Feeling Down On Your Teaching? Visit Your Teachers

Erica Darr, M. Mus

May 18, 2017

Those of us who teach know that teaching is a challenging and demanding profession, but also a rewarding and satisfying experience. Challenges come in all directions when you are a teacher — deadlines, events, expenses, difficult parents and students, personal challenges, and more.

Those of us who have taught for several years now understand the roller-coaster of events that take place within a teacher from school year to year.

Those who are new to teaching, however, are sometimes surprised by the sheer workload, as well as the mental, physical, and emotional demands of teaching. It is easy to get down on one’s teaching when you do all you can and students still do not grasp a certain concept or when one even wants to quit. We look to ourselves and often get down on ourselves as a result of the setbacks.

What is a teacher to do when the going gets tough?

One often overlooked strategy is to return to your own teachers, your mentors, and to look to them for sage advice, leadership, guidance, and a listening ear.

Why your teachers? Simply for this reason — those who have taught and/or mentored you know you as both a student and colleague. They know about being a teacher, and above that, they know about being YOUR teacher. Going back to those individuals allows for you to get an outsider’s perspective on your situation, as well as personal notes on how to manage the ups and downs of yourteaching career.

How should you go about doing this?

I might not always call and speak to my former teachers, but I will often find myself thinking about those individuals and how I hope what I do makes them proud.

I think to the lessons they have taught me in and out of the classroom and of ways to apply those lessons to my current situation. Sometimes that can be enough to not only help me think through my situation in a more objective manner, but also reignite the passion for teaching that gets lost in the midst of deadlines, stress and negativity.

Other times, I need a little bit more. Those are the times I have to reach out to a mentor to ask questions, seek advice, or sometimes just to vent. Again, these individuals know me as a teacher and student.

I have sometimes even had the pleasure of hearing my former teachers share stories of me as a student. Hearing those stories from their perspective make me think of my own students and remind me WHY I went into teaching in the first place. I did not start teaching for the salary or for special recognition. I went into teaching to make a difference because so many people in my life made a difference to me.

It is those thoughts that keep me together when I have one of ‘those’ days in my classroom (and we ALL have those days sometimes!)

Going back to those who taught us can also remind us that we are never alone on our journey. As someone who has taught for almost 14 years, I have not only been on the side of the mentee, but also the mentor.

The one comment I usually find myself saying the most is: ‘You are not alone.’

I would challenge you to spend time today thinking about those teachers and other mentors who impacted on your life and what exactly made them stand out to you. And the next time you have one of ‘those’ days, think of them, and think of why you went into teaching yourself.

It could be just what you need to help you get your second wind, renew your strength, and help you finish strong.

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