Trying to Stay Sane

Yesterday was a bad day. More accurately, yesterday was a great day that I allowed to be spoiled by the actions of one kid. This kid. This one kid. Details aren’t important; the bottom line is that his immaturity prevents him from taking responsibility for his foolishness and, instead, he tries to blame me, other kids, the entire school system for his failings. Despite his lack of interest in doing the work of self-improvement, I still want to help him. I mean, he’s only 15 years old; he doesn’t know what his future could hold.

Unfortunately, he’s a closed door right now, not interested in what I have to offer. To him, I’m just another middle-aged lady trying to tell him what to do.


I have so many awesome kids in my day, why is it that this one kid takes up so much of my headspace? I should, of course, give equal weight to the good moments in my day. Yes, this is hard, but it’s also necessary. Since 99% of my kids are awesome (okay, well…maybe 95%), it’s easy to find the positive around me. For instance, all of this also happened yesterday:

• During an unexpected fire drill, I saw one of my freshmen who transferred out of my class at the semester break due to a change in her math placement. Quickly and quietly, she said, “I miss your class, Ms. R.,” as we walked back into the building. “Aw, I miss you, too,” I replied.

• After a little grumbling/whining, my juniors were able to regroup post-fire drill and finish their SAT practice essays on time. (High-five for the block schedule!)

• One of my juniors loaned me a copy of Everything, Everything, just because he liked the book and thought I would, too.

• A different junior came by at lunch to ask if I’d be willing to have her to work as my teaching assistant next year. (Heck yeah!)

• A mom emailed me to say thanks for inspiring her sophomore to sign up for honors junior English next year.

• A freshman excitedly showed me the new FitBit he just got for his birthday. Knowing we’re both Type A, he was all a flutter to have me test out the different settings and doodads.

• An army of unknown pun-lovers visited the bulletin board outside my classroom to add a fresh tearable pun to their collections. I’ve seen several binders tucked under the arms of kids I don’t know with those colorful pun slips peeking out from their plastic covers.

• My family visited a restaurant last night that makes a great bowl of pho, Vietnamese noodle soup. Our Asian food experience in Idaho has ranged from meh to ick, but the pho shop gives me hope. Pho = Perfect Bad Day Cure

Even writing this post has helped lower my blood pressure. I’m not a daily-gratitude-journal-kind-of-gal, but I do see the value of balancing the brain space that we give to the chuckleheads. Will I continue to try to help the student who doesn’t seem to want my help? Of course. Will I be able to turn him around in our last nine weeks together? I don’t know. Do I see the value in continuing to take on this challenge? Oh, you know I do.

Let’s help each other stay sane! PLEASE leave a reply below describing one great thing that happened to you this week. I really need this, everyone.

Teach on!

41 thoughts on “Trying to Stay Sane

  1. Lara Dieckmann says:

    We ALL need some good news! In the spirit of sharing some positivity, two wonderful moments made my day, no – my week – worth it. This morning in my most difficult class, one of my most challenging students said after I explained our next writing assignment (a prompt about second chances) – “Dr. D., Will we have another free writing soon? I have some things on my mind I’d like to write about it, and I think I’m going to need some feedback on it.” SAY WHAT? Just a week earlier, this same student announced that she didn’t feel like doing her revision on her paper and proceeded to do nothing in class. Needless to say, I told her, “You are welcome to write about what’s on your mind right now, my dear, and I will happily give you feedback!”

    Then in my American Literature class, which often goes quite well, I gave them the scoop on seven books they could choose from for their book clubs; they needed to pick their top three choices from which I would make groups. After class, no fewer than 6 of the students asked me if they would be able to borrow copies of the books they DIDN’T choose so they could read them on their own time. VICTORY!!!!!

  2. YES, Lara! Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. These two moments just gave me oxygen. Nicely done.

  3. I have had several good things happen to me this week. However, today has to be the best day of the entire week for me. Not only did I ace my business math test, but I also aced my college accuplacer for reading and writing! That’s right…no remedial English classes for this girl!! Oh, and, Pho is the bomb!

  4. Yes, yes, and YES! Awesome work, Crystal. You know I’m always proud of you! 🙂

  5. I had a day like yours but reading your blog reminded me that I am not alone and that what we do is worth it–and that is my good thing. Exhale.

  6. I just finished a high school blood drive today. The kids were fantastic. The blood drive staff was rockin’ it the entire day. They were so good with our group of blood donor newbies and return donors. This is a lot of organization for me, my co-sponsor, and the Student Council at our school. However, it is all worth it when the plan plays out so beautifully. We are a rural, Kansas 4A school, and donated 81 pints of blood. Saved some lives today!

  7. I can definitely relate to your bad day. I’ve had several of those because of one student. I was grateful to get away for a couple of days to regroup.
    After being at a two-day workshop (Google Summit in Wisconsin Dells, which was fantastic by the way!), I returned to big hugs from three of my students and all at different times throughout the day! It was a fantastic feeling to know they missed me that much!

