Learning to be okay with being an okay teacher
I've tried to write this post for a long time now, but couldn't manage allowing myself to be vulnerable. Then I realized that I'm probably not alone. So, I finally decided it was time to share.
Last April, I had a panic attack. This was a first for me. While in the middle of a conversation, I remember telling my husband something was wrong as my breathing began to change and become very shallow. My legs wouldn't stop shaking and I began to lose the ability to communicate. I could hear myself in my mind saying what I wanted to say, but the words weren't coming out of my mouth. I stopped breathing. I held my head between my legs as my husband told me I had to breathe. Again, I could hear myself in my mind telling me to breathe, that if I didn't I was going to pass out. But I couldn't breathe.
I don't know how much time passed.
I do know that my husband took me to the emergency room, and I was scheduled an in-take appointment for the following Monday at our mental health clinic upon being discharged a few hours later.
I then began to get anxiety about my anxiety.
Am I crazy? I'm not crazy. I'm fine. I don't need help. I'm just stressed. I'm fine. Do I need medicine? I don't want to be on medicine. I'm fine. I don't need to talk to anyone. I'm fine.
I wasn't fine. I'd been dealing with anxiety and mild depression for years. I finally came to a breaking point. That breaking point was the stress and pressure I endure from the job I love, but also hate.
I had been having a pretty hard month in what was a pretty good school year, but certain aspects of my job were really weighing heavily on me. And that's when I began to crack.
After my first panic attack, I had more. I had to learn breathing techniques and learn how to not catastrophize things, which is something that I am continually working on. Every day is a battle. I have good days, and bad days. There are times when I go to therapy thinking...I don't have anything to talk about...then I find myself spilling my guts through tears 10 minutes later. Because let me be clear, teaching wasn't the only thing causing me anxiety. I had personal battles that I had been dealing with in silence since I was 7 years old. But teaching was definitely taking its toll on me.
I thought I would do really well in the summer months, because I wasn't worrying about my job. However, the 1st week of summer I was told that my section of 3rd grade was being eliminated and I was being moved. Cue anxiety. My anxiety last summer was probably worse than what it was when I had my first panic attack. It was really defeating.
I started this blogging/social media world of teaching almost the same time I started teaching. This was both a blessing and a curse. You see, for someone with anxiety whose primary core belief is never being good enough, seeing the amazing things other teachers do, makes you feel everything but amazing.
I constantly feel that I'm not doing enough. I feel guilty if I take a couple hours on a weekend to just sit and watch TV, when I could be creating things for my classroom, TpT, or even getting ahead on my business orders. I also feel guilty when I don't stay late or get to school early. There is SO much I could be doing at school, especially since I'm in a new grade level this year, but honestly, I'm just trying to get through the day. I rarely stay late. I have gone in early. I do go in on weekends.
What I've slowly began to realize, thanks to therapy, is that if I don't take that time for ME, I'm not being the best teacher I can for my students. I'm not being the best wife for my husband. I'm not being the best mom for my animals (judge me). Because you need time for yourself. Every single day I try to do something for me. Usually that is a trip to Starbucks in the morning. My colleagues make fun of me for paying $5 for a coffee almost every morning, but it makes me feel good. I shouldn't feel bad about that. But I do, on a regular basis.
This school year has been a pretty difficult one for me. I try not to talk about it too much on social media, but just know that I am struggling. I also know that there are many of you who are struggling, too, for various reasons.
This year I have second guessed my career on multiple occassions. I've worried about being part of the statistic we all hear in college about teacher turn over and teachers leaving the field after 5 years or less. I'm on year 5, and I totally get it.
The point of this post is simply to share. To let others know that they're not alone, because that's how I felt. I felt like how is everyone else doing this? How do they have time to create new products all the time? How do they have time to reorganize their classrooms all the time? How do they have the energy to stay til 9PM 3 times a week and go in on weekends? How do they balance this all with being a wife and a mom? I'm not even a mom, yet, how am I ever going to find a way to do all of it?!
The answer is...I won't. I will have to learn to give things up. To not do as much. To not worry when it doesn't get done.
I'm going to have to learn that it's okay to be an okay teacher. Because being an okay teacher in my mind, can still mean that I'm a great teacher in the minds of my students.
