Each week in the series Diary of a First-Year Teacher, an anonymous first-grade teacher will share her confessions, musings, struggles, and successes during the first year of her teaching career in rural Mississippi.
Spring break has come and gone, leaving me with a mind that’s refreshed, rejuvenated, and a tad apprehensive about the final nine weeks of school.
It is an incredible thing to separate yourself from responsibilities and obligations for a brief window of time. As a teacher, just being responsible for yourself for a few days is the best way to relax.
I was thinking about responsibility during my nine days off, and thought that all my responsibilities prior to my teaching career seemed comically minor in comparison to leading my classroom of little learners. My leadership roles in college certainly held significance at the time, but there is a vast difference between holding the responsibility for a campus event and the developmental learning of a class of first graders. This responsibility and pressure is the most stressful part of my job.
For the past eight months, I’ve been consumed with teaching my students. My mind races with thoughts like: How can I be a better teacher for my students? What gaps am I not addressing? What students could be pushed further? Am I showing enough urgency to overcome the great difficulties in my children’s lives?
I've had many days where I fight back tears because I know that I am not doing everything I need to for my students.
Needless to say, I spend many nights tossing and turning, worrying how I’ll do the next day. I’ve had many days where I fight back tears because I know that I am not doing everything I need to for my students. Teaching is an all-consuming job.
Not only does it often consume my nights, and frequently result in classroom-based nightmares, but being a better teacher often requires being a better and stronger person while on the job. It requires digging deeper to find another few hours of patience. It means being an example all day. It requires being energized from the time the students walk in the door in the morning until they leave the room at dismissal.
Spring break was a glorious escape from all that. It allowed my mind to be free from that responsibility for a short period of time. It allowed for the incredibly important “me time.”
One of the challenges of being a first-year teacher is having the least “me-time” you’ve ever experienced. It’s easy to be drained and feel very separated from who you were prior to taking on the commitment of a classroom. I hear this will even out in time as you learn to set better boundaries, make time for yourself, and be more of yourself in the classroom.
As teachers, we so desperately need these breaks to remind ourselves of who we are. I’ve learned that after a break, we become more of ourselves in the classroom and as a result, we become better teachers.