Teaching Middle School, Week 15: My decision


One of our physical ed teachers in his domain – this time at a pep rally.

We’re down to 15 classroom days before school is out for the summer.

Then my time in middle school will be over.

I began this middle school teaching journey as an experiment.

An experiment with these questions: What are middle school kids like? What are the challenges of a high-poverty school in this decade? How do computers and cell phones and social media affect kids? How is middle school different from high school? When do kids decide to give up, decide that they’re going to drop out? How are the requirements of teaching different from when I last taught, eight years ago? Do I have a love for the middle school age? Can I connect with middle school kids?

Those and many other questions, one of which was: Do I have the stamina to be a daily classroom teacher?

The answer to that last question has been a solid NO.

I barely have the energy that’s needed to teach right now. I can make it to school and through the day, but then I have to come home and rest and then get to bed by 8 PM so that I can make it through the next day.

On weekends I sleep for 11 or 12 hours Friday night and 10 or 11 on Saturday night. And I take naps, sometimes two-hour naps, each weekend day.

I have no energy to be involved in other activities. And sometimes I don’t even have the energy to go to my centering prayer group. Certainly not the energy for my tai ji group. Or anything else.

Plus being a teacher doesn’t give me time to be involved in community groups that meet during the day.

If I want to be a teacher, I can only be a teacher.

And that’s not the kind of life I want to live.

So a couple of weeks ago when a contract next year showed up in my mailbox at school, I had to find my principal and return it.

I told him, “I can’t.”

And he said, “I understand.” He knew that having enough stamina was my concern. He knew that I wasn’t back to full capacity after cancer treatments – even though I completed them four years ago.

He knew this semester was an experiment for me.

I felt sad and weepy the rest of that day.

But then the next day, I started feeling better. And better the next day. And better the next.

The heavy burden that was weighing me down has almost lifted.

And that’s a clear indicator that I’ve made the right decision.

I still want to be involved in our local schools. I still care deeply about my students and our schools.

And I want to continue my relationship with at least some of my students at school, perhaps in a club setting.

But not as their classroom teacher.

I’m hoping for guidance for my next path. I trust that I’ll receive it.

I hope I can be patient and let that path evolve.

For me, a classroom teacher’s job is suffocating. 

It didn’t used to be. I loved teaching for the first 20 or so years. Truly loved it. It was amazing to me that I got paid to do something that was so fulfilling.

So what has changed??

I have changed. Kids have changed a little. Requirements sent down from the state level have changed a lot.

But mostly, I think it’s me.

My call is not in the classroom anymore.

I feel my call is in a larger space, one that’s not confined to one room. (And yes, that’s not only literal. It’s metaphoric).

What that larger space is, I don’t know. Where that larger space is . . . well, I think it’s around here.

But honestly, I don’t know.

As I said last July in this blog (link here), I’m trying to follow the markers – and trying not to look too far ahead.

The markers six months ago said, “Try teaching middle school. This particular job is the perfect one for getting firsthand experience with every grade level in middle school with about 1/4 of the students there.”

It really was the best situation for what I was hoping to learn.

This chapter is almost over. Only 15 days left of it.

I’ll still be learning through these 15 days. I hope my students will be, too.

But we all can see in the foreshadowing that this chapter is nearing the end.

Is this the end of the book for me?

I don’t think so. I think it has quite a few chapters left.

Have I read the earlier foreshadowing correctly?

I don’t know yet. Time will tell.

I trust the path will lead me. If I follow the markers.

Sacred Heart, Cullman, AL June 2009 090

The path leads to the center. (Labyrinth at Sacred Heart, Cullman).




2 thoughts on “Teaching Middle School, Week 15: My decision

  1. Perhaps guidance is the operative word. Perhaps you could look into a counseling/mentoring type position. The insight you’ve gained from this experiment could would be helpful for someone looking to guide youngsters who are teetering on the brink of dropping out. I believe if anyone could handle that type position, it would be you.

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