In a classic Seinfeld episode, George Costanza proclaimed that he invented “it’s not you, it’s me.” Well, I hate to break it to you George, but teachers have been saying that way before you existed.
A parent complains about their child receiving low scores in your class. Forget the fact that the student has only turned in 20% of their homework assignments and failed to do the extra credit project… “It’s not you parents, it’s me. I should have communicated that your 16 year old son was having difficulty earlier in the grading period.” Oh yeah, that’s why you left 4 voicemails over the past 3 weeks.
Your administrator emails you about your students current math scores and how they’re below district average. You understand that they’re low but you’ve also voiced concerns how the pacing guide you’ve been forced to follow does not allow enough time for your students to comprehend the material. “It’s not you administration, it’s me. I need to find a way to make the curriculum work even though I know it’s not benefiting my students.”
I’ve been in the meetings where some district representative tells you how you are supposed to teach your kids. They tell you that they understand the struggles you face everyday, they were a teacher before too…yeah, 20 years ago.
I’ve been called to the administrators office because a parent complained about how I addressed their child’s misbehavior in my class. Okay, I guess next time I won’t intervene when the student unexpectedly throws their chair across the room because they weren’t picked to be the line leader for the day.
I used to always look in the mirror and wonder what I was doing wrong. I’d sit frustrated when speaking with administrators as they would ask questions such as “what more can you do?”
You’ve probably felt this way before too, maybe you’re even feeling this way now. If so, please know that sometimes…
It’s not you, it’s them.
The harsh reality of teaching is that sometimes you get that difficult kid you just can’t break through to, that your class this year is just going to be “that class.” Administrators get lost in the numbers and authentic learning goes out the window, while parents spend more time making excuses for their children than working with them on their homework.
When you feel you got the short hand of the deck it’s probably because you did!
So what can you do about it?
It’s time to thrive instead of survive.
The first thing to do is give yourself a break. It really isn’t you, it’s them. This isn’t meant to be a cop out for having a difficult class or underachieving test scores. Still, many teachers burnout because they keep searching for the answers when sometimes there are none.
Sometimes struggling students can’t be helped by behavior plans or interventions. Again, exhaust all resources before coming to this conclusion. We’ve all had those challenges that’s taken us an entire year to conquer. Just remember, you’re not going to win every battle and that’s okay.
Now that you’re taking it a little easier on yourself, it’s time to find some support.
Warning…it’s important to find the right kind of support.
Finding colleagues to complain to in this profession is easy…I mean really easy. When searching for support, look for colleagues who understand your struggles while offering solutions.
Find someone non judgmental. I know that sounds like a no brainer but this can be difficult. Teachers are prideful creatures, we never want to admit that the students are getting the best of us.
Yet here is something we all know but don’t like to admit to others in fear of being judged…The system is set up for the students to get the best of us.
You know who you can turn to on your staff. Lean on those you trust because the reality is, we’re all in the struggle together.
Find support outside of school.
Teacher support groups can be extremely beneficial and productive. The goal is to find a support network that is unbiased but understands the difficulties of the profession. One such group is WeAreTeachers on Facebook. This group provides a variety of forums that promote support, growth, and motivating of fellow educators.
Reach out to others in the profession, you’ll be surprised how many people have gone through the same struggles you’re dealing with and have lived to talk about it.
Okay, you’re not being so hard on yourself anymore and you have a good network of people supporting you, it’s time for the final step.
Find something outside of teaching that makes you happy.
This profession can consume your life really quick. One day your teaching Algebra and the next you’re coaching girls track, heading the community involvement committee, and tutoring after school.
I can’t begin to tell you how many conversations I’ve had with teachers that begin with them talking about things they love to do and end with “but I haven’t done that for over 5 years.”
You have to make time to do the things in life that bring you joy.
If this seems hard, that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to take baby steps. For instance, if you like to golf but don’t feel you have the time, play a round of 9 holes instead of 18.
Used to love sewing? Take on another project but set realistic expectations for completion. Set aside a little bit of time every night to work on it.
Take some you time. If anyone deserves it, you do!
Teachers are always asked to take the high road. No matter what the situation is, it seems like the customer is always right. We’re so used to shouldering the blame that we begin to believe we’re at fault most of the time. This can’t be further from the truth.
Be reflective of your actions, hold yourself to a high standard, and remember…A lot of times it’s not you, it them.