When You Feel Beat Down as a Teacher
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When You Feel Beat Down as a Teacher


So here we are at the beginning of
summer break and you have made it through another year in the classroom. Now it might’ve been a wonderful
year and that’s fantastic, but for a lot of people, this has been a tough year to be a
teacher on a big national global scale. I mean it’s been hard with all of the
strikes that are happening across the country. You know that you might be in
the middle of a pay freeze right now. The legislation, it seems to be going more and more against
teachers and educators and then throw in that the school shootings that have
happened and all of the debate and pain that comes with that subject. It’s been a rough year to be a teacher
and then maybe on a personal level, maybe this has been a tough
year for you particularly. Maybe you’ve had groups of students
that just no matter what you try and no matter what you throw out there
couldn’t seem to be managed. Or maybe you had an administrator
breathing down your neck all of the time. Applying pressure, not realizing that that pressure is not
what you need to become a better and better teacher. And so this year,
whatever it was has been beaten you down. Maybe outside of the classroom you’ve,
you’ve been taken a beating. Maybe, maybe it’s been tough, uh,
beyond your profession. But now whatever’s going on at home, it’s starting to seep its
way into the classroom. And now as you get to summer break,
you just can’t believe you made it. And you’re also so relieved that you
made it because you weren’t sure that you would. Teaching is tough work and when
you get to this part of the year, a couple of things can happen.
One, you might be feeling energized to get
back next August or September or whatever it is to just do what you do with
your students. But a lot of us, this is the time of
year where you’re like, I don’t know if I want to
keep doing this or yeah, I can’t really remember why I got
into this work in the first place. So I just want to start real quick with
saying it is 100% normal to feel that way right now.
It is completely normal to be questioning, is this really the job for me?
Because as I said a minute ago, this is hard work and it really seems to
just feel it right now at this time of year. And so, you know,
whenever I have felt this, this dreary feeling about the work
that I’m doing as a teacher and as an educator, whenever I feel like, yeah, I
can’t really take this weight anymore, it’s always really
helpful to take a break, which summer is a great thing for,
um, and try to discover or rediscover, why did I get into this
work in the first place? Why did I ever want to become a teacher?
You know, for me personally and almost
every teacher I’ve ever talked to, they got into this work because they
wanted to help students achieve success in some way. Maybe it was
small successes, you know, helping them learn while
this isn’t that small, learn to read or learn to speak
in public or learn photosynthesis. Maybe something that you geek out about. Maybe it’s something big you wanted your
help your students to achieve greatness and do great big things. Maybe you wanted to connect with students
at a deep and personal level and help them through tough periods of their life,
whatever it is. We got into this work because we care
about students and so maybe we need to spend the summer helping ourselves
discover why did we do this in the first place? Remembering why did I ever want
to become a classroom teacher? Why, why did I think that it would be a good
idea to spend 180 plus days of the year with young people? Most of us had a really strong why when
we got into this and part of the work of making it through as an educator is
reminding ourselves why did we do this in the first place and another tool that
can make that really helpful hold on is what I keep in my desk and it’s
called the rainy day folder. You know, this is the folder that’s just full of
all of these notes from past and current students and parents and other teachers
and administrators either thanking me for something that I did for them or
telling a story or a reflection of their time in my class and how the work that
I’ve done as a teacher and educator has helped them in some way.
And I just, I collect them over time and I print
them out when I get them an email. And you know, sometimes there are these handwritten
Jim’s from students and these are treasures.
These are the why I got in to teaching. These are why I decided to go through
the education program and do all the work that it took to get into the
classroom. This is why, uh, I, I always want to be a teacher
in some fashion. That’s, this is why I always want to find a
way to connect with students and other educators. Um, and, and sometimes
I just need to remind her of it. Sometimes I’ve got to keep a folder just
as a physical representation of why I do this work.
And so maybe what, that’s what you need to do is remind
yourself why did you get into it in the first place. Another helpful thing to do as you’re
reflecting this summer as you’re taking a much needed break,
is to just reflect on the past year. Don’t let it go by without reflection. Think about what went well and
what didn’t go well. You know, maybe do some planning and figuring out,
okay, how can I get more of that
well to continue next year? What did I like about this year? What do I wonder I could do next
year to make it better? You know, maybe there was a unit that just
bombed and you don’t see a whole lot of redemption in it. You don’t see a
whole lot of ways to make it recover. Maybe it’s time to scrap
it and throw it out. Maybe a few times this year you’ve called
parents and you told them some really positive things about students and they
were just overjoyed to finally hear something positive about their kid and
all of a sudden you saw a change in behavior from that kid, but you didn’t do it a whole lot because
teaching is busy and there’s a lot of other things to do. Maybe you need to just reflect on
something like that and plan it into your schedule next year. Plan to
do more of it. Whatever it is. We’ve got to take time to relax,
to rejuvenate, but also to reflect and, and figure
out what do I need to do more of? Um, maybe this summer you need to make
a decision to change some things up. You know,
maybe, maybe it’s time to try something new and
innovative in the old ways of doing it. Whatever you’ve been doing for a long
time is starting to get stale and you’re ready to try doing big projects or um, having your students collaborate
more or start creating more. Maybe you need to develop a maker’s space
or change up your classroom seating, whatever it is. Maybe it’s time
to just insert a new change into, to what your class looks like. And of course there’s going to be
bumps along the road if you do that. But that might be what it takes
to reignite the spark in you. Um, so you’re ready to go back next fall. Um,
but more than anything else right now, if you are feeling beaten down by the
global scale of what it means to be a teacher or the very personal scale of, of what being a teacher has been this
year, if you’re feeling beaten down, just at least know that you are not
alone in that you are surrounded by thousands and thousands of brothers and
sisters who are feeling the exact same things. So sit into that,
feel it, know it, um, and then rest and rejuvenate and reflect
and figure out how you can go back next year and make it even
better than this one was. So enjoy your summer.
And I hope that it is epic. [inaudible].

About James Carlton

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7 thoughts on “When You Feel Beat Down as a Teacher

  1. All of the above! one of my toughest in 25 years. Cancun in 2 weeks with 2 of my closest friends who teach high school. I worry about the young/new educators. It wasn’t always like this.

  2. My why? Making a difference in the life of the students . I had an English teacher in elementary level and a Math teacher in Middle school that made a difference my life and inspired me for the better. I love touching lives and as the years go by stay in touch with students as they move on, see them bloom, get married, become parents themselves, stop by to visit and tell my newer students to listen to me and tell those students how I touched their lives and hearing them speaking they just touch my me right back.

  3. I was diagnosed with cancer 3 days (!) before school started. I spent 2 weeks setting up the class and then we were lucky to find a long-term sub. I returned in January hoping to return as SuperTeacher. Wrong. I was weakened and the kids never accepted my authority. The misbehavior was epic. So glad to have the year behind me 🙁
    Thank you for the pep talk!

  4. I had a good year but have been battling fears about next term. Yesterday I met up with one of my first grade boys and he had the biggest smile and had so much to tell me and how he loves to read and can't wait till school starts again. He just completely made my day and reminded me why I am going back.

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