Am I Jaded or Cynical?

I am tired. So very tired. I have spent the last seven hours working on stuff for my upcoming evaluation and am yet not done, but I need a break. Part of the reason that I am not done is because I find myself losing the passion for what I am doing. For a break I am going to do a piece of self reflection. I want to decide if I am jaded or am I cynical.

As long as I can remember I have always leaned more towards a pragmatic, pessimistic view of the world. But the past three years (2015-present) have been really weighing on me. I think I have become jaded by my work. Jaded is defined as being fatigued by overwork or being made dull, apathetic, or cynical by having seen too much of something. I’ll ignore the idea of cynical for now, but I would say that I could be considered fatigued or apathetic from having seen too much.

Too much of what though? Too much of everything. Too many rules. Too many rubrics. Too many evaluations. Too many detentions. It’s to the point where all I am starting to see at school is a place not of education, but a place of complacency and obedience. Which is starting to make me feel rather cynical.

A cynic is someone who is distrustful of sincerity and integrity of human intentions. If I am truly a cynic, I don’t believe people are motivated by altruistic intentions. A quote attributable to the great George Carlin, “Inside every cynic is a disappointed idealist.” I think that perfectly sums up my life for awhile now.

The class of 2013 left me with regret, I felt like I didn’t do enough. The class of 2014 left and I felt uplifted. I took some chances, pushed some students to the breaking point, and tried to embrace education for the life altering experience it can and should be. School shouldn’t be a place where subjects are learned to simply barf back answers on a test to get a decent scholarship. That’s why I felt regret after the class of 2013. I had most of those students for two or three years, a couple for four. I should have found a way to push them beyond choosing the safe path. Sure, they weren’t likely to fail, but some of them could have done more and chose not to out of fear. In 2014 I pushed convention, both with my pedagogy, rules, and role. I think I finally had the lasting impact that is supposed to happen in education. Some of those students said the kindest things to me after they left. One even took the time to write a very thoughtful thank you note that I routinely reread anytime a bad day has made me question my purpose.

I started 2015 actually excited for the school year, in spite of losing my beloved Algebra I class. I eagerly shared all of my insights from the previous year. As I began to share them I was met with the opinion of from the local educational service center. I was asked what parents would think. I was told that students are lying to me. My assignments and methods were questioned.

At first I chose to ignore them, thinking what would administrators who never have interacted with my students know. But then I was shaken. It was during a Pre-Calculus class.

At my school Pre-Calculus was quasi elective. Students had to take a fourth math course, but they didn’t have to take Pre-Calculus. I had experienced great success the previous year in my elective math classes by abandoning grades. I told the students that as long as they learned I would take care of the grades. I placed a large amount of faith in my students because to abandon grades meant I didn’t have the traditional documentation found in a normal classroom. I still remember the day it hit me like a rock. I asked a general question to the class. A typical cell phone addicted, vocal student started saying numbers. I would respond with a no and the students would blurt out another number while looking at the cell phone. Finally a friend spoke up.

 

“Stop blurting out stupid answers.”

“Well, I don’t see you trying.” (Still scrolling on the phone.)

“I’m trying to think of a decent…”

I decided I should intervene at this point, “I’m not just teaching math, I am trying to teach you behavior as well. People can’t multitask. It’s impossible. You are proving it right now. I counted at least 43 times you glanced at…”

“Yeah, whatever, you said that we would all probably get a B or higher anyway.”

 

I froze in absolute frustration and disgust. It’s what I do as a public school teacher, when I am silent it means that all I have going through my head is a string of cuss words and other obscenities to call my students.

That was the beginning, but it wasn’t the last time. I got tired of being lectured about bell to bell instruction, learning environments, resources, and the gambit of teacher speak. As I kept hearing it from the experts, I started to notice it from my students. They seemed to be tuning me out more and more. They seemed to be taking advantage of me more and more. I started to question their motives. I started to think that they don’t care about learning, all they really want is the plush transcript, or the good GPA, or honors sticker on the diploma.

I’ll go back on Monday and reread that note and wonder if that year was just an aberration. Maybe it was just a perfect storm for me to succeed, just the perfect mix of the right students, with the right administration, and right environment, that fit my personality and beliefs.

Right now my beliefs and convictions don’t seem to mesh with what my environment wants from me. So I’m tired, which I guess means that I am jaded. As I have become more and more jaded I have noticed myself becoming more cynical. I start to see nothing but obedience and compliance around me, even though they haven’t changed, I have. It makes me worry about my job security. I guess that makes me cynical.

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