Ok, so it’s not so much devotion that I question, but more, um, ability. Nor is it a tough day, but rather a tough student.
Last year I had a student who made me really question what I was doing trying to be a teacher when most people are looking forward to retirement. He started the year kind of Hemingwayesque, very literal and repetitive, but by the half way mark, he was starting to be more Kafkaesque. And I started getting worried. About his grasp on reality. About my decision to change careers. On the days he really pushed my frustration buttons, I really questioned whether I was the right person to teach a class in which he was enrolled. And of course that made me question whether I should be teaching at all. He really brought out all my first year doubts.
Was it vainglorious of me to think that I, who failed both Calculus II and Statistics the first time I took them (almost 25 years ago), knew enough math to teach it? Who
was am was I fooling? See, he still makes me question my ability to teach math. Why math, why didn’t I just go with language arts? I never failed one of those classes. Or try for elementary level, where at least I know the math? Sigh, the doubts are still there and not helped by the inferiority complex I get after reading in the MathBloggerTwittersphere about all the great things math teachers are doing.
Fortunately, my mentor often behaved like an avuncular aunt and offered gentle encouragement while mentioning specific things that I do well. Hey, there are things I do well. Thank god! My principal jumped in on the act and offered excellent feedback while at the same time stroking my ego. He has a deft touch and I always walk away from his feedback with a clear idea of what I need to work on, some possible directions for improving, and what I have been doing well and should continue doing. So when I’m really down about my teaching, I talk to my mentor or review the great feedback I have received, and then I move on.
I have to admit, though, I would rather eat okra and grits than have another student like this one. I jumped for joy (mentally) when I got my rosters for this year and he was nowhere to be seen.