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I am writing this blog post for myself! Or mostly for myself! Teaching has always been my passion, but I went through a phase recently when the thought of stepping foot in a classroom again felt like a million knives. I never thought I would be the one to feel that way. I always wanted to be a teacher. I worked hard to become one. So what happened? The thought that kept pounding in my head was: “How to love teaching again? Because right now, I hate it! And I don’t want to feel this way anymore.”
This happened a couple of years ago. I was moving and had to leave a school I loved. I was devastated! We were also teaching through a pandemic which was hard on everyone. I got a new job at a wonderful new school, but inside I was screaming. I didn’t want to be there! My students were wonderful, administration was incredibly supportive, and my coworkers were great, but I was so unhappy. And I felt too guilty for feeling that way.
It took some time, and willpower, to get out of that funk. I knew I needed to make changes, so I could learn how to love teaching again. It wasn’t easy. And if you are reading this blog post right now, I want you to know that. Learning how to love teaching again may take some time. But there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if you keep searching for it.
Learn how to love teaching again the same way I did!
Set firm boundaries (and stick to them!)
I remember the first time I felt “cheated” by teaching. I was at home after school (working on my computer, as usual), and I looked at my youngest daughter. She was nine months old when I first started teaching. Now she was four! Suddenly, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. Where had the time gone? And what had I done with it?
For the past four years, I had worked myself to the bone because I wanted to be an excellent teacher. I thought that’s what excellent teachers do. They work all the time to design the most fabulous lessons every single day. They are always reinventing the wheel. They are always thinking about school and how to grow as an educator. They live and breathe teaching. Boy, was I wrong! The best teachers in the world are the ones who can set boundaries and stick to them.
Do things that make you happy
I see this on everyone’s list, and it always sounds so corny. But the truth is, your life shouldn’t be lived for others all the time. So I suggest finding things that make you happy and trying to do at least one of them every day. They can be simple and don’t need to take up a lot of your time.
Recently, I have enjoyed waking up earlier and working on my TPT business before going to work. I like how the house is quiet, and I can get things done “for myself” before I am “working for others.” At 5am, when my husband wakes up, I put everything away and sit with him on the couch for about 20 minutes before I have to start getting ready for work. I cherish that time with him more than words can describe. It’s so simple but so good for my heart.
Exercising is another amazing outlet for me. Now that I leave work on time (most days), I go to the gym immediately after work. I feel like I come home ready to be a better mother and wife when I do that because my brain gets plenty of time to disconnect from school. So even though going to the gym keeps me away from my family for a little bit longer, they get a much better version of me once I get home.
Be an adventurous teacher
You don’t have to spend hours working to be an adventurous teacher. I would dare say that an adventurous teacher ends up working fewer hours in the long run. You just have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone.
Always remember that if you are bored then your students are bored. And bored students misbehave. They get under your skin. Not because they want to, but because they are kids. And that’s what kids do when they are bored.
Now, when your students start to misbehave, that creates unnecessary stress. Research shows that one of the leading causes of burnout in teachers is student behavior. So, if you can do something to increase student engagement and decrease unwanted behaviors, shouldn’t you at least try it?
Because I am so passionate about this topic, I wrote an entire blog post about it. You can click here to check it out. There are so many simple ideas that can be implemented with little to no prep but will give you amazing results. The best result of all: you will learn how to love teaching again!
When you are at work, be at work!
Teaching requires a lot of work. No one goes into this profession if they are not willing to work hard. So how do you work hard while still setting boundaries and having time for the things you love? You need to fit all your work into your contracted hours.
Now, I know what you are thinking. This is impossible! And to some degree, you are right. You won’t ever have time to finish everything on your to-do list. But if you are laser-focused while you are at work, you will get a lot more done than if you are distracted by things that don’t pertain to teaching (like your phone!) Staying focused will give you enough time to complete those tasks that cannot wait. Doing that will allow you to set boundaries and have time for yourself without stress or guilt.
Now, I want to be very honest in this blog post because I am certainly not perfect. Are there times when I go to my coworker’s classroom and chat about my weekend instead of getting things done? Yes! Do I ever sit during my planning period, staring at the wall and enjoying the silence? Absolutely! But I try to refrain from that because I know that I am taking time away from something else. Time is our greatest commodity and we can never get it back, so use it wisely.
Staying 100% focused on work during your contracted hours will also allow you to forget about the things that are happening outside of your classroom. Just like thinking about the things you have to do for school when you are at home can cause you a massive amount of stress, thinking about your personal to-do list at work will only add to your anxiety.
This is a hard one for me. I don’t like to ask for help. I like to be the one helping. I like to do it all. But once I learned that accepting help doesn’t have to mean being useless, I became much better at it.
I always wrote my own lesson plans and created my own resources. Now, I plan with a couple of teacher friends, and we share the load. I plan some subjects, and they plan others. When we plan for a subject, we take care of everything. We make all the copies, create all the slides, and prepare all the activities. I am currently at a new school and new grade level, and even though the first year in a new place is always a bit tough, having this support system has made everything so much easier.
Stay organized to reduce anxiety
I hate clutter! With a passion! In fact, I wrote an entire blog post about how I manage paperwork in my classroom. You can read that by clicking here. Being in a messy, cluttered environment gives me major anxiety.
So I try my best to keep my classroom (specifically my teacher area) as neat as possible. I am not gonna lie – I am not perfect. In fact, I often leave a messy desk at the end of the day, so I can get out on time (cue the gasp!) But, because I have a system and a place for everything, cleaning up in the morning doesn’t take very long.
I also cannot live without a planner. For a long time, I didn’t know how to use planners. I bought them but never used them. That meant I sometimes forgot things, and that caused me a lot of anxiety. Now, my planner is like my right arm. I don’t even have to look at it all the time (although I do). The simple act of writing things down on my planner (not a sticky note, not my hand…) helps me remember to do them. It also gives me ONE PLACE to look for important information. This has cut down on the amount of time I spend looking things up. Raise your hand if you have ever spent way too much time searching old emails for information you should have written down in your planner.
Surround yourself with positivity
I am a very positive person! Negativity drags me down. I prefer to look at the glass half-full rather than half-empty. Personally, I find that focusing on the negative does not help me solve the problem. It just makes it seems insurmountable. But staying positive can be difficult when the people around you seem to thrive on complaining.
We all know them… Those are the people who find every little reason to complain. They can’t let things roll off their shoulders. We can all be like that sometimes. In fact, when I look back at the time in my teaching career when I was most unhappy, it is mostly because I kept looking at the negative. I kept comparing my new school to my old, beloved school. I was setting myself up for disappointment and didn’t realize it. I had the wrong perspective, and no matter how great things were, my focus was on the few things I wish were different.
Now, I try my best to focus on the positive. Do I complain about work sometimes? Yes! We all need to vent sometimes. But I make it a point to snap out of it right away. More importantly, I surround myself with people who march to the beat of the same drum. Positivity attracts positivity!
If you are struggling in this area, I strongly suggest reading this blog post from Cult of Pedagogy about finding your marigold. In the post, she addresses new teachers, but we all need this advice sometimes.
Falling in love with teaching again is possible!
Teacher friend, if you are looking for ways to learn how to love teaching again, I hope this blog post was helpful. Trust me, it can be better. Remember why you chose this profession to begin with. And never forget that we all have seasons in life. It may be winter right now, but spring is just around the corner.