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I know that you’ve heard me say this dozens of times, but it’s really true:
This is SUCH an important topic because it’s such a universal topic.
We all doubt ourselves – it’s a normal part of the human condition, especially when we are relatively new at something.
And in teaching, as I’ve talked about many times on this podcast, there is an incredible margin for self-doubt because there are so many opportunities for us to fall flat on our faces in dozens of different ways every day. Why? Because there are simply SO MANY skills that we are trying to learn simultaneously.
When you really think about it, what you’re trying to learn, all at once, are the skills of lesson planning, classroom management, communicating with parents effectively, learning how to satisfy admin requirements, decoding curriculum, dealing with especially challenging students and home situations, learning how to differentiate, how to ask great questions, how to keep our kiddos engaged and motivated – and that’s just scratching the surface.
If your blood pressure is rising even as you hear me talk about all of these different areas, congratulations, you’re normal.
This is exactly why there are so many opportunities for self-doubt to seep into the cracks of your everyday experience and whisper in your ear:
You aren’t good enough, you aren’t good at this, maybe you should just quit.
Sound familiar? I get it because I’ve been there – so many times. Especially as a new teacher, it’s like learning to drive a car. There are so many skill sets that you are asking – actually, expecting yourself to develop all at once, that there’s a large margin of error possible.
When you’re in the middle of it, it can feel like you are never going to actually learn how to do all of the things all at once:
Checking your surroundings, remembering to signal, watching your speed, accelerating slowly, answering a question – all of these things felt impossible to do all at once. Yet, somehow, after struggling with keeping all of these balls up in the air and feeling like you’re failing constantly for several months, somehow it all just finally clicks and you’re able to drive your car easily, and you wonder why it was so difficult in the first place.
Teaching is just like that.
All of those skills that you feel like are impossible to be able to do all at once: Lesson planning, classroom management, dealing with parents, really engaging kids and knowing exactly how to do it – all of that is going to take some time to develop, because right now, you are still learning to drive the car.
You haven’t yet reached the level of learning or experience where it feels natural and effortless.
We think we all want to get there now, immediately, to feel the relief of knowing what we’re doing. But here’s the thing I’m learning, and you’ve heard this before, but the cliché is there for a reason:
The journey is actually the most important part.
And that’s the thing – the ride IS the point. Yes, the river can be rough, and it can feel scary at times, and it might even occur to you that you want to get out.
But you’re here for the ride, and so it is with teaching.
I’m not suggesting you want the water to be rough every single time, but the only way you will get through self-doubt is by actually experiencing your successes and your failures and learning from them.
The next time you get into that raft, you’ll have experience. You’ll know somewhat what to expect. And you’ll feel more confident because you will have navigated this experience at least once before.
And I can promise you this – if you stick with it, you will get there.
The raft will carry you to the other end of the river.
You only fail when you stop trying, when you fall out of the boat and decide not to get back in but to take your boat out of the river and go home. That’s the only time you’re ever going to fail.
The reality is that these skill sets just take time, and even though it feels like it’s taking too long, it’s simply taking as long as it takes.
There’s no rule for how long it takes to learn something. There is, however, research on how long it takes to become an expert in anything. And I’m going to give you a hint – you can’t become an expert on your first ride. Or your second. Or your third.
So, no, you are not an expert right now. You are exactly where you need to be, and even though it feels like this is impossible and like it will never get any easier, that isn’t true.
I know because I stuck with it, I stayed on the river, and that’s why I’m able to create this podcast and share everything I’ve learned about how to become more intuitive in your teaching. I’ve been on that river for a very long time. I’ve got the wrinkles to prove it. 😉
How many of you, when you’re feeling especially defeated or bad about some aspect of your teaching, go onto Pinterest or Instagram or Facebook, telling yourself that you want to look for some great ideas for how to improve in that area… only to end up, a couple of hours later, in a puddle of tears eating a cupcake because you have now compared yourself to other teachers who clearly have it all together and are doing amazing things in their classrooms, and so you wonder why you’re even bothering to try because you will never do things as well as they do?
The very fact that I can ask that question must tell you that I’ve done exactly the same thing. You, my friend, are not alone.
