Make Me or Break Me: A Poem for New Teachers

roxanna-140The 2nd edition of Roxanna Elden’s popular book See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers is available at Amazon.

As Roxanna says in her first chapter, this is not chicken soup for the teacher’s soul. “More like hard liquor…Read this on the days when any book by a teacher who taught kids to play violin during lunch or took busloads of perfectly behaved fifth-graders on a tour of college campuses makes you want to beat your head against the wall….”

These observations are timely, as rookie frustrations reach full force in many classrooms. The gritty reality of this poem for novice teachers, included in the book, may offer some solace. It’s shared here with the author’s permission.

Make Me or Break Me

by Roxanna Elden

They say this first year will make me
Or break me.
I guess that’s because it takes me
Eight days
To get through a stack of papers
And there are eight more waiting,
And every day I stay at school later
And get less done…

This is NOT fun.
Help me someone!!!

I’m already counting how many more Mondays
Until vacation
(There are 12, by the way,
And I’m getting impatient)
Because I spent all last night
On grading and preparation
But I can’t get these kids to just
And take this inspiration.

My temptation to keep driving
Instead of arriving
In the teachers’ parking lot
Is almost as strong
As my fear of what could go wrong
If I don’t pull into this parking spot
And I’m not sure if I can take it…

I’m trying so hard to make it work
The way the movies make it seem.
I’ve been sacrificing so much sleep
I forgot what it feels like to dream.

This is not the person I’m used to being
Not the image of me I’m used to seeing

I miss the days when I was a student,
Complaining about teachers
To my friends…
This job seemed so easy
From the other end.
From here, nothing looks the same,

And you know what’s even
More of a shame?
I hear my past teachers’ voices
When I yell my students’ names.

And you know that one quiet girl,
In the back,
With the glasses?
I overheard her mom saying
She wants to change classes.

They say this job is rewarding, but lately
I just feel like all my students hate me…
Their papers frustrate me
And I’m going so crazy
No sane person would want to date me.

But I’m here to stay.
It takes a lot to break me.

And that’s why I say
No matter what it takes me…
This year
Is going to
MAKE me.

See all of Roxanna’s tips for new teachers


see-me-after-classRoxanna Elden is a National Board Certified Teacher who’s taught adult education, elementary school, middle school, high school, day school, night school, Saturday school and summer school. She has taught in Chicago, Houston, and Miami, and does standup comedy, presentations, and speeches based on her classroom experience.

A video of her Education Writers Association presentation, The Myth of the Super Teacher, has been viewed more than 20,000 times.


MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

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