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In case nobody has told you yet, September is usually the toughest month of the year.
You will likely have worked more hours this month than in all of the other months of the school year because you are not only learning how to set up your routines and your expectations, whether that’s online or in the classroom, AND, because you’re a new teacher, you are also learning about all of the things when it comes to settling in at a new school with all of the new expectations that are being placed on you.
But please know, as we talked about last week, that this is temporary. Teaching will always be a challenging job, don’t get me wrong, but September is a special kind of busy.
I spend a lot of my time inside teacher groups online, participating in conversations and lending support and advice wherever I can. This week broke my heart a little because new teachers are posting all about how tired they are.
Teachers just like you are asking if this is how tired they'll be for the rest of their life, and questioning whether or not they can actually do this. They are talking about how they’re not sleeping, not eating, feeling like they have no idea what they’re doing, and having the worst anxiety ever.
The last time I checked this post, 46 teachers had responded in kind, saying that they were experiencing something similar. So, if you’re listening to this and you’re nodding your head, or maybe you’re feeling yourself tear up even as you listen because it resonates, and you’re thinking,
“Yup, that’s me Lori. I’m thinking of getting onto anti-anxiety meds, my heart feels like it’s going to pound right out of my chest, and I would have quit this year if I could have afforded it…”
If you’re saying any of these things right now, please know, right off the bat, that you are not alone.
And, what I want to share with you, right now, is for all of you who are, in the moment, starting to believe that maybe you can’t do this.
Maybe you are wondering if you just don’t have what it takes, that you aren’t doing enough to support your students, that you aren’t getting the hang of this fast enough, or that you aren’t enough – period.
If you’re saying some of those things to yourself, I think it might be time for a few gentle reminders…
First, you are being asked to do so much more than what you thought you were signing up for when you decided to become a teacher.
You signed up for morning meetings with kiddos, for seeing that light in kids eyes when they finally “get” that idea or concept you’re teaching. You signed up for field trips, for sparkly stickers and for holiday celebrations with your students.
And now, you are finding yourself on the front lines in a battle you didn’t even know you were signing up for.
You had a couple of weeks to train, if you were lucky, and you haven’t even been properly armed for battle. You are being asked to just figure it out as you go, and much of the time, you are probably feeling like you’re winging it, and you’re just making stuff up as you go.
And, because teachers are among the most diligent and creative human beings on the planet, you just keep trucking on, trying to figure it out, doing everything you can but feeling like it’s never enough.
So in case you need to be reminded, we are in the midst of a global pandemic.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic.
That means that you get to forgive yourself for not doing the job as well as you'd like to because you were not trained for this.
It means that you get to give yourself some grace.
It means that you get to forgive yourself...
Forgive yourself for not being everything to everyone.
For not teaching the way you want to or dreamed you would - yet.
For not being an expert at something you are new at.
I mean, just think about the absurdity of that sentence.
You are putting so much pressure on yourself to be perfect. To be teaching like an expert when you are brand new at this. And that goes double for you if you’re teaching online.
There was never any preparation in university about how to teach during a global pandemic.
There wasn’t a class on how to sanitize your classroom or how to keep kids away from each other. No way. In fact, the bulk of your education was likely focused on how to get kids to work together, on collaborative learning. You were trained for the OPPOSITE of what you’re currently experiencing.
So the good news Is that you get to give yourself some grace.
For caring as much as you do.
For the falseness of believing that your best isn't good enough.
So today, I want to invite you to please, just for a moment, relieve the pressure, and shift your focus.
That’s all I’m asking for right now – for you to shift your focus.
Stop focusing on all that you aren't doing, and just for a little while, start focusing on all of the good.
I’ve talked about this mindset strategy in several different ways and at several different episodes on this podcast, but I know that we all need to be reminded, and I know that repetition is how we learn, so may I gently remind you once again:
You just may just be the one shining light in a child's life. In fact, you can bet your life on the fact that you are.
That you are there for them when they need stability.
That you are learning and growing, even though growth is hard and messy and uncomfortable.
