Last night, I went to see one of my favorite bands, With Confidence (and also Don Broco and State Champs) in concert.
One of my favorite songs by them is called Voldemort – this is also one of the ways they originally caught my attention, because obviously I’m going to be intrigued by any band who titles their songs after a Harry Potter theme!
As I thought about what I would write for this week’s #DCSDblogs post (The theme this week is Teachers Learning from Teachers), I started to realize that this song encompasses a lot of the things I wanted to talk about.
I remember the first night that she said
“Oh maybe I can do this on my own”
I am an incredibly stubborn and independent person, which is sometimes a flaw and sometimes an asset. When I set out on my first year of teaching, I was convinced that I could do everything myself. If I didn’t know how to do it, I could figure it out. The song is from the perspective of a friend who insists on being there for the girl described, even when she says she can do it on her own.
And I will try to hold you up
Through those times when you are gone
Despite the weather, it gets better
You won’t do this alone
In case any of you out there didn’t know yet…teaching is hard. My first year, I was overwhelmed and barely keeping afloat at times, and yet I continuously refused to ask anyone for help. Most of it was a little voice in my head that went, “you don’t have a specific question to ask, so you’re fine. You’ll figure it out.”
Heather, one of the other amazing math teachers in our building, worked herself into the cracks in my stubbornness over the course of the year. At the start of the year, when I refused all of her offers of help, she left me alone for awhile. As the year wore on, she would drop in occasionally and ask how things were going. Her questions got more and more specific – “do you need help with anything?” started to become “Which class is your most difficult this quarter? Is there anything you wish you could do to work with that?” and she made it harder and harder for me to just brush her off and pretend like I had everything under control.
I won’t even pretend this is a finished process today, because I still tend to think I can do things for myself, but Heather has helped to convince me that it’s not weakness to reach out for help in your classroom. We’ve built a relationship of bouncing ideas off of each other that now often will start a conversation off with “Okay, so I’m going to tell you this idea and I want your honest opinion even if it’s bad.”
I remember the first night that she went
To find her little place inside this world
The other piece of advice I’ve gotten that has hugely impacted my teaching was from one of my cooperating teachers in student teaching. On my first day in his classroom, Brian told me “I never take any work home. Home is my family place. If I bring things home, it starts to bleed into my time with them and hurts my relationship with them.”
Over the time I spent with him, he expanded on this idea to say that it doesn’t work for every teacher to take nothing home – he preferred to stay a little bit later at school in order to keep his home a work-free zone, but that the main point was to build boundaries for yourself.
It’s far too easy as a teacher to occupy yourself with the goings on of your classroom and your students every waking moment (and as I’m sure you can all relate, sometimes they spill into the sleeping moments too!). Obviously, this can be harmful to our existence as humans outside the classroom – our relationships with friends and family, our outside interests, etc.
In my first few years of teaching, I firmly adhered to Brian’s model of taking no work home – I didn’t mind staying at school later if I knew that when I got home, I wouldn’t have any work responsibilities at all. It’s only in the last year that I’ve been able to reflect on and reshape the model a little bit to better fit my own mindset and lifestyle – I still usually stay at school to do most of my lesson planning and grading, but now I’ll throw in a spare hour here and there at home to blog, or read blogs, or get the ideas down for a new activity before I forget them. The point is that you need your “little place inside this world”, like the song says, that separates your work from your personal life. We’re in a weird profession where the work follows you everywhere, and for our mental health it’s important to create those boundaries – whether they are physical, mental, or both.
As of right now, my boundaries are pretty much that I complete all must do work at school, and then extra things like blogging or a new idea or possibly getting ahead of the game if I have spare time and really feel like it can be done at home. That’s what works for me!
There’s a lot of things I’ve learned from other teachers so far, but those are the main few.
- you need help, and other teachers can give it to you (admitting it is not weakness)
- create some boundaries between work and your personal life
- having a teacher you can trust to bounce ideas off of that will respond with honesty and without judgement is golden
And I know that you’re holding out for better weather
And I can’t promise you that I’ll be round forever
If there’s one thing I know it’s that we’re good together
We’re good together. The people around you have a lot to offer you, I promise 🙂