The Stress to Meet Expectations
Stuck between doing what’s required or joining the Great Resignation
My job is stressful. It’s even more stressful as I try to do my job in the midst of a pandemic. Last year, towards the middle of the year, students returned to partial in-school learning. I taught 6th grade at the time. While it was great to have students in front of me, I was under tremendous pressure to meet evaluation prescriptions set forth by my principal. And as hard as I tried, my principal, who called me stupid during a meeting, gave me a poor evaluation.
Devastated, I spent the summer trying to refine my instructional skills. I had a plan, I would enter the new year with a specific focus and meet or exceed the prescriptions that hung over my head like the Sword of Damocles. However, no one was prepared for how a return to full time in-person would look like. Especially not the students.
Ever since September, many students have had a difficult time readjusting to school life. After a year and a half out of the classroom, many students were use to making their own choices when it came to their education. Unfortunately, many of those choices involved not engaging online or submitting assignments. I spent many school days last year staring at dark screens and urging students to submit missing assignments.
Despite conditions, teachers were still being evaluated. Everything was being examined from student attendance to grades. Those students who were engaged with the work did well online. But many others did not. Despite my efforts, using a variety of methods to engage students, I was blamed for their failing grades. Thus, why my principal yelled at me and the English coach sitting in the Zoom like a deer caught in headlights. I felt humiliated and betrayed.
But God doesn’t like ugly. The principal tried and failed to become the new head of our redesigned school. We transformed from a traditional middle school to a 7–12. Pilot School. As a high school, a new leader was bestowed upon us. One who was willing to give me a chance to prove myself in the classroom.
Now, I teach 9th grade College English. It has been a blessing. Many of my students know me from 6th grade. They’ve grown taller, their voices deeper, and their maturity better. Since September, I’ve been able to work with the students to strengthen their reading and writing skills. I’m using a new curriculum which has helped me to refine my instructional skills and increased student engagement.
The students see their progress. Their writing has improved. They’re able to write for a longer period of time. Many students are writing more and more each week. Some write more than what the assignment requires. The students discussed their growth in class and the areas they still need to work on. It was a joy to see and hear.
Despite the gains, I’m reminded by my coach/evaluator of my former principal’s prescriptions. What I need to do and what my artifacts should be as the first half of my evaluation looms in January. While I feel that I’ve made progress, after speaking with my coach/evaluator, I was left thinking that I still have a long way to go. Get the students to talk more, model more of the lesson, and get the students working together on the work. That’s what I need to do.
My hope is that what I’m doing in the classroom isn’t ignored. The students have done so much and shared so much in the classroom. But that doesn’t count unless it’s observed. My artifacts must reflect their progress as well. So much to do and the clock is ticking. I feel the sword dropping lower and lower towards my career. What will happen to me if I receive a poor evaluation? Termination? I love teaching, but my career in the district is on the edge of a cliff. Will it fall off or can it hang on?