  8. Um…I swear we lived the same day yesterday.

    The thought I had today is all I can do is concentrate on making today so engaging that he will miss not participating.

  9. Wow, tigerfreshman9! Way to make the day count. Super impressive! 🙂

  10. Yeah, Shari, it’s easy to forget that we matter to a lot of the kids. Maybe we’re not everyone’s favorite, but we’re definitely someone’s favorite. Glad you felt the love today!

  11. My students had their state standardized writing test today. Almost every single one of my middle school students took the time to write a rough draft…. AND revise/edit them before completing the final draft.

  12. Yup, Chixsngr. I made my student work in the hallway solo for a few minutes, completing some work on his own as a way to earn his way back into the fun of the classroom. He was definitely eager to rejoin his friends in the class and finally put pencil to paper. Hey, anything that works, right?

  13. These are such great stories! Here’s the best thing that happened to me today and possibly all week: my Staff Pal, a Leadership student assigned to make my first year at a new campus fun, surprised me with the best gift a teacher can get. That’s right, a fresh new pack of dry erase markers!

  14. Okay, that’s awesome, Annette, and I’m super jealous. With heavy use from Quarter Trio board games, all of my markers are on life-suppport right now. Lucky! 🙂

  15. I’ve had a very good week but today is a bad day. It is the 6 year anniversary of one of my dearest students being killed by a drunk driver. I try on days like this to look for the brightness that my kiddos offer me-the little tidbits that let me know I’ve done my job. Reading all of your comments has helped me to face today, looking for the joy, remembering a student that was lost way too soon.

  16. JerseyBuckeye says:

    You helped make my day with your tearable puns!
    I print them and hang them on my office window…all day long I get a kick out of watching the kids (and adults) take them. The read them, they giggle, they share them with friends, they stand at the paper and read them ALL because taking just one isn’t enough, the bring friends back to see them, and ever once in a while they stand there confused out of their minds because they don’t get the joke (binary pun I’m looking at you). Thanks for sharing them on TpT because they help make my day a little brighter every single day!

  17. Ellen, I’m so sorry for your loss and share the heaviest of your heart. Glad these little comments/drops of happiness can be a tool to help you. I’m also thinking that the way to honor that student is to keep doing what he/she loved about you – being an awesome teacher. I’ll think of you today when I get to school and see my kids in an hour or so. Your comments definitely gives good perspective. Stay strong! 🙂

  18. Love it, JerseyBuckeye! Thanks for spreading the joy. 🙂 And, yes, the binary pun is in the mix to please a special kind of kid/adult/nerd/hero. TGIF!

  19. So my week started with having to enter 3rd qtr F’s for 75% of my urban Seniors (in a required class) due to nothing more than their not turning in work – no matter how many chances, warnings, reminders I gave them. But yesterday an amazingly bright Senior whose home issues would make your heart bleed, and who had essentially given up first semester, has been showing up to class today and actually smiled. He turned in some late work, and it was SO well written and thoughtful and just GOOD. Another Senior (who is always a bright light in my day) had been MIA for days. Turns out she was in the hospital after trying to kill herself. She came during my planning, talked a bit about what was going on…she came in this morning just to let me know she is here, and she too smiled. These kids can totally put me through it, but they also are amazing and wonderful and even though sometimes I worry that I will never be able to help them enough, there are days when you see those smiles… I really love my job.

  20. Again, a great deal of good perspective is here, Mary. Thanks for sharing this. Almost all of my frustration with this student is academic and a whole bunch of distraction nonsense. You’ve just given me a goal for the day. Today, I’m just going to look for a smile.

    Keep doing the good work for your students. Seniors…oh, they’ll give us gray hair! Hang in there. 🙂

  21. Another teacher friend just reminded me of this classic nugget, which’ll give us all a little more air. Enjoy!
    Don't Quit

  22. You have just described my entire school year. I teach sped so … get the picture. We struggle to not only complete work, but to stay in the classroom without simply walking out. However, yesterday the pe teacher stated the student walked up to her and asked politely if he could leave and come to his to finish homework in my room. Made my day to get a positive comment.

  23. I’ve been hanging your Tearable Puns outside my classroom. The kids AND teachers are loving them!! I had a student pull me aside to let me know I misspelled “terrible.” It was hard to keep a straight face as I explained! Keep up the great work you do!!!!

  24. Ah, TTTBBB, a kid who wants to go work in a quiet place? Yes, please! 🙂

  25. Okay, that’s cute, Angie! I’ll admit, I’ve had to explain a few of them to a couple of kids, too. Ha!

  26. This particular post resonated with me because I’ve had a bad day – all year long. Even my “honors” class stresses me. Thank you for the reminder to focus on the good amid the bad times. Yes, one or two, um, “cherubs” probably ruin a day or two, but many other students care and try their best. They’re the reason we became teachers, right?

