Well, here we are. I am officially done with every part of the 2020-2021 school year. At the end of last summer, I had every doubt that I could make it through this school year in general without a full on mental breakdown. Every day challenged me in a new way, and forced me to look at my own life, thoughts, behavior, personal expectations, self-doubt. I learned who’s really on my team, and who wears two faces better than I thought they did. Most importantly, I learned that I can make it through anything.
It’s crazy how your own mind can work against you, convincing you with every fiber of your being that you are not worth the love and appreciation other people have to give; that you are not great at what you do no matter how many people tell you otherwise; that everyone would be better off when you’re not around.
Being a teacher this year has been one of the hardest experiences I have ever had to push myself through. I have written a bit on here about my journey being a 7th grade English teacher this year, amidst virtual learning, then hybrid learning, and now still hybrid but really like 80% face-to-face and 20% virtual.
Every part of this year has been so difficult. Let’s break it down.
I struggle a lot with extremely high expectations of myself, holding myself to unreasonably high standards, needing a lot of validation from others to think I’m not literally the worst teacher, employee, friend, wife, person, etc. It’s hard to live in my head some days, especially this year where we teachers have had to stop and adjust our entire teaching methodology to continue educating in a pandemic.
This post is hard for me to write, because every way I attempt to phrase my frustration makes it sound I’m just a sore loser and I’m not happy for others, and honestly none of that is true. I am not going to share this post on my social media because I don’t need the whispers of my coworkers in the hallway or family members at gatherings spreading half-truths. I just have feelings and words and my they didn’t feel sufficient in my journal.
January is definitely not too late to finally tell you how my students fared during National Novel Writing Month in November, right?
Better late than never, right?
Ok ok. The gripping conclusion:
This year, I had a total of 73 students write at least one word during the month. Some wrote stories, some journaled daily, some did other questionable things but I counted it anyway.
Period by period, it broke down to:
For a grand total of……
Pop the confetti cannons, sound the horn!
You guys, I was so blown away by what my 7th grade students accomplished in just one month of incorporating daily writing. I’m even more so astonished because roughly 60% of them are still learning at home, joining in through Zoom daily.
I did add in a little bribery to help propel that number into the six figure mark. Obviously, Thanksgiving falls in November, so that meant a full 5 days where I couldn’t force students to write during class time. Recognizing that I would not get to 100k if they didn’t write, I offered up a total of $40 in gift cards. $10 for the most words written in each class period, and one extra $10 to the most words written overall. I had about 10 students write some during the break, but the three who took the gift cards combined for over 10,000 words to add to the total. Those students received a gift card of their choice before we left for the break. 🙂
We were hoping to have a huge party at the end, have students share a paragraph or two, enjoy some snacks and drinks, but some sudden changes in our 7th grade team forced us to change plans. Teaching in 2020-2021: 0 stars/do not recommend.
BUT this gave me hope. I was never prouder entering in final word counts on December 1 and seeing not just the 100k, but just some of the amazing word counts students were able to put up. So many didn’t think they’d write more than 100 words, and were amazed at themself at the end seeing they wrote more than 1,000!
I can’t wait for the opportunity to do this again, perhaps on a bigger scale? But if not, my own classroom is good enough for me.
After leaving a meeting that I joined into even though I had to take the day off today, I sat here at my desk recognizing that I am literally my own worst critic. Honestly, I already knew that, but I feel like I need to keep saying it out loud to fully accept it as the truth. It’s a mindset I do not wish upon anybody, because in my mind, I am never good enough.
I strive and strive to be the best at what I’m doing. Weirdly, this does not affect me in all parts of my life. I never strived to be the best in sports – I was okay with being good enough. I never strived to be the best in school – C’s get degrees, baby. I never strived to be the best, most successful sibling/family member/friend, etc.
For me, I strive to be the best in my career: I’m a 7th grade ELAR teacher who is struggling through every part of this school year.
Ahh, you have come back to see how my students fared in week one of National Novel Writing Month, I see. Well let me tell you, you are going to feel PROUD when you see these numbers. After a rough week in general, being able to put these numbers on the whiteboard at the end of the day on Friday made me forget some of the stressors I had faced beforehand.
This year, as I mentioned in my previous post, all of my students are participating in some way. Some are going full out, having set word count goals and are writing a larger story via the YWP website. Others are free writing, journaling, using my optional daily prompts, etc. through the month and have not set a word count goal.
My goal is just to get them to WRITE everyday.
So this year, all stats will be numbers only, no percentages. But these numbers – WHOA.
(I started this on Monday. It took me a day to finish it haha!)
This is my first year teaching, and I have one big complaint to make:
Why do we have to raise kids to only be expository writers and not creative writers?
This is the biggest complaint of all teachers, right? We have to teach to a test, not teach our kids things they’ll use in real life. Not all kids are going to grow up to write academic papers in their career for their entire life.
Should students be writing expository often? Obviously. Most college writing is expository in nature and it should be mastered before you get there.
But how do we raise the next JK Rowling when creative writing is barely touched in school?