I have been teaching professionally for eight years now. Being a teacher is all I ever wanted to do since freshman year of college. My route to get where I am now has been by no means conventional or easy. However I do believe that it has been carved out that way to make me into the man I am now. Teaching is not an easy job. It’s not a pretty job. It’s not a job for the weak at heart. But it is needed in our society. It is needed because somebody has to mold the future. I believe that my calling has been to work in education, so I don’t mind the work and hardships that comes with it. I am also a competitive person with a touch of perfectionist, I can be very hard on myself when it is not needed. So trust me when I say “I don’t think I’m a very good teacher” there’s a hint of truth in there even though I am probably being too critical of my craft. But I don’t feel like I’m a good teacher…yet.
There are days, weeks and even months were I feel untouchable, on top of the world. Like a rockstar and everything I touch is gold. There are days, weeks and months were I never want to step in front of kids again. Where I think nothing I do matters and I cannot ever get beyond my own mediocrity. However for the sake of the kids that I teach, despite how I feel I want to get up and do my best for them and their future that means so much. While we are still in the infancy stages of the 2020-21 school year begins (no matter what it looks like for you) I want to give some encouragement and a pep talk for those working in our nation’s schools.
Choosing to be a teacher is choosing to be a be a person who is either a saint or sinner depending on who you talk with. When the shut downs went into full effect starting the third week of March 2020 many teachers across the country, myself included, had the same question of “what next?” There isn’t an educator working today who could have prepared for what COVID-19 was going to do to the school year. One of the most rewarding aspects of education is the genuine human connection that occurs everyday in the classroom. Building positive relationships with fellow educators, parents and students really is one of the biggest benefits of this profession. Distance/online education is difficult because the lack of human contact. There is a level of teaching that is lost over the internet with Zoom or Google Meet. Understand, I feel frustrated many days because I know that my students would be better served in person. If you ask any teacher, they would give a response very similar. But the health risks that our world is currently under means that we need to keep everyone safer. While it is frustrating to battle with technology on any given day, I unabashedly agree that we are safer from a distance until the severity of COVID declines.
Normally my anxiety with teaching is sky high because I can never really get a sense if I am doing my job well enough. Because the work of education is so important to the future of our world, you may find a lot of teachers who have this thinking because we (for the most part) truly want what’s going to set our students up for success easiest. With most schools in a digital setting, it is harder to gauge how students are, personally and academically putting that extra amount of stress on educators. It is no hyperbole when I say that the jobs and future are on the lines when teachers walk in front of a class every morning. Having talked to many of my friends in education they feel the same sense of anxiety that I was describing before amped up to 11. My future sister-in-law Chelsey said there have been nights where she has gone with little sleep due to worrying about her students and her two school aged children as well. One of my friends who teaches in Kenosha, has expressed concern with job and well being, especially considering she has a young child at home. Teachers have not only the weight of other families on their mind but constantly have to balance out their own families as well.
I find myself often times wondering am I effective at my job any more or if I am any good at my job in recent months. Multiple times in my career I have considered hanging it up and moving to some other profession. If you’ve been in this profession long enough, chances are you’ve had this conversation as well. It is tragic that many teachers every year leave the profession due to burnout. And who am I to condemn them? Personally, I don’t think I can ever see myself actually leaving education. However if you’re a teacher that feels their confidence shaken, if you’re a teacher that is burned out and fed up, if you’re a teacher who needs a sign: let me try to help you.
“You’re doing amazing, even if you think you’re not”
“It is okay you want to clock out right at 3:15”
“Nobody knows what the heck is going on”
“Your engagement strategies are A1.”
“Try not to compare yourself to the TpT teacher because they are in the same boat as you”
“The kids are not falling behind. They are surviving their first global pandemic”
From one teacher to another, we know how thankless and tiring the work can be. We often times hear our critics louder than we hear our fans. The critics will always be there and there’s not much you can do about that. Some people will crucify us if we work too hard and others will crucify us for not working hard enough. You have supporters and a support system out there though. One of the biggest helps for me has been joining different teacher groups on Twitter. The #educhat and #bmestalk (black male educators) communities have been life savers for my career. Besides being people who are going through the same uncertainty as you, teachers in those communities have education experiences from around the world and we all look to help each other out.
It is totally normal to feel like you can be or should be doing better. Having the support of others and knowing there’s others out who feel like you do helps. To all my fellow teachers who are attempting to navigate this mire that we find ourselves in, I want you to know: I have your back. The most noble of profession is not for the faint of heart, but someone has to do it. Thank you for being that someone.
Take care and be well!