Teaching is a tough profession. Your to-do list feels never ending and often times your students, parents, and administration have no idea what you do on a daily basis. When I first started teaching someone told me that there is this pattern of “good year, difficult year” in education. For me that wasn’t the case. I have two good years that are followed by a difficult year. Thru time I have learned how to cope with trying years, so my students aren’t affected. When you’re off, your students will pick up on your feelings. I don’t want that for my students, so I follow these 3 steps when the teaching cup feels half empty.
1.) Confide in someone – You have to find a teacher BFF. I didn’t find mine until year four. I often felt alone and left school feeling like I was the only one struggling. When I found my teacher BFF she reminded me that all teachers go thru highs and lows. I also had a wonderful team of good listeners. They listened to me and gave good advice for handling difficult situations. Don’t isolate yourself when you are struggling with your job. Talk to other teachers. I promise you this will help. My teaching squad are my best both inside and outside of the classroom.
2.) Take a day – Mental health days should be part of our contracts. Everyone needs them. The most difficult year I have ever had resulted in me taking a mental health day every quarter. It’s a sad truth, but I needed it. I needed to recharge and take some time for myself. I also made sure a family member or friend would be around that day, so I could spend the day laughing or doing something I enjoyed.
3.) Do something non-academic with your students – Sometimes you lose sight of why you became a teacher. For majority of us it’s because of the kids. We chose this profession to watch students grow and learn. With today’s high expectations of state testing and performance pay, we often become consumed with data and fitting everything in. It’s okay to take a moment in your classroom to enjoy something that isn’t on the curriculum calendar. I had a class that was obsessed with my toy Poodle, Penny. They asked about her all the time and wanted to see videos and photos. On Fridays we would spent 5 minutes talking about Penny. Such a simple thing to do with my students, but it brought me comfort and reminded me why I became a teacher. I looked forward to sharing a new story about my little one, and our bond as a class grew. This small act got me thru a challenging year.
You are not alone. We all hit rough patches, and you will come around the other side a better teacher.