How I Changed My Mindset and Learned to Love Teaching

I want to write to the teachers who feel resentful about their work. 

Sometimes teachers feel resentful about the pressure in their jobs. The stakes have gotten awfully high for teachers, haven't they? And we have virtually no control over so many variables that determine our "success" as a teacher. Students' home lives, classroom culture, school culture, different languages spoken in one classroom, different disabilities represented, different personality types that may or may not mesh with yours...we don't get to pick these things each year, and yet the finish line is the same no matter what. Whether that's a test, an observation...whatever data point it may be that measures your success, it centers around all of these little people whom you can teach, but you can't force them to overcome whatever is on their plate in order to learn. You reach some, but you can't reach them all the same way in one short year. 

And that makes some teachers resentful.

Sometimes teachers feel resentful about workload. Other careers don't have to take mountains of work home every night

and on the weekends.

 I have friends who work in PR and local government, and they get paid an hourly rate for anything they have to take outside of their workday to finish. But for teachers, it's an expectation to come in early or stay late to do the bare minimum of what students may need. They have to give up planning time for meetings with parents, planning meetings with other teachers, etc. etc. The expectations get higher, but the time to keep up with them keeps getting shorter. The longer a teacher stays after school and slaves over their work, the more esteemed they are. Family seems to fall second to so many of the "good" teachers, and there's not enough conversation about work/life balance in the education realm.

And that makes some teachers resentful.

Sometimes teachers feel resentful about a lack of support. They feel that they only get recognition for the one time they misstep, but the dozens of times they went out of their way in a week went unnoticed. They feel that the wrong people get staff recognition at their school, or there's no culture of recognition or celebration in their school. And it wears on them. In one week, a teacher may have defended their teaching choices to multiple parents, been observed because their principal didn't see evidence of something during their first observation, turned in lesson plans to multiple school personnel to provide accountability...the list can go on. Feeling like your decisions aren't really yours to make, because your choices are never good enough is defeating.

And that makes some teachers resentful.

I can write about these things because I have been guilty of thinking and feeling

all of them

But feeling this way about my job did not make me happy. I dreaded Mondays...so much so that I started to feel panicky on Sunday afternoons when I realized my weekend was coming to an end. 

But I really worked my butt off to get into teaching. I knew there were people out there who loved teaching, and trying to be that person rather than start a new career path really felt like the easier move. But I just couldn't consistently fall in love with it.

And then I got to observe a teacher at a different school from my own. Her classroom was magic. Her students genuinely loved her and loved being in there. I had always had strong relationships with my students, but I had never seen anything like the relationship this teacher had built. I only got to be in her room for 25 minutes, but I was hooked. I wanted to know how she found this passion for teaching amidst all of the stress, pressure, and extra work. So I asked her. Her answer struck me and literally changed me in that moment.

She said that being a teacher was part of her path. She believed that being put here, in her school, with her students, was where she was meant to be. Her classroom was her mission field. It wasn't her purpose she was fulfilling by being in the classroom, it was God's. And it wasn't fair to her students to be caught up in the drama of education or of her school and distract from why she was put there. 

Now, if you're religious you can pull a lot from that. I think I have always believed that everything plays out the way it is supposed to, but that's been easier to apply to the things that I feel I had a say in. Becoming a mom is a good example of this. I chose to do that, so it's easy to say that my babies are all part of "the plan"...they were

my plan.

Now, it wasn't in my plan for teaching to be so hard. So it's been less easy for me to stay positive about the purpose I am fulfilling by doing it. I'm not in the classroom now, but I find my new job even more difficult than teaching...and I have had to remind myself of these words every week. Viewing my work as my mission field hit me so much harder than I can write here. It has completely changed me. 

It's not fair to our students to get hung up on the things we can't control, y'all. Our jobs are to smile, nod, and do what's right for kids. Don't surround yourself with colleagues who pull you down. Don't answer parent emails at home. Don't distract yourself from why you're really there. View your classroom as your mission field and get busy doing work with a higher purpose. 

That isn't going to take away the pressure, but you may stop taking the pressure personally.

This won't alleviate any of the work, but you may start seeing the purpose behind the work, and it will feel easier to do.

It may not get you anymore support, but when you feel that you are living your purpose, you don't need support from anyone else. You feel happy right where you're at, and you don't need others to tell you you're doing things well. 

I hope these words strike you the way they did for me, and I hope you have a happy week teaching. 

XOXO, Stephanie

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Stephanie Sutherland