Wednesday, January 11, 2012

getting through disillusionment

Before break, I wrote about the frustrating and challenging phase that many new teachers experience: disillusionment. I wanted to return to this topic, because despite the challenge of this phase, there are things you can do to help you through it.

Some of the actions you can take I’ve already written about, such as observing a mentor or other experienced teacher. You could also observe and meet with an effective and motivated fairly new teacher, such as a second-year teacher, who is close enough to their first year of teaching to be relatable, but have some additional perspective and growth since then to share. A principal, curriculum director, or instructional coach can usually help set something like this up.

Speaking of instructional coaches, if you are fortunate to have one or more in your building, they can be a tremendous resource. Are you nervous about an upcoming unit? Work with the coach and perhaps see if they can teach a lesson or two within that unit. Working with your students in your content can provide you an even more purposeful model than even observing someone else in your department, school, or district.

At the end of the week, make a promise to yourself to think about one success (however small) from the week, and write it down, perhaps in your lesson plan book, a reflective journal, or on a bulletin board at school and home. Something will have gone well every week, improving your math lesson from first to last hour, having a positive interaction with a particular student, you got those papers graded, or you had an effective team meeting. If you feel comfortable, share this success with a trusted colleague and make it a habit.

Something else you can do to work through disillusionment is to set a short-term goal – something manageable that you can accomplish in the next month or two. Find someone to help you set and check in about your goal – an administrator, a teacher, an instructional coach, or a friend from your preparation program.

Some people in this phase like to read inspirational books, such as The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer, Why I Teach by Ester Wright, or Teaching from the Heart by Sharon Draper. Others don’t find that particularly helpful. And that’s ok.

All that aside, it is still important to honor what you are experiencing. You don’t need to go through this alone, though, and in all of these ideas is the suggestion that you build a community around working through this challenge.

Anyone else out there have ideas for getting through this difficult phase in teaching?


1 comment:

  1. So glad you wrote about this. I obviously haven't started teaching yet, but I was just thinking this past week about how hard it is going to be to maintain some confidence during my first year. I got some amazing letters of recommendation that made me feel really good. But, now I am thinking, what if I don't live up to what people wrote about me? What if my first job colleagues hate me? Ugh..
    It is so nice to read your reassuring words and know that I can return and look at them when I am in this phase of teaching! Thanks!