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A novice teacher in hot water

March 1, 2010
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A couple weeks ago, I posted about my testing issue.  In response to this post, an incredibly smart veteran teacher named Patty wrote: “if you don’t follow-though with your promises, EVERY test will be a testing experience for you” and strongly suggested that I stick to my guns regarding the test. 

 Man, was she right.

 Last week, I followed up with a la-dee-da response, hoping for the best and expecting…well, the best.  See, I was thinking that I’d made some educated decisions and had come up with a fair plan for scoring the test.  There were two questions I reconsidered, and that was because they legitimately weren’t fair.  That’s all.  I expected that my students would trust that I’m not out to “get” them and accept that I’m in charge of the decisions in my classroom.  My exact famous last words (from my last post) were: “I’m not giving in or admitting that I don’t know what I’m doing.  I’m pretty satisfied with this decision.  We’ll see how the kids take it…” 

Man, was I wrong.

 I passed back the tests last week, and officially became the most hated person in the entire world.  The median score was 57, so students were pretty upset.  Allow me to assure my readers, this multiple choice, matching test really, really seems fair to me.  I’ve spent hours deliberating about it.  The cold, hard fact is that some students didn’t read and others just gave up.  At least, that’s what I think happened, but what do I know?

 I don’t think I went wrong when I wrote the test.  I don’t even think I was wrong for plunging ahead and giving it to them directly following a snow day.  Where, you ask, did I go wrong then?  I went wrong when my students complained about the test and I admitted their scores were low.  They could see how confused I was about the results and knew that I was questioning myself.  This, in turn, made them question me.  One word of advice from a novice teacher: never, ever, ever let them see you sweat.  Even if your classroom is full of angels.  If you do, you’ll end up in my situation, which is not a happy place to be.

 Allow me to describe what I’ll be walking into tomorrow.  My students seem to have decided that I am not sure of anything; therefore everything is up for debate.  This hasn’t happened in all of my classes, just one, but one is enough.  Any time I say anything to them, they argue with me.  I’ve caught myself getting angry with them, but I’ve kept it under control so far.  I just don’t know how much more teenage angst and argumentativeness I can take. 

 The worst part about this is that I brought it on myself.  I disregarded the advice of experts and thought I knew better.  Another bad part?  I don’t really know what to do next.  My “plan” is to walk into class like nothing happened, plunging ahead with a well-prepared lesson and not allowing any room for argument.  I’ve decided not to hand back their final projects from Great Expectations because I just can’t stand up to another round of complaining.

 The tricky part about teaching is that there are so many people involved in every decision you make.  So many different personalities come into play, and things spin out of control really quickly.  Luckily, this is also what makes teaching great.  My other class has moved on, and that’s just because of who they are…and who I am when I’m teaching them.  I know that everything is going to be okay, I just can’t wait for this part to be over!

 Does anyone have any suggestions for a novice teacher in hot water?

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