Personal Growth,  Teach,  Teacher Development

Feeling Stuck in Teaching? Three Action Steps to Start Feeling UNstuck!

This past school year was…difficult. Not only did I struggle with my transition back to work after my maternity leave, but I also just felt stuck in my profession. I started to feel trapped in my classroom and my heart was stretched in a million directions. I felt the pull towards home and being with Olivia, but I also missed the freedom I used to have with my job–coming and going when I wanted, not feeling rushed to complete my tasks, hanging out after school with students, and running extracurriculars. I also felt stagnant in what I was teaching. I was scheduled to teach five World Studies classes, and I felt so bored. This was my fifth year teaching this prep, but In the past, I taught at least one other class throughout the day, which helped to keep things fresh. This year, it felt like I was on repeat, all day, everyday. 

This feeling of being stuck often brought me down. I was negative with my colleagues, complained a lot, and just wasn’t really myself both at home and at school. While I really struggled with the feeling of being completely STUCK throughout the year, there are a few things I tried that helped me at times to begin to feel more positive and inspired by my work. These are things that I am continuing to work through this summer so I can come back refreshed and better prepared for my students and myself. These three strategies helped me start to see the light this year, so I hope they can help you, too! 

Try something new: This past year, my school started the transition to becoming a STEM school. While this raised some concern for the future of our social science department, it gave me the opportunity and tools to try something new. We have been working to transition our World Studies curriculum to one that is largely project based, so with this STEM transition, we went full steam ahead. We implemented a few new units and projects throughout the year. We also incorporated the Design Thinking Process, a STEM approach to learning in which students learn about an issue in order to build empathy and understanding, define what the problem is that is going to be addressed, develop a plan or solution for addressing the problem, “test” their solutions by presenting them to their peers, receive feedback, and then use this feedback to revise and improve their solutions. This approach to thinking and learning allowed our students to see learning as a process that is never fully finished. By developing an idea, having others look at it to evaluate and provide feedback, and then using this feedback to improve their ideas, my students started to understand that there is always room for growth and improvement. This fresh approach to my curriculum helped flex some new muscles in my mind and helped me to feel a little unstuck and more excited about teaching. 

Sample student project for causes, effects, and potential solutions to community issues.
Sample student project for causes, effects, and potential solutions to community issues.

Embrace the journey: This past school year, I did a lot of reflection on my inability to do just this. I am a perfectionist by nature, and while I usually see the positive side of things, the struggle of this past year led me to become frustrated and angry at my situation. These emotions led me to ask some really difficult questions of myself. How do I want to spend my day everyday? Was I good at being a teacher? Do I even want to be a teacher?  While it was not pretty, and often times not fun, this emotional journey led me to dig deeper, and really figure some things out. It also helped me to deal with some of my perfectionist ideas and realize it is ok for everything to not go smoothly, and that in my struggle, I can grow. As I start planning for next school year, I want to keep this journey in mind. The school year is a process. It is a time not only for students to learn, but for teachers as well. 

My desk nook 2018-2019.

Work on getting yourself U N S T U C K: This is where the real work is coming in this summer. Based on a recommendation from one of my very thoughtful colleagues, I am currently reading and working through the activities in Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators and The Onward Workbook: Daily Activities to Cultivate Your Emotional Resilience and Thrive. This book is a year long journey for teachers to dive in, ask tough questions, and build their resilience in order to feel stronger and better equipped for this challenging profession. While the focus of this book is on education, I have found that many of the reflection questions lead me to think about myself inside and outside of the classroom, and so I truly feel that this work is going to help me be a better teacher, wife, mom, and individual all around. I am excited for this journey and will work to share it throughout this year. 

I would love to hear your thoughts and if you have any other advice for how to feel UNstuck!

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