Teach Houston

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 01 2013

meltdown v.2

Other than a pretty rough breakup my junior year of college, I don’t think anything in my life has ever made me feel as bad about myself as I do now. My kids were – and I hate to put it this way – awful today. I couldn’t do anything to control them. Another experienced teacher had to take over the class at the end and even he – an experienced educator – couldn’t control them either. Something has to change. Where we are now is completely untenable.

I threw up this morning from anxiety about school and haven’t managed to eat anything all day. I can feel myself slowly sinking into a place where I can’t eat/sleep/work but instead just worry and feel sick at the thought of going back to school for another day.

Lesson planning seems utterly and completely pointless; I could walk in completely blind and still get just as much done as I’m doing right now. I met my MTLD today. She saw my classroom melting down and then she saw me crying afterwards. Someday we’ll look back on this and laugh. Someday I’ll remember how she saw me grow up & become a teacher from those horrible first days. Someday this will be a funny/ridiculous story. But right now it just kind of sucks.

I have some meetings tonight to try and figure everything out. Most of what I’ve tried so far – behavior narration, assigned seating, engaging lessons, positive rewards, building relationships, the BMC – has proved ineffective so far. I’m trying not to lose trust but it’s hard. You know what else is hard? Knowing that I am building essentially no concrete teaching skills to help me next year. all I do with my day is yell at sixth-graders. There really is no teaching happening and I will be the first to admit that.

My kids deserve better.


I’m not really sure how to pull myself out of this rut right now. I only have two more days of teaching and then I’m heading to Austin for 4th of July weekend. As for right now, I’m going to finally have dinner and then watch The Bachelorette and try to plan two lessons and have meetings. I feel like there’s no end in sight and it is absolutely exhausting.

3 Responses

  1. tlmerrie

    To be honest, the stuff you are being taught to do isn’t the stuff I would do in a real situation like this. But I don’t imagine that where you are you have the freedom you need. In a really bad situation I like to practice ‘divide and conquer.’ A combination of calling parents (introduce myself only on the first phone call and find something nice to say), and pulling kids out during planning period individually and talking to them (neither sweetly nor unkindly) and I wouldn’t use behavior narration and I don’t know what BMC stands for.

    I know this is tough, but you will eventually benefit in some way from what you are going through now. I have never understood why TFA thinks this kind of training is adequate or healthy. Just get through it. There are some groups and situations that just don’t work. Peer effects are far, far more powerful than any teacher effect. Don’t worry about how little is getting taught, classroom management comes first. It may not seem like it, but you may find yourself more prepared to start the year off than the rest of the people you are with.

  2. Woefully Underpaid

    I’m not in your classroom and I don’t know you, but your posts seem to focus on having or losing “control” of your classroom. Here’s something to consider:

    Why are your kids in summer school?

    I don’t mean why did the school/system put them there. I know that in one of your previous posts you said it was because they each failed at least 1 section of the state test. What I mean, is, according to your kids, why are they there? What do THEY perceive as their purpose? And how much of how your trying to shape your classroom culture is aligned towards their sense of purpose?

    I think that teachers who struggle sometimes try to get students to conform to their (the teacher’s) purpose for teaching. I think it’s much more effective to come at teaching from an understanding of what is inherently driving your students. Is it making a parent proud? Is it proving that they can pass the test? Is it moving on to the next grade? What are the stakes from THEIR point of view?

    Unless and until you can make what’s happening in the classroom relevant to their goals, learning won’t happen.

    I guess the easiest way to think about it is to think of something you really don’t like doing but make the adult decision to do anyway because it’s good/right/healthy/helpful. You have a goal and you’re willing to tackle or endure things you find unpleasant if they will help you meet your goal.

    Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc It’s not about teaching, but it may as well be.

    For a bit of humor check this out:


    It’s not about control. It’s about understanding what your audience wants and convincing them you have it or can help them get it…and then actually delivering on that.

  3. dchillin


    It’s not just you. How you described feeling is how most first-year teachers feel. The TFA method is mostly learning through walking through the fire/trial and error. That’s what happens when you are plopped in the classroom with one week of training. Of course you don’t know what you’re doing! You would be some kind of phenom if you did.

    You have to disconnect your personal feelings from what goes on in the classroom and focus on calmly reflecting on what works and doesn’t, even if it seems like nothing works. THIS IS THE TIME TO EXPERIMENT, because once you start in the fall you’ll have a full year with your kids.

    Best of luck,

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