My Own Vortex

imagesI didn’t write a New Year’s resolution blog post.  I read those of my colleagues and tweeps with admiration and occasional envy.  I wish I had the boundless enthusiasm of Sarah Hagan at Math = Love, or the diligence of @JustinAion at Re-Learning to Teach.  Sarah writes blog posts in which her dedication and creativity are tangible, and she’s got the foldables to prove it!  Justin provides his followers and students with original artwork EVERY DAY, as well as a reflective entry complete with humor, humility, and ultimately truth.

But January has been a huge struggle for me this year, personally and professionally.  As I look back on the fall term, which is ending in 4 short days, I see some changes (improvements?) that I incorporated in my classroom as intended – estimation, better questioning (or rather NOT answering questions directly), more exploration in Algebra 2 – but I also cringe at the list of things that still didn’t happen the way I want them to, the way I conceived of them, the way I knew they SHOULD have gone.

And I wonder for how many years will I continue to feel this way?  I am SO jazzed by my interactions with teachers at conferences (Exeter/TMC), on Twitter (#alg2chat, #msmathchat), or working with my colleagues at the NYC Department of Education Common Core Fellows.  Through these rich conversations, I develop (borrow/steal) a million ideas, narrow them down to an allegedly manageable few each year (I’ve learned to do that, at least), envision and document their execution as clearly as I can – complete with plans, graphic organizers and rubrics – and forge ahead.    Regardless of my effort and enthusiasm, however, I frequently find myself disappointed with the results:  Were my expectations not clear enough to the students? Was the lack of follow-through on my end? Is this just part of the endless process of teaching and learning and learning to teach?

There have been successes this term, to be sure – and I am glad that my blogging efforts provide that documentation.  But I would really like to get to that place – professionally – where I know that I can consistently take an idea, plan for it, make it happen in my classroom, and have evidence that learning has taken place.  I am not being facetious, or dissembling.   Like I said, this January is tough, and I have been questioning everything about my professional choices.


I had the pleasure of having both of my children home at the same time this month – something that doesn’t happen all that often anymore – and when Geo went back to school for the spring term, my descent into the doldrums was pretty complete.  I usually keep myself too busy (and am still in too much debt) to let Empty Nest Syndrome sink in, but the house became very quiet over the long weekend.

eliz 3

At the end of the afternoon, however, I had three private tutoring students, which lifted my spirits enormously, and I remembered that I love doing math with kids.  When I reminded one of my students that we would have a two week hiatus because of the end of the term, she said, “Oh, no – I HAVE to see you.  You are my FAVORITE math grown-up person.”

I’ll take it.  February is just around the corner.565327050_dinner_xlargeeliz 4.pjg


  1. Sarah Hagan

    Thanks so much for the sweet comment about my blog! The end of the semester is a tough time. Our semester ended in December, and I felt much the same way. I didn’t blog about it much, but I was in a terrible mindset for the last week or so of the semester. My resolutions were my attempt at making a fresh start, at taking what I didn’t like about last semester and trying to make this semester better. We’ll see how that turns out…

    Keep up the blogging! I love reading about your experiences in the classroom!

    • Wendy Menard

      Thank you for reading, Sarah. I have been so impressed with your energy, willingness to keep experimenting, and the joy you find in your classroom interactions. Your students are lucky to have you as a teacher.

      The blogging itself helps with that process, doesn’t it? I need to remember that…

  2. Justin Lanier

    Hey, Wendy. Sorry to hear that January’s been tough for you. I disagree with T. S. Eliot—the cruelest month is certainly January. Know that you have good company, that we all struggle, that we always find places we’ve failed and want to improve. And keep holding on to those moments that make our efforts toward growth so totally worthwhile.
    To higher spirits and warmer weather,

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