Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Insomnia is not my friend

This post is brought to you by insomnia. Insomnia is like the color purple: deep and full with an embrace that is almost if not quite in actuality comforting. For people that have had trouble sleeping in their lives, they know what I mean. When you are truly exhausted and can't sleep it's one of the worst feelings in the world. When this happens repeatedly on an almost weekly basis for your entire life you begin to look at sleep in an entirely different manner. It's something elusive that you can almost feel slipping through your fingers as the night progresses.

Insomnia is more like a dessert. No matter how much you crave water in a dessert and no matter how hard you search for it you are not the controlling factor in whether or not you find it. Sleep is my water. I can look and do all the right things, and sometimes I just don't have it's oasis of comfort.

Can you tell it's been a bad week?

One of my major triggers for insomnia is stress. I know - what could a person in their last year of a transitional teaching program have to be stressed about? Masters degree classes to finish on time? Thesis? Teaching portfolio (of which all of the transitional people in my program were supposed to divine how to do without assistance until 3 months before it was due)? Upcoming nuptials? Bad health? Possibility of impending joblessness?

All of this and what's really bothering me is that my students aren't learning. I guess that's where the true insanity of teaching comes in. I've been up since 2 am (it's now 4) and I have to get up and get going in a little over an hour. I've been tossing and turning and trying to do everything to relax myself into some sleep and it's not going to happen.

My students are just not getting the material. Of course, it would take them actually wanting to - and there's the rub. Some of the students, a rare few, are getting it. They are understanding and having fun with the projects that I've been giving them in class. This comprises, however, only about 2% of my total students. The rest don't want to work, don't bring their books, don't bring a pencil or paper, don't review what we've learned in class, don't study, and really expect to get good grades this way.

That's what has me up late tonight and many other nights. I'm expected to change these students. If I have more than 20% of my class fail then the administration *will* hand down one of those messages that says "why are you not doing your job right?" I've gotten them before and my response was to change the grading scale to save my skin. Now, I'm not so sure. Most students are not working despite everything I try. Why should I pass them to save my job? If I have to do that, is it a job I want to save? Or is it something I'm doing or not doing in my class that's causing so many of my students to fail or not be invested in their learning? Because when I call home, which is frequently, most of the parents are passionate about their son or daughters future and want them to succeed and do well in school. I have to figure out what's going on with this and why so many of my students are not even trying.

I have to find out. Is it me? Is it something else? Am I contributing to their failure? I don't know if I can stand that.

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