Dear Teacher in a Rut,
You never dreamt you were going to be the kind of teacher who would get stuck in a rut. As a matter of fact, you were the teacher who said that would never happen to you.
But here it is, it has happened. You look around your classroom and wonder what happened to that teacher who was so full of passion and creativity? You look in the mirror and wonder where is my teacher self? I see you, and I am standing right beside you, in the same rut.
The last few years have brought so many changes in the field of education. The changes have been fast and furious; it is a wonder anyone could keep up. Standards changed, which meant tons of professional development and new textbooks. And unlike years passed, the textbooks changed for not just one subject area, but language arts, math, and science for most. Out with the old and in with the new.
It was an exciting time that quickly turned to an exhausting time. With each workshop, we were presented with yet another way the standards could be taught. We needed to know what it looked like, but there was no one to show us what it really looked like. Those “new” textbooks? Well, they did not quite match the standards. So the next few years had us spinning our wheels and writing our own curriculum, still not sure what the standards would look like. Add to all that, the growing amount of assessments, standardized testing, and data collection that was thrown onto our ever growing list of things to do each day.
Are you with me still? Is your head spinning or can you completely relate? I feel like I have invented and reinvented the wheel over the passed five years.
Half way though this year, I got stuck. I just stopped. I ran out of energy and passion. I became that teacher I said I would never be. I (gasp!) began to use worksheets and textbook materials that I despise. In my rut, I just could not find it in me to create Pinterest perfect lessons every day. If I'm being honest, I couldn't muster the energy or passion to create even one perfect lesson a week. I was just surviving. Just surviving in my classroom.
As spring break was approaching, I was beginning to feel my passion and energy return. I attended Get Your Teach On by Deanna Jump and Hope King. It was just what I needed to fuel my fire again. I was ready to have a relaxing vacation and come back to finish the year strong.
Then life happened. My daddy passed away during break and with one phone call, my life was forever changed. I don't know if you can ever truly be prepared for the death of a parent, but when it's unexpected...well...there's just no words.
I returned to my class and right back into my rut. I began to question whether teaching was still for me. After countless hours of soul searching, I know teaching is where I am meant to be. So now as the end of the year approaches, I am looking ahead to next year and the promise of getting out of my rut. Trust me, I am still stuck in a rut.
But you know what? I have learned that it’s okay. There is something to be learned from "the rut." When you stop just long enough to reflect on where you are and where you want to be, you learn things you may not have known before. I may not have had Pinterest worthy lessons this year, but my kiddos still had amazing gains. The worksheets and textbooks still supported the skills they needed to learn. Letting go and not having the "perfect" classroom or over the top lessons this year has taught me that there is no perfect way needed to teach. At the end of the day, the kiddos just need you, the teacher, to show up and teach, however that may look.
So if you find yourself stuck in the rut, take a deep breath. The year is winding down. Pack up your room, hugs your kiddos good-bye, and make time for yourself this summer. I know that's what I plan to do. Maybe I'll read a professional book or two to spark the passion again. I know come mid-July, I will be itching to get back into classroom and prep for next fall.
It happens every summer, you know the feeling, the feeling that says fall can't come soon enough. Some days, I think it's the best part of the job, knowing you get a clean slate and an empty room to rebuild every fall. We get to start fresh and energized.
And that rut you were in? It just suddenly disappears....
Click on any of the links below to visit the blog post about each of these other teachers. Chance are you'll be in one of these shoes sooner than you realize!
An Open Letter to the Teacher Who's a new Mom