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Even though we love our profession, there are days when we feel super frustrated and when we wonder if maybe we should just quit.
When that happens to you, here are 6 ways you can get re-inspired:
So often, when we are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed and we want to give up, it’s because we haven’t been paying enough attention to how we’ve been talking to ourselves, and we’ve fallen into a negative pattern of saying really mean things to ourselves that we would never say to anyone else.
If you’re going to survive in this profession, it means learning to have the same patience and love and kindness for yourself that you have for your students.
Let me give you an example of what I mean by that. Let’s say at this time of the year, you have one of those students – or maybe you have a whole bunch of them - who is disruptive in your class, and it seems like nothing you do makes any difference whatsoever.
Of course you’re feeling frustrated. However, where this becomes a real problem is not in the child’s behavior – it becomes a real problem when you then say to yourself,
“Maybe I’m not cut out for this. I’m just not good at this. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I figure this out? What am I doing wrong?”
Right? Most of us do this. When something isn’t going well, we tend to assume that this problem is all about us and then we start saying really nasty things to ourselves. Things that aren’t fair, and that we don’t even know are true.
What if, instead of saying to yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” we asked a different question.
Whenever that child behaves in that way – acts out or doesn’t listen or doesn’t care about the consequences you’ve given – what if the question you asked yourself in response to this is,
“Hmmm – I wonder what happened to him this morning to make him behave this way? I wonder if he needs something that he isn’t getting? I wonder if he’s hurting in some way?”
Because in reality, that child’s behavior likely has very little to do with you. And, you beating yourself up and asking what’s wrong with you is only going to make you feel bad about yourself.
I know you’re doing the very best you can. The very fact that you’re reading this blog tells me how much you care about teaching. It tells me that your heart is in the right place, and that you went into this profession because you truly want to make a difference.
So, if you’re feeling down and low and like you want to quit, I invite you to start paying more careful attention to what you are saying to yourself, and to start consciously considering speaking to yourself with the same love and grace and kindness that you would extend to your best friend.
If your best friend came to you and told you about this child who isn’t listening and behaving badly in your classroom, you would never say to her,
“Well, you’re probably just not cut out for this. You’re just not good at this. Maybe you should quit.”
NO! You would never say that, right?
So, if you’re feeling low and you’re feeling like you want to quit, I invite you to pay attention to what you’re saying to yourself, and start giving yourself the love and grace that you extend to your best friend and to your students every single day.
Deal? Please stop beating yourself up and saying mean things to yourself when very likely, whatever is going with that kid has very little to do with you.
Also, when you mess up (because we all do), remember that you are still learning what it means to be a teacher. You are in such a steep learning curve right now and you are going to make mistakes, so please be careful about extending the same kindness to yourself as you are learning new things that you extend to your students.
The way that we speak to ourselves, and learning to speak to ourselves with more love and kindness and compassion, is really self-care its’ core.
By extension, when we haven’t been caring for ourselves with the level of kindness that we all need, we start feeling really tired and overwhelmed.
Believe me, I know what that feels like. I’m super guilty of working myself to the bone until I get sick... and then I crash.
However, I’m learning to maintain more of a work-life balance, and to not work in the evenings so I can refresh and restore so I can be at my best the next day. But sometimes, once we fall into overwhelm from working too much, we really need to give ourselves permission to take a personal day when we need it and take a breath.
So, that’s the second piece of advice I have for you when you are feeling overwhelmed and like you want to quit.
Personal days are provided for you for a reason. We work really hard, and there are times when it’s okay to just take a break to have a morning during the week when you don’t wake up to your alarm.
When you can sleep in and laze around in your pajamas mid-week and really savor that morning cup of coffee.
When you can allow yourself to be lazy and unproductive and still.
Doesn’t that sound like heaven right now?
If you feel it in your bones that that is what you need right now, book your personal day as soon as you are finished listening to this podcast. Because here’s the thing – nobody else is going to do it for you. Nobody else is going to demand that you take care of yourself.
