Mental Health

First Year Teachers, Y’all Alright?

Dear First-Year Teachers, 
You’re not doing it wrong. It’s just that hard. 
I wanted to write this article to simply check-in… so… Y’all Alright? 
The first week of school is over, and we’re deep into the school year now. 
I remember how I felt that first week: nervous, anxious, and excited to pour into the lives of the future leaders of our world. 
Then, the second week of school hit and the perfect children I had met the first week of school disappeared. Students became comfortable and started testing the waters. 
As many veteran teachers said to me my first year, “The Honeymoon Phase is over.”
Phases of First-Year Teaching
There’s an interesting graph created for first-year teachers called Phases of First-Year Teaching by Ellen Moir, which identifies the different phases first-year teachers go through. (Check it out here)
You started in anticipation but are thrown into survival mode from the end of August until the beginning of October. 
From October through December, you’re in a phase called “disillusionment.” 
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines disillusionment as the condition of being disenchanted: the condition of being dissatisfied or defeated in expectation or hope.
Sound about right?
This phase can be a bit depressing as a first-year teacher. It’s where you realize teaching is not all you thought it was going to be. Whether you went through a traditional or alternative route, there has been a momentum building up to getting in the classroom. You planned lessons, watched inspirational educators, and knew that going into the classroom, you would be prepared to help students excel. 
But then you realized that many of your students weren’t on grade level. You didn’t know about the staff meetings and the canceled planning periods. No one told you about the behavioral issues you would experience, the backlash from parents and administration, and having to deal with students who didn’t have homes, meals, or clean clothes every morning. 
You’re feeling defeated and hopeless. You keep asking yourself, “Am I cut out for this?”
The answer is yes. 
It’s Hard
It really is this hard. You have stepped into a position that isn’t for the faint of heart. But lucky for you, you have the heart of a teacher. 
Although the rose-colored glasses have been removed from your eyes, this can and will be a good thing. When you realize that something isn’t what you dreamed it would be, you do one of two things, blame others for lying or re-adjust to the truth. 
Your strength will come in shifting gears to what has been revealed to you as the truth about teaching. The blessing is that you’re surrounded by veteran teachers who can help you shift gears. 
It can seem like an embarrassing action to take as a new teacher because you’ve been trying to do it on your own. You can recall the times you’ve said “I got it” or “No, I don’t need any help,” when in reality you needed someone to come and save you. 
It’s okay! We’ve all done it. Don’t be afraid to seek out the advice of those around you. They’ve gone through the same disillusionment and had to make the same adjustments. You are not in this alone. 
The good news is, disillusionment doesn’t last past December. Winter break gives you time to step back, regroup, and look at teaching through a brand new lens. You come back rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running again with new air in your lungs. You begin to have more successes and before the end of the new year, you’re ready to meet your new students (after the summer break of course). 
I’m Proud of You
From one teacher to another, I’m proud of you for hanging in there and staying strong when inside, you wanted to give up and find something else to do. Whether they’ve said it or not, your students love and cherish having you in their lives. They spend more time with you than they do with heir own parents, siblings, grandparents, or friends. You mean something to your kids. When you don’t think they’re listening to you, they are. I promise you that sooner or later, you’ll start to see a change and realize that you really weren’t talking to the wall after all. 
Chin up rookies. You got this in the bag. 

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