- Frederick Douglass: “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” - July 4, 2021
- President Biden Pushes For Teachers To Get Their COVID Vaccine Dose By March - March 2, 2021
- We’re Just People Who Don’t Want To Be Killed! A Student Reflection About Insurrection - January 26, 2021
- Betsy DeVos Resigns: Most Teachers Say Good Riddance - January 8, 2021
- Class Divide in Emergency Learning: A Crisis Overseas - September 10, 2020
- Practicing Self-Care in the Midst of Chaos - August 31, 2020
- Do the Work: Equity Symposium for Teachers - August 23, 2020
- Universities Collaborate on the Biggest Experiment in Higher Ed: Reopening - August 3, 2020
- The Day of Teacher Self-Care is Happening August 1, 2020 - July 21, 2020
- Do the Work: A Conversation Around Anti-Racist Teaching in K-12 Schools - June 14, 2020
This whole month we're discussing teachers building their personal brands. Take a moment and read the previous articles here.
For years, I thought that being bitter came with the territory of being a teacher. When I first entered the classroom, I was a bubbly person always volunteering to lead a committee or sponsor an after school activity; however, by year five I was burnt out. Sensing I was becoming bored, I decided it was time to relocate to another city. Upon finding a new position I was re-energized, but by year three I gradually felt my old feelings coming back. I was once again feeling burnt out and bitter all over again. My feelings weren't toward the kids, but with the politics that run abound in districts and schools across the country. During faculty meetings, I'd find myself mutter angrily at new policies, scowling at the administration team, and smirking at the attempts at educational change. I was officially a 'bitter teacher'.
My frustration stemmed from a number of things such as the effects these 'new' initiative had on students in the classroom, about the pressures being placed on teachers, our pay being steadily decreased and our professionalism constantly being 'beat up' in the media.
Unable to contain my bitterness, I seriously consider leaving the profession- for good. Feeling like I was at my boiling point, I decided to schedule a meeting with my mentor who is not in education. She listened intently to all of my complaints then handed me a quote by Jim Rohn that read, "If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into some else's life plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much." This quote seemed to speak to me directly. The problem was that I was living someone else's life plan.
I reflected on my time in school and my time in the classroom and it seemed like I was always at someone else's will. During the last ten years, I had ridden the roller coaster many other educators had been passengers on. I had been promoted, switched school districts, taken several pay cuts, been furloughed numerous times, been looked over for a promotion to someone less qualified, was voted "Teacher of the Year", had cried and laughed. And I had become bitter. During all of those professional changes, the one thing that I realized was that I had always waited on the school district to validate my worthiness.
When they didn't (by either not picking me for a position or by not respecting my professionalism) it literally had taken away my joy of being in the classroom. Knowing I needed an immediate intervention, I decided that I needed to start working on my plan. Overwhelmed by everything I had to do, I decided to take some time to really develop my plan by doing the following things:
1. I took the summer off to recollect my thoughts. For the past ten years, I had worked every summer. Sometimes I worked in the district's summer school program, while other times I worked programs around the metro area. This past summer I did not work at all. Instead, I gathered my thoughts and just relaxed my brain. During this time, I really developed a plan for me as an educator. I made goals of where I wanted to be in the next year and the steps I had to take meet my goals. I even created a vision board so that I could visually see where I wanted to be professionally. Being off for 8 weeks allowed me time to actually research different opportunities and just take some time to renew myself.
2. I took advantage of professional development, which would make me a stronger professional. Many times I avoided professional development because quite honestly it stressed me out. I always seemed to be in the session with someone totally unqualified to give advice about being in the classroom so I'd use my time to grade papers, etc. Instead of that summer, I took time and researched conferences, workshops, and webinars dealing with education. Through those professional development opportunities, I was able to really redevelop my professional plan and become excited about the essence of being in the classroom. It was refreshing to meet other teachers from around the country and understand that other teachers were experiencing what I was experiencing. I networked with organizations and discovered some great opportunities for me professionally. Click here for tip #3.
3. I decided that once school started in the fall, it would be all about the kids- forget the cumbersome policies that weighed me down previously. Many times being in the classroom we're 'weighed down' with policies that seem to only frustrate us. Beginning this year, I decided that everything was about the kids and their learning and anything else was not necessary. Instead of signing up for 10 committees throughout the school, I only signed up for one and I limited the after school activities so I could focus solely on student learning and nothing else. So many times teachers are asked to do so much around the school, that by the time they get home they're exhausted. Limiting what I do outside the classroom, gives me the time to make it homes with enough energy to live my life.
4. I worked on my plan. It's that simple. I worked (and am still working) on my plan. From day one, I kept my plan in my vision and I decided to work on that instead of trying to fit into other people's plans. I made mini goals every month so that the task did not seem so daunting and constantly I've reworked my plan. Instead of getting upset about minor setbacks (not being picked for a position,etc.) I decided to focus on making me a better educator. I still have moments where I get bitter about something trivial (passed up for an opportunity, or policy makes absolutely no sense, etc.) but those moments are rare and in between. Now, I spend time helping my co-workers overcome their bitterness and creating life plans. I've come to realize that my plan is for me. It doesn't matter at this point if the district every recognizes my 'worth' as a teacher. I recognize it and that's all that matters.