I would love to hear from you if you feel comfortable sharing your story. You can leave me a comment, message me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or email me at email@example.com
I am so happy to know that I'm not alone in feeling this way. I'm in the middle of year 2 and I often seriously consider a career change. I haven't been able to put it into words the way you did. I agree with you 100%. Thank you. ❤️ReplyDelete
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Thank you for taking the time to share this. It's far too easy to feel alone when you're struggling.ReplyDelete
I was actually going to write a post on the same topic, as I have struggled with anxiety all my life. I never wrote it because I didn't think anyone would care. The truth is, your post is wonderful. It's so validating to know we're not alone. Thank you for sharing your story. For being so brave and most of all- for being you. I enjoy all your posts- on your blog and IG. We are not robots. We are humans.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for sharing your story! I know that MOST if not ALL teachers need to hear that they aren't the only ones struggling. It takes a tremendous amount of our emotional bucket being there for a classroom of kiddos depending on us! Sometimes we need to realize that it is just as important to fill up that bucket! I am also glad to hear that I am not the only one who has decided I NEED my Starbucks in the morning - even as just a happy way to start the day!ReplyDelete
Lindsey! My heart is conflicted because I'm so happy you shared but I always feel heavy hearing someone else's fight with anxiety. I have been struggling with anxiety for years and it's really hard to put into words. Most people don't understand it, which is fine, how can we expect them to? But it does make it challenging. My classroom is far from a Pinterest page, my desk is constantly a mess, my "brand" on TPT/Instagram is ALL OVER THE PLACE and my house looks like we have 5 kids and we have zero. And I'm still overwhelmed daily. I totally get it. It's a daily struggle, I started on medication 3 years ago and while it's not a fix it's a helper. And I'm still learning to be okay with that. Let's stay connected because I really do have a sense of your struggle and it sounds like you have a sense of mine. Way too hard to do this alone! @_missbehavior on Instagram :)ReplyDelete
I am so glad to hear that I am not the only one in this boat. I always wonder how some teachers get it all done and don't feel the way I do! But maybe they do feel this way! This is my third year teaching and last year was almost the breaking point for me! I had a very tough year and couldn't figure what was wrong! I just didn't feel normal and have had so many things in my life change due to my anxiety! So I want you all to know I am here to listen or talk or vent about anything! Us teachers have to stick together!ReplyDelete
Sending love! I'm on my second year and I'm also having a rough year. I probably cry twice a week saying I want to quit, so I totally get it! I also TpT and blog so I understand the comparison factor as well. Do what make you happy and know that we all appreciate and support you!ReplyDelete
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I constantly feel inadequate, like I'm not doing enough, like teaching isn't for me, and like it's not worth it. I worry too about being a statistic; it's also my fifth year. I know I'm not alone, but that doesn't change the way I feel. I hate myself for feeling guilty, for taking time to myself, for not staying late on a daily basis. But I also hate that I feel the impulsive need to check my emails every 20 minutes and respond to them, even when I'm out or on weekends.
I'm on antidepressants and anxiety medications. Despite that, I have panic attacks at least once a week. I'm constantly worrying that I'm not doing things right, supporting my team, or preparing my kids and helping them be successful.
I want you to know that reading this made me feel like I can get through another day... another week. So thank you so much.
You're truly amazing. An inspiration. Thank you. ❤
Last year was my 5th year teaching and the worst one yet. I cried daily, put off doing any type of prep work until the very last minute, and scoured job sites on a weekly basis. I was looking for a way out. It was a combination of the group of children and the admin of my school. The really only thing that kept me going was the fact that I did not want to be a statistic.ReplyDelete
This year is better, but I still find myself searching for other options.
Thank you for writing this!
Wow! My amazing friend Lyndsey shared this post with me after talking with her about some of my own anxiety. I had tears in my eyes as I read it. Thank you SO much for sharing your journey. Life is hard, but knowing others are right there with us makes it easier! :) Thank you for being so vulnerable! I have no doubt this post is going to be exactly what teachers need to hear!ReplyDelete
What a beautifully honest post! Yes, yes and more yeses! Teaching can be so stressful and often I feel like I'm not enough. And boy do I compare myself! Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this!ReplyDelete
Thanks for your honesty! Sometimes you really end up feeling alone with these thoughts and feelings of being an okay teacher. Constantly feeling less than or not good enough. But I know I am trying my best and this is a job that I love despite the feeling of inadequacy. Thank -you!ReplyDelete
I have been teaching for 20 years, and some days it is still hard. I go in 2 hours early every day and it still doesn't get all done. I've learned to accept that it's ok. Hang in there, Ladies, and do what's right for you. Spend time with friends and family, buy your daily Starbucks, do some yoga (my fav) or just stare at the clouds and let your mind wander. Finally, if it is too much, look at other career options. Our profession has had an insane amount of unreasonable expectations thrust upon us in the past 10 years. It is nothing like it was when I started in 1997. Remember, you are not a statistic whether you stay in teaching or choose to move on to another career. Your sanity matters and you need to take care of yourself first before you can take care of others.ReplyDelete
Great article! Thank you! You are not alone as I am not alone!ReplyDelete
