Teacher, I see you in the back row with one hand covering half your downturned face. You’re struggling, exhausted, and wondering how you can keep going on. Hoping that like Mia in Princess Diaries, you are invisible and good at it, so no one knows. So that no one realizes you are a tired teacher.
Teacher friend, this is for YOU.
You may not see it while you’re so overwhelmed with your teaching worries and struggles. But I see your value to children. Today, I want to remind you of that. If you’d rather listen to the podcast version, you can find it HERE.
Tired Time of Year
This point in the school year sneaks up on me, but it’s a tough time. October and November sound like they’d be easy to get through, but they’re some of the hardest of the year. Maybe it’s because of the holidays coming up. Now that we’ve had some time to tread through this year we’ve had a chance to notice the deficiencies in some of our students. Maybe some of them aren’t quite ready for the grade they’re in now.
On top of that, grading periods are ending. Parents are upset about grades. PD is coming. Growth plans are due.
We have reasons to be tired right now! On top of that is the new stress, anxiety, and worry of COVID-19. That’s more than enough to make you a tired teacher.
I want to help you reconnect with your passion. With your WHY behind you do what you do.
We just finished with Halloween. Candy and costumes everywhere! I tell my husband it’s the most exhausting time of year. Not only do you have the party and dress up, but the weeks follow when the kids are still eating all the candy. Halloween is the holiday that just won’t end! I promise I’m not a Scrooge for Halloween. 🙂
Story of a Tired Teacher
I want to share a story that may help you reconnect with your purpose. This is a story about a little girl. She was a student in second grade. From a teacher’s perspective, she was a hassle to deal with. It wasn’t really because of her behavior. Her parents weren’t involved, she would sleep in class, she didn’t get help at home, and it made her teacher’s job a little more difficult.
It was the day after Halloween trick-or-treat, which happened to fall on a weeknight. That little girl came in the classroom and couldn’t keep her head up. Her teacher had been out late with his children the night before, and he was frustrated, too.
He told her if she didn’t stay awake in class that she would be put in detention. She had never been in trouble. In fact, she was terrified of being in trouble. That fear did keep her awake the rest of the day.
What Really Happened
What her teacher didn’t know is what happened the night before. The girl’s mom had married an abusive man, and they lived in a little trailer right next to the highway. They got home about nine o’clock that night from trick-or-treating, and the little girl and her brother and sister were going through the candy and living the dream.
The husband had a little too much to drink, and he eventually became angry. The girl’s mother and her children were in danger. She snuck them out of the house and went down the highway headed to a friend’s house.
Can you imagine that little girl’s heart? She was scared and had to leave all her candy.
A car passed, and when the mother said jump, they went over the guardrail and got all scratched and bruised up. They were scared and tired.
Finally, it was quiet and they kept going. They found solace in the house of a kind neighbor. Somehow that little girl still found her way to her second grade classroom the next day.
What a Teacher’s Compassion Can Do
There was another teacher in that child’s life who came in and worked with her on skills because of her low vision. Her name was Miss Bess Douthitt. Although this teacher didn’t know the hardship the child had the night before, the love and respect she showed the little girl gave her hope of a better way.
Teacher friend, that little girl was me.
And to today’s little girl or boy, you are Miss Bess Douthitt.
Her spirit is in the heart of every loving teacher who pushes their own needs aside and shows up for children with sympathy and love for them that will change their lives.
Dear teacher, I know this time of year you are exhausted. Don’t forget why you’re here. I don’t share this story for pity, but to help remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing. You see, I KNOW it matters. Sometimes, as a result of many, many things, we let our focus and passion slip through our fingers.
Our problems can steal the joy we find in children if we let them.
The Why for the Tired Teacher
Simon Sinek wrote an incredible book called Start With Why. He says, “Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.”
You are here because you have passion in what you are doing. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have made it this far. You wouldn’t be here, in your precious free time, listening to me, trying to improve what you do and be happier in it. I know there is deep passion in you. My hope is that you let go of the stress long enough to reconnect with it.
I want you to realize what the world would be lacking if you gave up your profession. I’ve seen teachers on Facebook groups talking about leaving the classroom and finding a new profession. They say the money’s not worth it. The administrators expect too much.
All of those things may be completely true, and there’s a community of teachers like you who know that.
What we sometimes do is fall into the trap of a mindset that it’s not worth it. Where would children, our students, be if teachers did not sacrifice themselves to make sure they’re loved?
Where would little Toni be today if Bess Douthitt hadn’t shown up those years ago on the day after Halloween with the love and sympathy she had? What if she had decided the money wasn’t enough? Or a parent who didn’t give her respect was worth leaving what she loved to do?
Dear, tired, teacher, you were there for me. I needed you. You changed my life in monumental ways. Please remember the joy you have in being a difference maker.
Find YOUR Why
Simon Senek says when we do something with purpose and choose our why for what we do, we will succeed.
Teacher, you need to follow that model too. Start with this every day. Use the energy from it to guide everything you do.
Now, I really want to know your answer to this question: What is YOUR why?
Do you show up every day to serve children like me, who dream of the stability and hope a good education can provide? Or do you show up every day for the 15 minutes a day you get to spend reading an amazing story to your class? Do you stick around for the little grins and light bulb moments when students break through a barrier and connect with content? Maybe it’s a combination for you.
Personally, I want to give students the hope teachers gave me. I want to give them the lifelong effects of having an adult behind them who believes they can do whatever their little hearts lead them to do in their lives. I want to love kids in a way that warms their heart and shows them that this life is worth it.
All of that I owe to Bess Douthitt and to all the other teachers who looked past what was on the outside and reached for the potential inside that I may have never seen in myself.
The students in your class look at you and feel joy to have someone in their lives who looks at them, smiles at them, and makes them giggle.
Tired Teacher Challenge
If you’re near the point of giving up, I want you to stop and do something. Do it for me. Do it for yourself.
I challenge you to take out a notebook and pen or a blank document on your computer, and I want you to focus on your why.
- are you here?
- did you begin in this field?
- should you not stop now?
Use this to begin: I will keep on going because…
Let your heart flow. Write it down. Take time to think about it.
Our brains are filled with negative, all the things we need to do, all the things we didn’t get done, and it’s easy to lose focus on what’s most important.
This will give you new energy and help you remember what’s really important. Keep it in a safe place so you can go back to it later. If you want accountability, then send it to a friend, or email me your response, and I’ll read it with joy and gratefulness in my heart.
I’m not giving up on you, because so many great people never gave up on me.
One last reminder. Especially during our current times, let it be messy and imperfect. I’m a perfectionist, and sometimes I think that if it’s not perfect I’m not going to do it at all. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to let life be imperfect and focus on what’s most important: connecting with your kids and making them smile. Make them feel important in this world of insecurity.
Dear tired teacher, thank you for what you’re doing.
Please don’t give up.
Let me invite you to join the Primary Teacher Friends Facebook community. We’d love to support you and learn from you over there.
If you’d like some more ways to keep your passion fueled, there are suggestions in the Self-Care post HERE.
Keep making a difference!