And what I’ve realized over the years is that what we are seeing when we scroll through social media is the result of someone’s relief that they have finally figured something out. They’re shouting to the world about this amazing thing they’ve done because they are finally not struggling quite as much. That’s when we speak the loudest – when we finally feel like we have something to say. And that’s why it’s all over the internet, because it feels really good to share our relief about something with others.
Too often, we struggle alone because we don’t want other people to see our messy worlds. We don’t want to share the journey, because that isn’t all shiny and polished.
Self-doubt, doubting our ability to deal with and find our way to the end of the river while we’re soaking wet and terrified half of the time that we don’t have the skill set to survive isn’t something that we want to post on Instagram.
But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a part of everyone’s journey. You aren’t going to get to the other side without getting a little wet. 😊
But here’s the most important part of all. When we fail – when we get wet and the boat nearly flips over, it’s what we say to ourselves, and what we make that mean that can become the problem.
Let me give you an example of what I mean by that from Brooke Castillo. If you are interested in personal growth, you really might want to check out her podcast, it’s called The Life Coach School podcast, and it’s soooo good!
Let’s imagine that you are, for the first time in your life, going to the grocery store. So, you get in your car, you’ve learned to drive now and you’re pretty good at this whole thing. You step on the gas, you back out of your driveway like an expert, and you head down the street.
But then, something happens. You hit a red light. Now, it’s your first time going to the grocery store, so you’re already feeling pretty nervous and insecure about the whole thing, but now – NOW you hit a red light.
Oh my gosh, not only have you hit a red light, but everyone around you got through first. And you’re well aware of that. You see all of the cars heading to the grocery store, and you’re still stuck here, and what are people going to think? People can see that you’re stuck there.
You’re so far behind everyone else who made it through the red light, and clearly you don’t know what you’re doing, so maybe you should just turn around and go back home. Clearly you are not cut out for this whole grocery store thing. And the worst part? You still don’t have any groceries.
But finally, the light turns green and you’re free to go ahead. You’re sailing along pretty comfortably, but then, oh my gosh, it happens again. Another red light. Well, clearly this is a sign. This must mean you are not a very good driver, and you should just give up now because at the rate you’re going, you’re never going to get to the grocery store.
It’s taking SO MUCH LONGER than you thought it would, you see all of those other cars that are already coming back from the grocery store with their cars loaded with fresh food and they’re smiling and waving, and you’re still stuck at your red light, wondering why you’re even bothering to try to get to the grocery store.
Again, you consider just turning around and going home.
But for those of us who have hit a dozen red lights on our way to the grocery store, who felt all of that doubt and worry and anxiety as we hit what felt like every single roadblock and red light as we saw everyone else sailing past us with all of the goodies that we feel like we will never get….
The only difference is that this isn’t our first ride. We’ve been on this road many, many times before. We’ve hit red lights. We’ve been in accidents, and some trips have taken much longer than we would have liked.
But now, when we hit a red light, we understand that this is just part of the journey. It doesn’t mean that we should stop. It doesn’t mean that we should turn around and go home. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we aren’t good enough or that we’ll never get there.
It simply means that we cannot control the circumstances around us. It means that we are learning. There might be something that has caused us to pause, but we know from experience that soon enough, we will figure out a way to move past it, and keep going, because we know the journey is the point.
The journey is the only way we can get there. We are here for the ride, because we know where we want to go.
So if you’re on your first trip to the grocery store, and you’re hitting a whole lot of red lights, know that they’re just red lights. That’s all.
You don’t need to make it mean anything other than you are just learning how to navigate this journey. And that really goes for anything that you’re trying at and struggling with in your life, whether it’s struggles in a relationship or with weight loss or with learning a new hobby.
There is no need for you to feel like a failure or to doubt your own ability to achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve in your life, just because you’ve hit some red lights.
I'd love to know: What are some of the "red lights" you've hit along the way that made you question whether or not you're in the right profession or that filled your mind with self-doubt about whether or not you can do this?
I'd love for you to comment below, or join our Private Beginning Teacher Talk Facebook Group so we can continue the conversation, and so you can get the help and support you need now, wherever you are in your journey.
Until next week, remember: Just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.
P.S. I just created this very special freebie that I designed especially to help you start feeling more confident about your teaching. Grab your copy now by clicking the button below - it's what I used to help myself start believing more in my own teaching abilities, and I'm confident it will help you as well.
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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