Thanks for being brave enough to share your story. I think there are quite a few of us who feel completely overwhelmed and feel like we are never enough. I often wonder how others do it all. When I started teaching there weren't any big teacher bloggers and TpT blew up half way through my career. There was no such thing as a Pinterest perfect classroom anywhere. I know I couldn't have juggled being a teacher-author back then because my classroom was my only priority and I was still learning my way. I remember working until a 11 o'clock at night sometimes and over weekends frequently. But this lasted only my first few years of teaching as I realized I would quickly burn out. While my classroom is still my main priority, I've learned to leave work at work and not bring anything home or attempt to have a perfect classroom. Occasionally, I have to stay late or work on report cards at home to get everything done but that is it. Leaving work at work is my biggest tip for new teachers. Teacher Ms H ~ Third Is the WordReplyDelete
I too struggle with anxiety and depression. I've been teaching for 10 years and unfortunately I've not found the perfect balance. I love my job, bUT there are times I'm ready to move on. I constantly struggle with the frustration that I'm not as good of a teacher ad I know I can be, but I just get so darn tired. I'm getting better as the years go on, but I totally understand why so many leave the profession. I just remind myself that being worried about being a good teacher probably means I'm I better teacher than I think I am, if I didn't think or worry about it a little then I probably shouldn't be teaching....ReplyDelete
It's coming up on a year now since I had my last boy. Baby number 4. I never really thought I battled with depression or anxiety until after I had him. I tried to make excuses also. My mother in law had just passed away, I'm a mom of 4 now of course it's hard, and I once I was back to work and on our normal routine/schedule everything would be ok. But when I went back to teaching from my maternity leave it just got worse. I would break down almost every night. It would take everything I had just to get through the school day. When the school year ended I was excited for the break but then I just worried about what this fall was going to be like.ReplyDelete
I finally got the help that I needed and that I was avoiding. It is hard for me to be okay with just being okay. I still have anxieties over my job, my kids, my husband, the list goes on and on. Bit I'm managing and that is more than I ever could have said last winter.
I know one thing for certain, without trusting God this whole time, even with my meds, I wouldn't be doing as okay as I am today. I just have to take everyday one day at a time and let go and let God.
Thank you for your honesty -- As someone who suffers with anxiety - I feel it affects my ability to have better professional relationships with colleagues as it sometimes is difficult to be honest about how you feel about what your going through personally - anxiety and depression can bring with it a lot of shame and guilt with it - especially when you attach the responsibility we have to our students and how we really want to be the best version of ourselves day in and day out. Self care is very important for me and as a year 2 teacher I am still learning about better ways to manage and have a healthy work life balance . I am doing much better than year 1 but there are trying weeks that leave one questioning their ability to even be capable of handling this profession - thank you alll for sharing and it does bring comfort to know that their are other teachers who feel the same insecurities and doubts that anxiety and depression only magnify - today I will do my best to take it easy and enjoy what Saturday has to offer - knowing that yes I can always do more to help me become a better teacher- but I also have to give myself some grace and peaceReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your story! I am a first year teacher and have been dealing with anxiety for the last several years. This year has been the most rewarding, amazing year and has been the most terrifying, overwhelming all in the same. Your post has helped me to realize that how I am feeling this year is okay. I have felt guilty that I don’t do more for my classroom or that I don’t really do much of anything on the weekends. So, thank you again for sharing your story and bringing awareness.
Thank you for this blog post. This is my 4th year teaching and I feel the same. I struggle with anxiety and depression and never feel like I'm good enough. Plus I'm an introvert which makes teaching even more stressful. I visit job boards daily and have had numerous job interviews but no offers. So I feel stuck in the classroom. But I'm trying to keep going and remember that I don't have to be perfect to be a teacher.ReplyDelete
Thank you for your post! Now as I sit in my classroom, I am feeling all the things that you felt/feel. Going to therapy has helped tremendously, just in telling myself "Today I was not a great teacher, I did not have the best lesson, but that is okay". I have been able to positively affirm my negative thoughts, but even when I do so, I still have bad days. I still have moments when I remind myself that if this is a season I am in, then its okay, this too shall pass. Thank you for your words, you have no idea how encouraging they are.ReplyDelete
From another okay teacher
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Thanks for sharing, I've been struggling this year. This year isn't my first year of teaching but it feels like it because I went from teaching Kindergarten to fifth grade due to a teacher quitting. I had to jump in suddenly, and I felt so unprepared. I didn't have the summer to get familiar with the standards and map out my curriculum for the year. I didn't even have time to learn the system the school uses for grades, learn where to find resources, and time to get to know my students. It went from one day I was in Kindergarten with my co-teacher to suddenly I'm on my own in a fifth grade class and I had no prior lessons or resources to pull from and had to start everything from scratch. I find myself constantly feeling like I am not a good teacher despite the time and effort I put in. I am endlessly trying to stay above water with grading, planning and communicating with parents. With Covid, it was even more stress, because I then had to keep switching from in person to online with barely any notice. My anxiety just keeps building and I don't know if I can make it the year or if I want to stay a 5th grade teacher next year. I am running on zero and constantly wonder what would happen if I changed my career and did something else.ReplyDelete
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