Last year, 3 week's into the school year, I wanted to walk out and never look back. The students were running the school and there wasn't ANY administrative support. Elementary students were cursing out me and my 2nd graders, students physically assaulted staff (including the interim principal) and each other, students were making the news for trespassing on gov't property and vandalizing the neighborhood, teachers were quitting left and right or going out on "FMLA", and I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. I know you've seen the memes about students being sent to the Principal's office and returning with candy or a toy. Yea...those students that assaulted staff and vandalized gov't property remained in the school for the rest of the day and returned back the next day. Try explaining consequences to your students after that. (Please Note: This is not to say that suspending students is the best way to handle every situation.)
After speaking out in faculty meetings about my students' truths and demanding an immediate safety plan for the students AND staff, I was written up with falsified statements. I reached out to the superintendent (cuz I ain't neva scared...) yet I was still met with push back as to how there are schools that were worse than mine. Seriously? That's like telling a homeless person..."I'm hungry too!" Yet still..I pushed on. I pushed on through EVERY, and I mean EVERY, faculty meeting where we discussed the new dismissal plan and NEVER the safety plan. The first time we ever had an intruder drill was the second to last day of school, even though people had been in the school building threatening teachers in private and IN FRONT OF students.
Many of us do an amazing job painting a pretty picture of what our classroom looks like, but underneath it all, you may have 9 in EIP/RTI , 6 in SST (3 regarding impulsive behaviors), 4 "gifted" that are acting out because of association and boredom, and the remaining few that are considered "on level" even though they are still technically "not meeting the standard". So, while I'm here to offer encouragement, I am in no way here to paint a pretty picture. The teaching PROFESSION is hard and the work is extremely undervalued.
So, what did I do? Well...at first I cried.
Everyday, I went home and cried about how stressed I was until finally, my husband said, "Just go ahead and quit!" I had been waiting on him to say these words for months...yet when he said them, I couldn't bring myself to do it. In all honesty, I didn't ever need his permission to quit, so that's probably why when he finally said the words, it didn't move me in the way I thought it would. Something truly shifted in me within that moment. I finally realized, I AM FREE! I recognized that I was there (in the school) because I wanted to be and not because I had to be! I wanted to make a difference in the lives of the students and I didn't want to desert them as so many other teachers had/would. I also really LOVE teaching and the outlet it gives me to be creative.
While I recommend practicing each item on the "Staying Passionate" infographic, I have listed the 3 that were most helpful to me.
1. BE FREE. Understand that your talents are necessary & valuable. Release yourself from the imaginary box that confines you & live in your purpose.
There is a reason that the school hired you. Whether it is for your new creative ideas or your take no BS attitude, you have a purpose.
The imaginary box of standards, rules, and perceptions that you have placed yourself in is just that, IMAGINARY. You are not going to lose your job because you decided to do what is right for your students. You are not going to be black balled because you speak up and out for what is right. The amount of teachers that met with me privately in my room to share their agreement was phenomenal. And, although I was written up unjustly, I wasn't fired or placed on a PDP. In fact, I was STILL offered a contract for the next year. WHY!? Because, I am a BOMB teacher, I KNOW what I'm doing, and numbers don't lie.
2. USE POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS. Fill your mind with joyous statements that support your vision & allow your subconscious to guide you.
Last year was my first time using positive affirmations. I actually didn't even realize that I was doing it until I started to notice the effects. My first affirmation was: "I can do this." Simple, but it worked. My narrative literally changed from, "I can't do this. I'm dying!" to "Wow! Look at me! I'm doing it! It's not that bad." I became happier, less stressed, and I finally got into a groove that I was able to ride out for the rest of the year. I noticed a tremendous difference in the behavior of my students. Throughout the year, I adopted a few more affirmations. Sometimes the affirmation was..."There's only two weeks until break." Hey, just keeping it all the way real.
Here's a few additional positive affirmations that you can repeat in your mind "when the work gets hard":
*I am committed to building healthy and loving people.
*I am proud of my work in the community I serve.
*I am learning every day.
*I love life.
*I use my talents and abilities to serve others because it brings me joy.
*I am fearless in all that I do.
*I am able to reveal the greatness that people posses.
*There is nothing that I can't overcome.
*I am authentic and I embrace who I am.
**For more positive affirmations, visit our printables file on the freebies page.**
3. TAKE A BREAK. Stop feeling guilty about using your sick and personal days! Your mental health is important.
If you need a day, take a day! Just because you aren't running a fever or running to the bathroom doesn't mean you aren't actually sick. The stress from work can play a major toll on your body, which is why it's important to give your brain a break every once in a while. You will be more productive and much happier when you return. I personally prefer to give myself a nice 3 day weekend, but if a random day in the middle of the week works best for you, then so be it. Just be sure to have your sub binder/tub already prepared for that spur of the moment call out.
Don't quit...yet! Give these suggestions a try, because you are stronger than you know. While I didn't list everything I have been through after 4 years of being in the classroom, I still bet someone can top my stories. Does that make my experiences any better or worse than yours? No. What it does point out is that we can NOT give up because there are young lives stuck in the mix of all this, and it is never the child's fault. Whether you decide to stay in the classroom or not, finish out this school year strong. Make a commitment to the lives of your students and do what you know is best.
On the flip side, do not remain in this profession if your sole reason is pertaining to the bills you have to pay. If your passion has diminished to this level, you are more than likely doing a severe disservice to yourself and your students. Seriously, there's more to life. (But, that's a conversation for another day.)
I personally have left the school system, but not the profession. I started Teacher Magic because I want to give a voice to the educators that don't feel or know they have one. I want to help BUILD A TRIBE of passionate educators that continue to help push the envelope and fight for education reform. I want to remind you that you are great, you are loved, and you are magic. Trust in yourself and keep making a difference in the lives of students.
*Bonus: If you're feeling burnt out and just can't deal with lesson planning this week, be sure to check out these printable standards based resources from our friends over at TwinklUSA.