Teaching is HARD. It's exhausting, mentally, physically, and emotionally. You care for your students like they are a part of your family (because in some ways they are). It's nearly impossible to "leave work at work." Regardless of how much we love teaching, everyone has a rough day here and there. Sometimes it's a rough week. Or month. Or year. So how do you keep going when the teaching gets tough?
Fortunately, teaching can also be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. That look on a child's face when s/he suddenly "gets it." The pride in a parent's eyes when you tell them how much their child has improved this year. The excitement when you hand back the 100 that student worked so hard to earn. Knowing that what you do today affects the future. These are some of my favorite things about being a teacher. There are some things I try to remind myself of on the tough days, when I can't remember why I chose education...
1 - Teaching isn't your job, it's your calling.Every teacher could name at least a dozen things we don't like about education: politics, testing, constantly changing expectations. So why do we stick with it? It's not because we can't find anything else to do. I know first-hand because I had two non-teaching jobs during a break in the middle of my teaching career. Neither of them made me happy like teaching, and one was at a spa. A SPA! You guys, I interviewed potential employees by having them give me a manicure... or a massage... and I still wasn't truly happy there. The reason we stick it out is because teaching is far more than a job. It's our calling. Deep down, we know there's no other job out there that we could love like we love teaching. (Even on the days that we think we might hate it!)
2 - You are a good teacher.When I first became a mom, I frequently felt like I wasn't "good enough" at this new role. I worried. I stressed. I cried. (Sounds a little like being a teacher sometimes, huh?) I shared my doubts with my mom, who, in her "been there, done that" wisdom, knew exactly what to say. She told me, "the fact that you worry about not being enough is a good sign that you are." She went on to remind me that those who aren't good moms (read: teachers) either don't see their faults or don't care. Of course, when we recognize a weak area, we should work to improve it, but don't be too hard on yourself. Know that in worrying about your weaknesses, you are actually exhibiting an important strength: the ability to reflect and grow from mistakes.
3 - You are appreciated.We've all gotten pictures and notes from students, cards and emails from parents, and notes from colleagues that remind us of why we do what we do. Don't just read them and toss them. Save them somewhere you can easily get to and read them when you're having a rough day and need a little motivation. I keep a binder with notes, cards, and drawings that were especially encouraging. This binder is right by my desk so I can grab it anytime I need a pick-me-up. I've also taken pictures of a few of these on my phone so I can read them at home if I need to.
4 - You are making a difference.Think back over your career so far. Remember that boy in your class who had never had a positive parent-teacher conference until you? The one who ran back up the stairs after the conference was over to give you a big hug and thank you for telling his mom that he's a good kid. Remember the girl who's going through things a child should never have to go through? The one who gave you a hug and thanked you for being lenient and showing compassion when she messed up. Remember those two students who had never earned an A in math until your class? They glowed when you showed them what they had achieved and seeing how proud you were of them. Ok, so those are my stories, not yours, but I know you have stories just like them. Think about those students. Think about how proud you were of the role you played in their success. Focus on these stories when times get tough.
5 - You can recharge at the next break!If all else fails, remember that you'll be getting a paycheck on Friday (or whenever). And unlike most other careers, every so often, we get a break to recharge. Don't give in to the temptation to work your break away. Use it to relax and refocus. Spring Break is coming soon, and then we'll have two months over the summer! Find some inspiring blogs to follow, get in an encouraging Facebook group for teachers, read an inspirational teaching book, and enjoy some hard earned and much needed relaxation. By the time the school year starts again, your batteries will be recharged, and your passion for teaching will be renewed!
What tips do you have for making it through the tough times?