And maybe it works this way for doctors and farmers too, but a few bad days of middle school teaching and you're not only doubting your abilities but your job, career, and right to breathe oxygen on planet Earth.
Last week was one of those hailstorm-filled nightmare weeks that come around every once in a while, and my classroom and psyche are still assessing the damage. I think and worry greatly that my students suffered as well, but middle schoolers are far, far more resilient than the middle aged. They have to be. Remember middle school?
It is also somewhat comforting to know, after 14+ years of doing this, that a few days will pass and even us old people will largely have forgotten a week of sketchy pedagogy, harrowing curriculum and long periods of time spent thinking "what the Hell am I doing here?". The focus being on the word "somewhat". Meanwhile, after asking oneself "what the Hell am I doing here?", the thinking process goes something like this::
- "What other occupations, ones that I might not be horribly incompetent at, might be available?"
- "Perhaps if I just wrote that unpublishable novel I would be incompetent in the privacy of my home instead of in front of hundreds of schoolchildren. Might it not be time to quit, write the unpublished novel, and move on to a diet of ramen and tuna fish for the rest of my life?"
- "Is a day in which the Dow Jones goes down 700+ points a good day to consider career-changing options?"
- "How long can I keep this look of competence plastered onto my face before my wily middle school kids see through the mask?"
- Answer to question above: about five seconds.
- "What would be worse: to have to endure this week of teaching or to be a doctor and have every single patient of mine die, even the ones with ingrown toenails and psoriasis?"
- "Would the students notice if I just curled up into the fetal position here in the dark corner of my classroom?"
Until the next one. And you know the next bad stretch is coming sometime. It comes to all of us. And somehow that's okay, and you're okay, and I'm okay. We're all okay. Hail-damaged, psychically-scarred and far from perfect, but still here for the 1st Period bell.
Here come the kids. It's showtime, folks.