Not With a Bang but a Whimper

I realize that T.S. Eliot was talking about far more important issues than how my own semester is going, but his words ring true for me nevertheless. My semester certainly started off with a bang. I was feeling confident about 1:1, I had planned well, and my energy levels were good. Unfortunately, about 2/3 or 3/4 through, I began to feel sapped, drained, tired. In short, the bang was fast becoming a whimper. Lesson plans that I was excited to try did not turn out as well as I’d hoped, complaints from students about too much work or too difficult assignments started wearing me down, and it affected me more this semester than in years past.

Two weeks ago, in a moment of desperation, I actually began searching the Internet for tips on how to “finish the semester strong.” While there’s plenty out there for students on this topic, there’s not much out there in the way of ideas for teachers. I have only been teaching in an upper school setting for 4 1/2 years at this point, and I’m still learning,and I hope I never stop. But I still have questions. Is it normal to have these dips in motivation? Is it normal to have a bad semester? A bad year? Could I have avoided this somehow? Should I have planned more? Did my class experiences this semester create this lethargic feeling, or did I transmit my lethargy to my classes and create the experiences? It’s the old chicken-egg conundrum, I suppose.

As I wind up this semester, however, I really do want some answers so that I can start off next semester once again with a bang and this time keep it resounding to the end. I have a few ideas running through my brain about changes I’m going to make, different approaches I would like to take, etc. But suggestions from others are always a help.

So if you are struggling to get through these final weeks, just know that I’m right there with you.




1 Comment

  1. Yes, it is normal, at least for the two of us. I have “moments” in my day this time of year when I still love teaching but mostly I am putting one foot in front of the other and getting it done because I have to, and almost every morning upon waking, I say to myself, ” Why am I doing this?” On the ride home yesterday I was thinking about the feeling I experience at this point in the semester almost every year. It is a kind of emotional exhaustion for me as teaching is relationally expensive work. I, too, get tired of listening to their complaints. I get tired of trying to cheerlead, corral, manage, motivate, discipline, and evaluate people. Maybe it’s just ninth graders, but trying to do all that at the end feels like herding cats.
    I also think the 1:1 thing is tiring the first year. Everything is new, so there is no comfortable rhythm to rest in at certain points in the semester.( Think about running or bike riding; the whole thing can’t be a sprint, yet that is kind of what first semester 1:1 has been like). We have many more “mistakes to learn from” than in a usual semester because we are trying so many new things at once. That takes energy. Failures ( or learning from our risks, shall we call them?) takes emotional energy from us even when we know the risks and lessons are worth it.

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