At the Intersection of Hope and Guilt

Though it’s been a number of years since students filled my classroom, as a 30-year practitioner I’m never far from my fall teacher feelings. Sunday night, after a bit of weekend respite and plenty of grading and planning, I would fall asleep full of hope and excitement about my lessons and their imagined impact. I’d think about each of my new 150+ students and what I was beginning to unfold about each of them. On Sundays, I lived squarely on Hope Street.

By Tuesday, my carefully planned and polished lessons would begin to reveal their rough edges, and my system for keeping organized with so many students, preps, and classroom changes began to unravel. And after the Wednesday afternoon staff meeting, I’d ride the train home to San Francisco fighting sleepiness while frantically reprioritizing my nightly list, fueled by an internal battle between my Sunday night hopes and my creeping Wednesday night guilt.

Wednesday Night Quicksand

Wednesday night always felt like quicksand. How do I rework my lessons so they’re more effective? How can I live with the fact that many of my students are so far behind? Can I give myself a break? How do these questions live within me as an always-growing practitioner, and not seep into the classroom where hope, warmth, and enthusiasm were as important to my students’ learning as my carefully reworked plans? How, how, how?

On some Thursdays, Hope won the Wednesday night battle. At other times, though I gave it my best, I felt wracked with guilt about all I wasn’t able to do, or able to be, to my students. Meet Guilt Street. Teaching on Guilt Street felt terrible, and it likely felt that way for my students, too.

In my early years as a teacher, on most Fridays, I was lucky to stay awake after school in the movie theater. But after a good Saturday rest, a step back from my classroom, followed by a peek at improving student work and a new idea for the coming week, I found myself back on Hope Street. And so the year went — a weekly pacing back and forth, fighting to avoid the intersection of Hope and Guilt.

Camaraderie and Ideas

Teaching Channel –– both the community members and the inspiration we all create by sharing our practice through videos, blogs, observations, and questions –– did not exist when I began. I can’t help but think that if it did, I would have felt less alone in my internal battle, and buoyed with both camaraderie and ideas. I would have learned earlier to embrace learning to teach as the lifelong fascination it has become.

Welcome back to school. Welcome back to your professional community at Tch. Get to know our new Laureate Team, who — with their musings and experiments — show us that vulnerability and transparency are the new hallmark of our profession. Let us get to know your practice, too. I believe if we each share our joy for the craft and endless pursuit of getting better, we can help each other live more often on Hope Street.

Tell us what you are working on as you face a brand new year. Comment in the discussion below, or better yet, tweet them out to @TeachingChannel!

Erika Nielsen Andrew has been a high school teacher, administrator, coach, researcher, facilitator, network leader, and designer of professional learning in the Bay Area for 27 years before she joined Teaching Channel as our Chief Academic Officer. Follow Erika on Twitter: @thenewready or email her at: eandrew@teachingchannel.org.

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