Why Teaching is Tough
What makes teaching tough is the sheer amount of things that demand your time, your attention, and your energy. Teaching is not just about lesson planning, teaching the lesson, and grading papers.
Teaching is about teaching the lesson five times a day (equivalent to making a big presentation five times a day), managing the classroom and meting out discipline; it’s about managing your homeroom, your extracurricular activity (for me, planning prom), and attending school events. It’s about staying after school to meet with students, department chairs, parents, and administrators. It’s about meeting standards, keeping up with the curriculum, and trying to make everyone else happy while still accomplishing your own objectives.
Add to these overwhelming tasks a classroom full of apathetic students. You can begin to feel like what you do every day doesn’t matter and even worse, that you don’t matter.
Staying positive can be difficult when you’re faced with the huge teaching demands and multiple classrooms of apathetic students. My first go-around as a teacher was like riding a massive emotional roller coaster. I went into the classroom with huge expectations and an idealistic outlook – I was going to connect with the students, challenge them, and mold them into creative and energetic adults.
Talk about a reality check when entering the classroom! In general, teenagers appear to be a self-centered, easily distracted, unthinking group. I kept getting so frustrated when I couldn’t get through to them, when I couldn’t even get them to pay attention to me. I let it get to me and I quit teaching after five years.
In my second time as a new teacher, I made some adjustments. I abandoned most (but not all) of my idealism and I made a conscious decision not to let the kids get to me. I would say to myself, “It’s just not worth worrying about. Let it go.” When I go home at night, I leave the kids behind. It’s tough to do, but it’s totally worth doing!
Another trick I use to is to remember the individual good days that I have had, either by writing it down or sharing it as a story with someone else. I also keep a file of positive notes written to me by students, telling me how much they enjoyed my class or that they really like some particular activity. When I’m feeling bummed after a lousy day of teaching, I call up the memories or open up my file and remember when I did something well, and I let myself feel good about it.
One final trick I use is to connect with another teacher whom you can consider a friend. One of my best friends is an elementary school teacher and we get together regularly for coffee or dinner to share the ups and downs of our week. Having another “teacher friend” is great, because he/she is the best person to sympathize with your frustrations and offer suggestions to help get you through the rough times.