I haven’t written anything in a long, long time. For some reason, I have found it hard to sit and do the thing that I actually love to do… write. I’ve felt unmotivated, dry, and actually a bit dead inside. Maybe a part of me has died. I spent the entire summer working on rebuilding an entire curriculum based on the Common Core Standards and the PARCC framework. It was completely unlike what I have done in the past with my students, and seemed as if it would be so overwhelming to them and to me. And my heart sunk. My creative spirit felt sucked out of me, and I wondered how I would be able to inspire myself to keep going, let alone inspire kids. With that went my personal spirit.
My heart has not been in the things I have loved for so long, and I am not sure how to overcome that. It has been dark and dank inside that cave, and some of that darkness has crept inside me as well. I want and am trying to emerge from it, but every time I reach that entrance, I run into a situation that sends me scurrying back inside– usually a situation of my own doing. I say and do the wrong things and then feel guilty or angry with myself, so I retreat. It’s a hell of lot easier there. With a few exceptions, I have spent most of the past six months inside not reading, not writing, and not really connecting. Just existing. And worrying. And fearing that I wasn’t going to be able to meet the demands that I knew were waiting for me in September.
At first, I was just taking a break from the hectic end of the school year. I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was rest. I told myself that I was going to finally write, write, write… and then nothing. I’d open the files and my heart wasn’t in it. And so I just shut it down…and after a bit, shut myself down. The re-boot button came with the new school year, and I have thrown myself into this new mess of APPR, CCSS, PARCC, SLO, PLC, and a host of other acronyms. All those capital letters are like someone shouting at me, screaming across the screen, and I push and I push myself to try to live up to what “they” in Albany want. I have managed to do what I need to in order to be in compliance with all that is required of me, but at the cost of my spirit. Compliance. Not the best word to describe someone who really is passionate about teaching… but I felt the life getting sucked out of me in order to meet these new demands.
All I really want to do is teach literature. I want to teach poetry. I want to do all the things that I have done in past years that have gone successfully with the kids.
I’ve tried my very, very best to take it all in stride and make the necessary adjustments. New lesson plans for new units, all being presented in completely new ways. Non-fiction, informative texts as prescribed, with as much literature as I could weave in and still be in compliance. I modeled everything I did after the PARCC framework and made sure that I hit as many of the Common Core Standards as humanly possible with my lessons. The first quarter was daunting and exhausting. My lessons were meticulously aligned, but it didn’t feel like me at all. I felt robotic, and even though I tried to be enthusiastic, I felt so overwhelmed. The amount of writing assignments I gave fit the PARCC to a “T” and I tried to be diligent in grading them; however, the harsh reality is that with the 4-6 analysis pieces, the research paper, the narrative writing, the persuasive writing, the routine writing, the vocabulary work, and the reading quizzes for over 120 students, the paperwork turned into an avalanche that buried me. Evenings and weekends became practically nothing but papers, papers, and more papers. I pushed myself to finish by the deadline, and I was nearly dead inside myself. I didn’t see the meaning in making kids jump through all these new hoops and I found myself crawling through an ever narrowing tunnel that threatened to squeeze the very life out of me. And I began to shut down even more.
And now we are in the second quarter.
I know from past years that I have done good work with my kids. I know that my passion for the work of Joseph Campbell has fueled my lessons, and I know that I have had kids come back in later years to tell me that I did a good job. So this quarter, I am going back to what I know. I can tweak things to make sure all the Standards are being hit, but I am not going to put my kids or myself through those PARCC hoops again… at least not until it becomes mandate. For right now, I am trying to reach in and bring forth the teacher that I have been in the past.
And fortunately, good news has arrived. It’s possible that NY State might reject the framework after all! Oh happy day! I can finally see a ray of light at the mouth of my cave, and maybe, just maybe I can re-emerge.
But coming out of that self-imposed darkness isn’t as easy as I’d hoped as it has crept into my soul. When I do leave the house other than for work, I find that I am anxious to just go home again. With the coming of advent, I have once again inched toward the door, hoping that with the coming of the light will be the coming of my lost spirit.