Wednesday, January 16, 2013

disillusionment - keep it simple

A couple weeks ago, I posted about disillusionment, a phase that many new and experienced teachers encounter at some point during the school year. Something to keep in mind during this time is that many others have and are experiencing this phase, and that it is completely normal to feel down, hopeless, disappointed, and frustrated in your first years.

There is a lot of advice on the internet to help teachers thrive through this phase. I'll try to share some ideas that have helped me in the past and that have helped other new teachers I know.

Find a mentor. You may have one assigned to you through your district mentor program for new teachers. Or your district may not have a mentor program in place. Now is a great time to connect with that person. If you don't have an assigned mentor, find one in your building. Ask your principal to help you if you don't have an idea of someone you'd like to approach. It can be so helpful to share your feelings with someone in your district/building who knows what initiatives are in place and the testing schedule and the committees you've been asked to be a part of for the year. Now is the time to ask the questions that have been brewing in your head but perhaps you feel as though you should already know the answers (you shouldn't. you need to ask).

Simplify. It is never too late to simplify your routines, your management strategies, your parent newsletter. Part of simplifying might be to schedule specific prep times or before school/after school/evenings to grade papers. Once you have a schedule, you might not feel so overwhelmed staring at the stack of papers on your desk. You'll get to them on Tuesday prep and Thursday night from 7-9:30. And decide which assignments need deeper levels of feedback and which assignments don't. And stick to it.

One thing that I try to do when I start feeling overwhelmed is to find the small, easy tasks and start clicking them off my list. If you handle these small tasks immediately, your to-do list will stay manageable. Just reply to that email right away instead of reading it and moving on. Recycle papers that you've read and don't need to hang on to - instead of putting them back in your in-box, only to have to be read again.

Also, consider: What can students be responsible for? Are there some things that you're doing that really should be the responsibility of students? Taking even a small thing off your platter ('cuz let's be honest, it's bigger than a plate) can help you feel less disillusioned.

Be mindful of progress. When you start noticing things that aren't going the way you want them to, this can be a sign of progress. You're starting to think about new and more effective ways to help students learn, and you want to do the best job you can to support students. Teaching is a continuum, one that is always in a state of change. Once you begin to master X, Y starts to nag at you. And once you have an action plan for Y, you discover issues Z, A, B, and C. There is always room for improvement, but as you reflect on ways you'd like to improve, keep in mind what you've already done to get you there.

Tell us: What are some ways you thrive through the disillusionment phase?


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