Teaching is an incredibly rewarding career, but there are some harsh realities of teaching that no one tells you about. The harsh realities of teaching can quickly lead to burnout if you are not careful. By identifying these harsh realities you can work to prevent burnout by recognizing your stress points and knowing when you feel pressure.
Each of the harsh realities in this post can take over your life if you allow it, but by setting boundaries and sticking to them you can be a first-class teacher without it taking over your life.
The Hours Never End
There will always be something more to do. There is no way around it. If you try to finish everything every day you will reach the burnout phase in record time. Instead of trying to do everything, it is important to prioritize what NEEDS to get done and what would be nice to get done.
For me, the was best accomplished by making a ranked list each morning for the day. This helped me to place the most important items at the top of the list and get it done. I also chose one right a week to stay late at school and every other day I would try to leave at a reasonable time. Going to my classroom over the weekend was a big no-no, and only happened in extreme emergencies.
Another thing that is vital is knowing when to say no to more responsibility. You do NOT need to be on every committee and chaperone every dance. For examples on how and why to say no, check out this post.
Students’ Needs Vary Widely
No matter your class size your students’ needs will run the gambit academically, emotionally, and socially. Odds are every single student in your class needs something different. Individualized learning is great in theory, but very difficult in practice. You likely won’t have everything you need to meet each of your students’ needs and will have to go looking for support, and that’s okay.
When you walk into your classroom your first year it likely has very little in it. Your classroom is filled with the things you bought and paid for with your own money.
That awesome classroom library comes from you and so do the pencils. The reality is schools are underfunded and you are what makes your classroom what it is.
While websites, blogs, and Pinterest are full of beautifully decorated classrooms that is not what makes your classroom a community. Don’t worry about decor. While it is nice it isn’t the most important part. Instead, focus on building relationships with your students and letting them know they are the star of the show.
With that being said, if you enjoy decorating your room, have at it! I love to see beautiful classrooms crafted with care, just don’t let it stress you out.
Our Students’ Families
Just as our students have varied needs, so do their families. Some families are very respectful of education and view themselves as a partner in students’ learning, some are hands-off, and some want to call all the shots. It is important to learn how to work with all types of families and help them to make the most of their student’s time at school.
Sometimes families need a little extra from us. For example, it is important for families to understand how and why to fill out particular paperwork or why we have certain processes at school and how we can best support their student.
We have to remember that we are all on the same team and want he best for our students, even when it may not seem like it.
We Work in a Petri Dish
There is no way around it. Our classrooms are full of germs and microbes just waiting to make us ill. My first year I was sick a lot, but it gets better. Each year I was sick a little less.
One thing many people don’t mention, when you are stressed you are more susceptible to getting sick. The toughest years in the classroom you are almost certain to be sick more often. Make sure you get enough sleep, drink lots of water, and take your vitamins.
Balancing What is Right for Your Students
There are a lot of things you are told you have to do as a teacher and then there is what you know is right for your students. I have always been a big advocate for closing your door and doing what you need to do for your students. I am a realist though and realize this isn’t always possible.
Do what is right for your students though, even if it means a little bit of a backlash.
Self-care is not selfish. Let me say that again. Self-care is not selfish. You know, you can’t pour from an empty cup and all that business.
Seriously though, you can’t be there for your students if you are falling apart. There are many ways to practice self-care, and it is going to look different for everyone, but no matter what yours looks like, do it.
For ideas on how to practice self-care, check out this post.
Never Lose Sight of Your Why
At the end of the day, teaching is tough. There is no way around it. You have to remember your why. Why did you become a teacher. Why do you go to school every day? What is your purpose?
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