That you are feeling uncomfortable and scared and overwhelmed and terrified is completely normal.
You didn't ask to lead this soon. You are a new teacher.
But, I promise you - you are making so much more of an impact than you think you are or can believe of yourself in this moment.
Please, be gentle on your heart, and allow yourself to shift your focus.
I invite you to start reminding yourself about everything that goes well in each day, each thing that made you smile or laugh, and dwell on that each night instead of all that you can't control or aren't good at - yet.
I invite you to remember that you aren't alone, even though it feels that way sometimes, and to remember that this isn't forever.
So, I don’t know what you’ve been saying to yourself in the privacy of your own mind that may be making you feel less than, or that has you questioning whether or not you can do this, but I want to do something with you today that we’ve never done before on this podcast.
I want to invite you to participate with me in saying some affirmations that might help you to turn around those negative thoughts and feelings right now. I’m going to say some affirmations, and affirmations are most powerful when you hear your own voice saying them out loud.
So, after I say each affirmation, I invite you to repeat it after me. If you’re somewhere where you can’t do that, even mouthing the words to yourself is going to be helpful.
The older I get, the more I understand that the way I speak to myself inside my own mind, when nobody else is looking, has the power to either completely drain me, cause extreme pressure, and lead to overwhelm, OR my own thoughts can lead me into peace and joy and gratitude for this incredible life.
That’s the power of a simple thought.
You might not believe the words that you’re about to say, and that’s completely normal and completely okay. The real power in affirmations is their repetition. You might not feel relief right away, because like anything else worth doing, they are a practice.
What you will notice is if you commit to saying them to yourself day after day, your brain will begin to accept them as real. But, you do need to continue to say them each day so you can eventually shift the way you are thinking about your teaching life to be more positive.
Okay, are you ready? Let’s do this.
It’s okay that I am less than perfect in my teaching right now.
It’s okay to give myself some grace.
I forgive myself for not being the teacher I want to be during a global pandemic.
I commit to give myself some grace.
I commit to giving myself the freedom to learn the skills I need to.
I forgive myself for being a learner.
Learners get to mistakes.
Learners take time to develop new skills.
I commit to giving myself the same grace I give to my students.
I get to be a model for them of how to do hard things.
I can do this, even though it’s hard.
I have enough time to do everything I need to.
I am stronger than I thought I was.
I know I can do this, even though it’s hard.
I trust myself to learn what I need to in order to grow.
I know this won’t last forever.
I know this will get easier in time.
I just need to breathe.
I just need to take this one step at a time.
I can do this.
I believe I can do this.
And I don’t need to be perfect in any of it.
Take a deep breath.
Does that feel a little better? Do you feel a little lighter?
I think we all could benefit from taking a little bit of the pressure off of ourselves that I think we may have all fallen into feeling as we try to figure out next steps moving forward in all of this.
But that’s also why it’s so important that you do what you need to in order to help yourself to stay fueled and filled up. My husband and I escaped to the Smokey Mountains last month for a few days, and it was incredible to just be in an entirely different space, to get some distance from everything that’s going on in our world, but if you can’t get away right now, if that’s impossible, give yourself permission for some gentle kindnesses:
Take the nap.
Draw the bubble bath.
Watch the movie.
Shred the to-do list. Or light it on fire. Write down everything you’re doing wrong & then light it on fire. 😊
That’s enough of the self-criticism.
That’s enough of the self-loathing.
That’s enough of “I’m not enough.”
You might think the world expects more of you than what you’re currently doing, when in reality, most of us are just absolutely amazed by what you’re able to pull off every day with those lucky kids.
It’s okay if tomorrow is less than perfect.
It’s okay if YOU are less than perfect. Welcome to the club.
The only way we get better at anything is through practice.
Now you have plenty of opportunities to practice. That’s all. Not to be perfect. Not to make no mistakes. Just to practice.
I really do hope that you have a wonderful week, and until next time, remember: Just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.
P.S. Have you been thinking about Halloween in your classroom yet? Check out some of my super fun resources on TpT to make this an October your students will never forget! Just click the pic to check them out now:
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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