Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy 2013! Are you feeling disillusioned?

I have always felt that the new year begins in August. January feels like an odd time for teachers to celebrate a new year, since our year begins in late August and ends in June. But the official, internationally recognized New Year can also provide a time of reflection, rejuvenation, and renewal for teachers also.

However, the darkness of winter and the fact that the school year is not even half over can lead new teachers to experience a phase of disillusionment. This phase typically hits new teachers (and experienced teachers too!) sometime in the middle of the school year and can last for quite a while. Stress is a major factor in leading new teachers to feel disillusioned. Sickness, which seems to be going around big time this year, can make a stressful job more stressful. You're run down if you can get to school, and planning for a sub if you can't is always more work than being in schoolo to begin with. And sickness might have hit you over break, too, which might have made you feel tired and unrefreshed when you headed back to school this week. The learning needs of your students feel urgent, especially in the spring testing season staring you down, but classroom management issues might be getting in the way of accomplishing what you want to academically with your students. Observations and evaluations by an administrator or instructional coaches, which add a lot of stress to an already stressful job, can lead new teachers to feel uncertain in their competence as a teacher. The reality of the commitment to teaching is finally clear, and during the disillusionment phase teachers might question their decision to become a teacher.

But know this - this is a common phase of teaching and you are surrounded by others that are experiencing this too. It might not help to know that others feel this way, but it might help you know you aren't crazy or alone. Even after years and years of teaching, I still experience this feeling, sometimes for only a few days or weeks, and sometimes for longer. This phase (like all things) does pass, but it can help the time pass more quickly if you seek out or reach out to a supportive network of other teachers with whom you can talk about these feelings. Maybe this is the time to contact a teacher you went through your preservice program with that you have been meaning to communicate with but just haven't made the time. Or find the other new teachers in your building and/or district and suggest a happy hour to talk things through. Other supportive folks, like family and friends, can definitely help too, but sometimes you just need to talk to another teacher that might be feeling the same way. This feeling of disillusionment can be a very difficult challenge to get through in your first years of teaching., but talking with others can help.

The bottom line is that it is helpful to find some way to acknowledge these feelings (if you're having them) and talk with others about them. I'll return to this topic soon with some advice to help you get through this period. In the mean time, you can check out the post about this from last year.


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