Play Ball!

I am not too proud of myself at the moment.  I’ve had a series of less-than-stellar performances and I’m starting to feel like I’m going to get put on the bench.

Last Thursday I had a dud of a session with one of my students.  We were working on ACT prep and we just weren’t making progress.  We kept getting stymied and bogged down in words.  When I left him, I was frustrated and so was he.

I left him to go to another student.  She and I worked for an hour and a half on an outline for a research paper she is writing.  We referred to the teacher’s model, we attended to his rubric, and we created a finished product.  Her mom messaged me the next day — the outline earned a 60%.

This morning I worked with a student on reading comprehension.  We were pouring over college-level text that involved math. I am not inept when it comes to math, but I am rusty.  Very rusty.  We each read the text silently creating notes at the same time.  We compared our notes, then I asked her some higher order thinking questions about the content.  Without getting into the gory details let me just say that my student became acutely aware that I was out of my comfort zone.  I could have left it there.  I didn’t.  I asked a colleague, in the student’s presence, to help me understand what I did wrong.  And I didn’t just ask once, I blathered on and on, joking about my inability to set up a proportion correctly. That doesn’t sound like a horrible sin, but I had been told before working with this student that I should not reveal that I was a newbie — the student is very intelligent and needs to know that I am qualified to do this job. I  blew it.

The colleague pulled me aside and reminded me that this student’s success is contingent on the fact that she trusts our credibility. That’s when I remembered the explicit instructions.

It was time for me to go home, so I clocked out and walked to the car feeling a physical sensation I haven’t felt in years.  A dull ache was in my throat and through my chest.  I had blown it.  I couldn’t take it back.  What if this student didn’t want to work with me any more? What hardship would that cause for the agency?  What will it take to rebuild her confidence in me.

Really, I was a mess.

I texted the colleague expressing my grief.  When I got home and realized she hadn’t texted me back, I started to draft an email about how devastated I was at my failure, etc., etc.   That’s when I heard the ‘ping’.  My colleague texted me back! “Don’t worry about it!  It’s all part of this crazy steep learning curve!”

We texted back and forth for a few minutes and I began to breathe more regularly, to release the tension in my muscles, and to prepare for the student that I have this afternoon — the same ACT student that I tanked with last week.

I have had a lot of successes as a teacher.  I know I am capable, but lately I feel like I’ve been falling a little (or a lot) short.  I don’t cut myself much slack.  I expect to hit it out of the park every time I get up to bat, but even the best hitter in the MLB isn’t getting a hit even half of the time.  I don’t expect my students to get a hit every time they are at bat either, but they still get discouraged when they strike out.

They often want to throw the bat, stomp to the dugout and sulk. That is how I felt today.  I was sure I would collapse on my bed when I got home and cry for a while — I know better!  How could I make such a novice mistake!!

And I made another one, didn’t I?  My last post was about trajectory and how success is often related to how well we are able to adapt, bounce back, get back on the horse.

So I’ve had a few rough spots in the last week.  Who hasn’t?  I’ve said from the beginning that working with students is as much about lessons for me as it is about lessons for them.  Why would I be surprised when my learning gets a little uglier than I am comfortable with.  It happens for my students all the time.  And yet they continue to walk to the plate, pick up the bat, put their eye on the ball, and swing. I can learn a lot from these kids.

So, here I am picking up the bat and walking back to the plate.

Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed; His compassions never fail.

His mercies are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

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