  27. Oh, Michelle, sorry to hear that this year’s been one of the rougher ones. We all have ’em from time to time. There’s just no telling how the chemistry of 30+ kids in a classroom is going to work – some classes are sweet, others are…well, let’s just say salty. Hang in there! Just nine more weeks (or so) to go!

  28. This week ended on a high note – which was much needed. Our graduating class is taking mock IB exams and it’s the first time for them to do mock exams, so they are super stressed. Our Middle Years students decided they wanted to do something to cheer up the older students. So, they made motivational posters and cards for each of the DP students and hung them in their class room as a surprise. And we’ve organized each middle school class to provide snacks each day of the exams. The DP students were so surprised and touched – and less stressed!! So proud of my students 🙂

  29. That is really sweet, Jennifer! What a great reminder about the power of community and how it takes something so small to make someone feel important. Love it.

  30. I surely needed this one! I am teaching 5 preps this year (yes, I said 5) and for the first time in a 25 year teaching career I have a group of students (5 to be exact – hey 5 might be a significant number or something) that are essentially bullying me. I caught them cheating and since that time they have done everything they can to be totally disrespectful and completely demoralizing to me. It is exhausting. I have never had a year quite like this one. This post gave me a new sense of courage, that perhaps I can go on. I want to be awesome every single day for every single student, and you have given me some hope. I have always loved my job, and I am deeply thankful for the 165 amazing students I teach everyday. 5 is less than 10% so I have a great deal to be thankful despite the thunder and lightening of a few (who need me more than they even care to know.) Thank you a million times over for posting this. 🙂

  31. Absolutely, Beth. I’m right there with you. I think it’s easy to gloss over the reality that, for a lot of us, these sorts of struggles are common and frustrating and exhausting. (Seriously, I fell asleep on the couch at 7 o’clock last night – sheesh!) We should be able to admit when there’s a problem and seek solace in each other, but so often it seems like everyone just paints on a smile and pretends everything’s super-duper when it’s not.

    The bright side is that there really is a lot more good than bad happening out there and reading over all of the past comments has been a salve. I had a better day with “that” kid yesterday and I’m just going to keep at it until I win or summer arrives. That’s all we can do, right?

    So glad you commented. You are NOT alone in this! And maybe next year, admin. could ratchet you down to just two or three preps, eh? 🙂

  32. This week I got one of those rare paydays. A gal who’s been in and out of juvie, foster care, and alternative school interrupted a different class and really seemed distressed, so I asked my aide to monitor the next Hero’s Journey presentation and stepped into the hall.

    She wanted to tell me she’s going to Job Corps that night but couldn’t leave without thanking me for making her feel like ‘somebody’ in her class. Wow! After she gave me a brief hug, she speedwalked away without looking back. I spent the next 20 minutes a little misty, and I’m sure my kids wondered why I was so moved by the details of their childhood movies, but it was a good day despite having one of those other kids (similar to yours) the next class.

  33. Thank you for this, Jenn. THIS is why we do what we do. Let’s all savor the moment!

  34. My closed-door student unexpectedly did work on Monday and Tuesday this week. Nothing yesterday, but even some improvement is better than nothing. If you’re like me, you can’t let it go because as high school teachers we know we’re the last chance and we can’t stand the idea of someone just letting their life slip by right in front of us. You posted this a few weeks ago – I hope things got better for you this week and maybe that you got a few assignments out of your closed-door as well.

  35. Thanks, Engaging and Effective Teaching. Yes, it’s sometimes two-steps-forward-one-step-back, but I do see progress, slow as it is. Happily, this week is my spring break, allowing these batteries to fully charge before 4th quarter launches. And, I agree, we care because we know this matters. I still think of the handful of teachers who believed in me and saw more in my future than I could imagine at that time. I hope I’ll be one of those lights for my students, too. Keep the faith, right?

  36. Laura, as a fellow Idaho teacher, I truly appreciate your take on things. I’ve taught in three different states now and in schools small, very small, very large, in between, blended, face to face and online. I can honestly say you have one of the most sane approaches to teaching I’ve seen and would encourage you to keep it up!

    Also heading to Boise today as a matter of fact. Might check out that pho shop!

    Thanks again.

  37. Thanks for reading, scienceatchallishs! You should definitely check out the soup shop. I have to laugh, though, because they named it “Pho le,” but my family always sees it as “P hole” in the logo. Dumb, right?

  38. I have “THAT STUDENT” in my class this year, and after two days I was ready to tear my hair out until I read your post. Thank you for putting things in perspective for me! Now I just need to keep a positive spin on my dealings with this young man!

  39. I hear you, Janice. Keep focusing on the good in your day. I wrote this post about a year ago and I’ll admit that I never fully won That Kid over. Some days were better than others, but despite my best attempts I never did have a breakthrough with him. He passed our last semester together with a D and, as it turned out, made Ds/Fs in all of this other classes, too. I still think about him more often than any other kid from that year, but now those thoughts don’t raise my blood pressure. They’re just thoughts about how to solve the puzzle of an angry, disengaged teen. Sorry to say, I haven’t found the formula…yet. 🙂

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