To the First Year Teacher Who’s Struggling
Dear first year teacher,
You are trying to smile as you pass in the hallway, but you are drowning on the inside. People ask how it’s going and you smile stiffly and say, “It’s ok,” but really you aren’t sure. You aren’t sure that you can do this teaching thing. You are overwhelmed in every way. The grading, the planning, the curriculum. The discipline, the noise, the expectations. Some days you walk into your classroom and you just want to hide behind your desk. Ask me how I know.
That was me last year. I had been eight years out of the classroom having babies and staying home with them. Coming back in was like culture shock. Balancing my classroom, my family and my sanity felt like an impossible juggling act. 75% of the school year I struggled with doubt over whether I would even stay in this profession. Could I do this year after year? Did I have the patience? The passion? The perseverance?
Thankfully, you don’t have to answer those questions now. You are going to hold your head high and get through this day. Today. Day by day, you’ll conquer that first year. And YES, it is as hard as you think it is. You’ll spend the whole year trying to get that darn juggling act down, but you won’t feel like you’re getting it until the next year.
My advice for you is to give yourself grace and don’t make any long-term decisions about your career. Survive, my friend, survive. You will make many mistakes, and they will teach you more than you learned in any classroom. Reach out for help and support. Ask questions of other teachers who don’t seem so frazzled. Occasionally, give yourself and your students a big break so you can enjoy them again.
DO NOT carry home piles of school work for the weekend. Exercise, get fresh air, love on your loved ones and be loved by them on the weekends. The best thing you can do for your students is be refreshed yourself.
Don’t look at your paycheck and try to decide if it’s worth it. You can’t measure your work by dollar amounts. Your influence is vast, and your impact is wide. You don’t get paid what you’re worth, but your pay is more than monetary compensation.
You get to write the ending to your story of teaching, and this year is only a chapter in that story. Survive the chapter. Wait for the next one, because it will be better. And know that you are not alone.