even be bothered to come to class, much less become involved in the work there.
    I guess that what keeps me from feeling the same way you do about the classroom, though, is that I see some (maybe not many, but some) students who ARE fired up by their education and I see how those people can be changed by that experience. I had a student a few years ago in my developmental reading class who just didn’t seem to really care about what he learned and who had seemingly bought into the fact that he “just couldn’t get it”, an idea that his previous teachers has instilled in him. By the end of the second semester I had him, I proved to him that he COULD, in fact, “get it” and, after working another couple of semesters with other instructors and working through the freshman classes, he is now finishing up my world lit class as one of the better students there. It is that sort of thing that keeps me coming back and keeps me excited about what I do. Like they say, you may not be able to win the war (because people have to WANT to be educated first and they have to be open to the experience) but, every now and then, you can win a battle or two.
    As I said, I certainly understand your sense of frustration with being a teacher and I applaud you for recognizing that you may need to find something else more fulfilling to do for a living. I have seen what can happen to teachers who refuse to leave the profession (and what can happen in their classrooms) and it is often not a pretty sight. You have enough talents that I am sure you will do well wherever you decide to go.
    I hope that you will forgive me, though, if I pray that something happens to rekindle your love and enthusiasm for teaching, though. It is precisely because you DO have talent that your students need you.

    Your friend in the trenches,

    Floyd

      1. You got a deal, bro. (Though I am the one that really came out ahead in this bargain because you will have a best seller not matter what you do — as long as you keep writing…)

  2. Well said Floyd! Although, a student may never grasp MLA formatting, it doesn’t mean that the professor has failed to make a positive impact. Sometimes a story you shared or something seemingly small and silly can make a huge impact.

  3. I would love to add my voice to encourage you to keep teaching because I view it as a noble profession and I come from a family of teachers, unfortunately, I can’t add the encouraging voice.
    I also find myself in a profession that pays the bills and promises a nice retirement, but does not kindle a flame of passion in me.
    So I share your disillusionment and I also share your outrage that “there must be something better out there!”
    Here’s hoping we find it!

  4. Hang in there!
    I hear from so many teachers how draining the work is and debate if I want to go down that road. Add in that if there’s any research attached to the position, I’ll end up chained to my desk writing grants when I’m not grading papers. I got into this b/c I LIKE doing the lab stuff. I enjoy sharing my passion for science, but the more I think about it, the less I think I want to waste my patience on other people’s kids (even grown kids).

  5. I’m really sorry to hear that. I know that having just ‘graduated’ from the whole ‘student’ expereince I know that it seemed even to me, that my fellow peers were somewhat lacking in motivation and respect towards teachers. I can only imagine that the students are just wasting their lives and not taking advantage of someone so accomplished and talented. I wish you the best and I hope that you can find the joy in teaching even if pales in comparision to what you used to have. Always wishing you the best. A loyal fan.

  6. I agree with those above. Stay motivated. Dress nice. Give sharp lessons.

    You’re making an impression and don’t even know it. I was a hellion in one class I had complaining about what I thought was a stupid project. Teacher probably couldn’t stand me, but she made an awesome impression on me.

    Don’t let the lil’ bastards get you down.

  7. I say just see it for what it is: a job. It’s not who you are, it’s what you do. And honestly, compared to so many other jobs out there, it is not a bad gig, even if the pay is crap — which it IS! I have learned to divorce myself from it. You’ve just got to drop the Atlas complex and realize that you are not responsible for everything; you’re just responsible for yourself. Try to find ways to make it easier for YOU! If that means “lowering your standards,” then so be it. Maybe you set them too high to begin with. Require less papers, give less tests, make them easier to grade, put the onus on your students to work. I’ve been teaching as long as you, and I admit that I require less of my students than I did when I first started. I look back at those early syllabi and wonder how the hell we ever did all that I had assigned. I was going at a gallop’s pace. But 15 years later, I don’t have that kind of energy anymore — that’s just a natural part of aging. Slowing it down, and realizing that I am not my job has helped me to deal with the “disappointments” of my career. Again, the students are the ones who need to work if they want to learn, not you; you’ve already jumped that hurdle. But you are not responsible for their lack of ambition/motivation. The sooner you realize that, the happier you will be in your teaching career.

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