Editor’s Note: Below is the exceptional, true feelings of a dedicated, first year teacher who gave it all for her first group of students..and as they exit, her reflection on the cost of that. How we support teachers, coach, mentor, and guide them must be a priority from the time they enter preparation until they retire..because the truth is we very rarely don’t feel “new” as mandates, expectations, standards and directives constantly shift!
It’s amazing to think that a little over a year ago I was sitting at Illinois State University getting ready to walk across the stage to receive my diploma. This small piece of paper that is the sum of all of my hard work for 4 years. Now, here I am a year later on my second to last day of school and there is no piece of paper to say Congratulations! You accomplished something! However, the sense of relief is very similar. It has been a difficult year for me. Working with the kids was everything that I expected and more. It has truly been a joy working with all of my students. They have brought me more smiles than I can count and I feel as if I was able to make a difference in some of their lives.
Unfortunately, I encountered a not so sunny and happy part of the job. I have had a difficult time with administration and finding support. Throughout the year, I have had to learn many lessons in a negative way and I’ve found that it can affect all aspects of my life. When I became a teacher, I knew it was going to be hard but I never realized how much it could affect my world outside of school. I have tried to find a way to keep work at work, but it always seemed to find its’ way home. I’m sure that is something every teacher experiences. These kids become our whole world and all of a sudden I am carrying the problems of 22 young children and trying to give them all that I can but if I give them all of me, what is left?
I don’t want to be the teacher who is burnt out in 5 years and goes to work a desk job for the rest of my life. This is simply the best job in the world, but this job can’t be my whole world. I think that all teachers need to work to find the balance of being an excellent teacher, but not at the expense of their own lives and happiness. There is an exorbitant amount of pressure on all teachers to give up their lives and be a teacher 100% of the time. I don’t think that’s fair. I’m a 22-year-old sister and daughter who has a family, boyfriend, another job, 2 dogs, and a love of traveling and experiencing new things. I just happen to be a teacher as well.
Teaching is something that I do and it is a part of who I am, but it’s not all of who I am. It is a portion of me. I think that it would do all teachers some good to think about who they are outside of being a teacher because we are all made up of so much more. I spent a lot of my year with an internal struggle of doing all that I could to keep my kids, their parents, and my administration happy but it came at the expense of my own happiness and well being. I can’t be the most effective teacher I can be if I don’t take care of myself too. We all want to give our students the world but I think we also need to remember that we have our own world that needs to be taken care of and if it is neglected, the students are going to be the ones who lose in the end.
This whole year has been an incredible learning experience and I am thrilled that I have been able to have it. I am looking forward to the future and what it has to offer for me. I know that in the coming years, each class of students and school year is going to have something new to teach me and I am excited to see how I can grow and change both professionally and personally.