One of the most annoying things about my job is when people find out that I am a Theatre teacher and say, “Oh, your job must be SO MUCH FUN!”
Ok, yes, my job is a lot of fun, but it is also a TON of work.
It truly gets under my skin when someone makes the assumption that teaching is just a bunch of games and fun.
Sometimes, it’s really stressful and overwhelming just like any job. Sometimes, I struggle to find the energy to “put on a show” for my students. And a lot of times, I have some major teacher guilt when I’m not constantly on my A game for my students.
Teacher guilt is just the worst.
All of this to say that teaching is a job that will always be more than a job. It’s a tough job and not everyone is going to do it.
The other day, I found a picture of myself from my first year of teaching stuffed inside my horrendously cluttered desk drawer. It was there among post-it notes, old usb drives, decaying cough drops, and cards from former students.
The sweet look on my naive face sent a jolt down my spine as I remembered how excited I was to teach students. It was a reminder of my WHY: to make my students feel like they matter and that they are enough when they are learning in my classroom.
With my past self in mind, I jotted down some words of advice that I would tell myself as a first year teacher.
5 things that I wished I knew as a first year teacher:
1. You are going to love your kids
You are going to love those kiddos so much that it will hurt sometimes. Like when they misbehave or act disrespectfully, but especially when they are hurting or going through a tough time.
It’s okay to love your kids so much that you miss them, and it’s okay to enjoy your time away from them on the weekends when you have time to shower and pee.
I have found that your students just know when you truly care about them. And when they know, it’s a magical thing.
2. Take frequent breaks
Seriously…take a break!
Stop to use the restroom and get a drink of water. Take a moment to stand up from your grading to stretch and breathe. Listen to your favorite Spotify playlist during your conference period and just relax.
You will be a better, kinder, and more empathetic teacher if you make the time for yourself.
3. Ask for help
When I was a first year teacher, I think that I had something to prove to myself. I wanted to show everyone that I could do all of the things.
Slowly overtime, I realized that I could not do everything alone and there were many times when I needed help.
If you are struggling with a certain misbehavior, ASK FOR HELP! If you are feeling completely overwhelmed, ASK FOR HELP! If you cannot seem to stay organized to save your life, ASK FOR HELP!
There are teachers at your school that have been doing this for a long time, and they would love to share their wisdom with you. If you don’t have anyone to reach out to at your school, go online. There is support all over the internet on your favorite social media platforms.
Don’t suffer in silence. Like I said before, this is a tough profession and we need so much support from each other.
4. Find outlets for stress relief
You need to find some simple ways to relieve stress during the week. There are going to be rough weeks where all you want to do is crawl into bed at 5pm and eat an entire tub of ice cream for dinner.
This is not a good long term solution for the stress that comes with teaching. It’s not healthy and it just leaves you feeling even more guilt.
Instead, find creative and healthy ways to cope with the stress.
Start going for a walk after school or before you head to work in the morning. Do a pilates workout in your classroom after school. Or hit the gym if that is your thing. Just try to get active and sweat everyday.
Make some time for your hobbies. Remember how much you used to love drawing?? It might be time to carve out a little bit of time every week to reignite your passion for art.
Plan a trip for one of your breaks. It can be somewhere near or far. Just plan it out and then put it on your calendar so you have something to look forward to.
This has been my biggest lesson of all time as an educator. Teaching is a never-ending job. There is always something that needs to be done, and you are never caught up for long.
It’s important to prioritize your to-dos in order to maintain your sanity. Ask yourself these questions:
What MUST be completed today? What can I postpone until tomorrow? What MUST be completed by the end of the week?
I like to rank my to-do list items on a 1-3 scale based on their urgency with 1 being the highest priority. When I finish my high priority tasks, I can move on to the next level of priority.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with all of the things you need to accomplish, prioritize and then take a break.
Remember that you are not alone and it’s okay to not feel okay.