It’s really true that you can’t give what you don’t have – so, if you’re not feeling full and vibrant and happy and joyful when you are in your classroom with your students because you are exhausted and overwhelmed, you aren’t going to be patient with them, you aren’t going to be able to be creative and fun and playful and all of the things you want to be for your students.
So please, go ahead and book yourself that personal day – and maybe even a massage – so you can come back refreshed and inspired to be the very best teacher you can be for those lucky kiddos.
Now, related to this – and this might sound super simple, but it’s so important – please, go to bed when you are tired each night so that you can get the rest and restorative sleep you need to be at your best each day.
Believe me, I know how tempting it is to binge watch Netflix for that extra hour as an amazing mental escape, but that extra hour of sleep will do so much more for you. The cumulative effects of getting enough sleep will allow you to stay healthy and fresh and energized for your students... instead of depriving yourself of the sleep you need every night throughout the week and then crashing with a cold on the weekend.
Please do not keep trying to work through your exhaustion. As teachers, we all have this endless list of things we need to do and get done every day, but the thing is, I’m going to let you in on a little secret - you will never reach the end of it.
There will never be a time when someone swoops in and says,
“There, you have now done all the things. You are finished. The end!”
It will never happen. So it’s up to you to set your own boundaries for when you are finished every day and get the rest you need, no matter how many things are calling you on that endless list!
Finally, we live in a world today where your support system doesn’t even have to be in your building. Many of you are already part of our Private Beginning Teacher Talk Facebook Group, and there are many other groups as well that you can join to get the help and support you need and so you can feel less alone – especially when you don’t want anyone at your school to know about something you are struggling with and you want a safe place to ask for some help and advice.
So, whether it’s another teacher at your grade level, a mentor at your school, or online communities – and hopefully all three of these options, finding your community of support is going to go a long way towards giving you the hope and the tools and the resources you need to stay positive and keep going.
We can’t do it all (even though we are told we are supposed to), so set your priorities and do less, and do it well. But most importantly, don’t try to do it all yourself.
And finally, my last piece of advice to you is this: Do not give up. I know how hard it feels right now.
However, I want you to ask yourself – will you regret giving up?
Let’s get back to remembering why you decided to become a teacher in the first place.
You likely had an incredible teacher or coach or someone in your life who inspired you to commit to this profession.
Somebody, at some point in your life, had such an impact on you that you decided to go to university and commit to four years of study so that you too could make an impact on somebody else’s life.
That dream – that desire to make a difference – is what got you here. And I can tell you, being a teacher on the other side of the experience, 20 years later, you just don’t realize yet the impact that you are going to have on young lives. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you will have heard some of the stories and some of the sweet reviews that students who I taught nearly 20 years ago now have left for me in the last couple of years.
It’s been overwhelming and amazing to hear from these students. And yes, my first few years of teaching were incredibly hard. I didn’t fully know or understand then the impact I was going to make on children’s lives. But I can tell you right now that every day, I am thankful that I persevered, even when it was hard. I really don’t want you to live with regret. So if it’s in your heart to be a teacher, please do not give up.
You can do hard things. I believe in you, and I’m cheering you on, every step of the way. 💕
I really hope that what I’ve shared with you has been helpful and that it will re-inspire you to keep moving and keep working your magic in your classrooms. And if you have found this podcast helpful, please do me a huge favor and share it with just one other teacher who you think would benefit from it.
If you know another teacher who is feeling like they might want to quit and give up, please go ahead and send them the link so they can listen and hopefully get re-inspired. We really need you amazing people in this profession!
Also, I wanted to remind you about a new contest I have for my podcast listeners! If you’re already in the holiday spirit and you’re getting ready to do some serious Christmas shopping, you’re going to love this.
If you are feeling especially loving and you write a fantastic review for my podcast, your name will be entered into the draw for a $25 Amazon gift card. We will be announcing the winner of the draw on Wednesday, December 4th, which is next week, so be sure to write your review right away so your name gets entered into the draw! Just click here to write and post your review now.
I hope you have a wonderful week, and remember: Just because you are a beginning elementary teacher, there is no need for you to struggle like one. Bye for 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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