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I’m moving into my 20th year of teaching. Two decades. I feel effective. I feel like I can pinpoint character traits, learning styles, academic issues and self-esteem challenges within minutes of meeting a child. I feel like my students love school, demonstrate learning and retain material within a high margin, and if you go off of test scores (which I don’t) my test scores are consistently superb, with a majority of children scoring advanced and none on the unsatisfactory level.

But there are days that I still question myself. I question if I’m serving my students and families properly. I question if I’m doing everything in my power to meet the needs I see in my students and families. I question my teaching abilities and classroom management when I have ‘one of those days’. I question my skills.

Two decades seems like enough time to really have it all together and to be certain, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could do everything I’m doing in my sleep, without feeling inadequate or uncertain. I can come up with activities and lessons plans at a moments notice with very little to no materials if needed. It’s become second nature to me, just like it has for many of you.

The fact is I believe we all have this feeling, no matter how long we’ve taught. Our career field is fluid, constantly evolving and constantly requiring more and more from us with very little preparation to educate us as educators. It seems we are left to our own devices, wandering around trying to figure out what the next best classroom skills are without dropping into the ‘trend’ chasm. It seems like many administrators are trying to stay above water as well, handing down what they are being told by the state department of education with a shrug of their shoulders and a shake of their heads, silently apologizing for requiring yet more of what we are already struggling to give.

And I’m not complaining. Deep down I have that fire that is always burning, that knowledge that I know I’m exactly where I need to be doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do.

So through all of those times where you are struggling with that one particular child, or when your students leave at the end of the class period or day and you feel like you spent a majority of your time trying to manage classroom behavior and had no learning happening in your classroom whatsoever, or when the week ends and you feel beaten down and overwhelmed, just remember tomorrow is another day and you get to start over. And if you experience those feelings of ineffectiveness, loss of control or disappointment that you haven’t created that ‘light bulb’ moment for a particular student, remember, it’s those feelings that define you as the teacher who will make a difference in the lives of students.

And you are exactly where you need to be.

As we prepare for a new school year, embrace your colleagues, collaborate, share. Remember, we are in this together.

Paula has a Masters degree in education with an emphasis on child development and child behavior....

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