1st-Year Teacher Nervous Breakdown

Discussion in 'New Teachers' started by crystalline, Feb 20, 2009.

  1. crystalline

    crystalline Rookie

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    Feb 20, 2009

    I have gotten myself into quite the large hole.

    I'm a Special Education teacher in Baltimore, MD. I began teaching through the Baltimore City Teaching Residency and therefore haven't gone to school for teaching, let alone Special Education. I worked in schools throughout college but this is entirely different. I've been transfered from one school to another already, in October, and have had my content switched from Special Ed Language Arts and Social Studies (I was an English major, so this was a good fit) to Special Ed Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and Math, with my group of VERY VARIED 7th and 8th graders in my room all day with the exception of their SPAR class.

    Kids alone are awesome. Well, we have our problems but I can deal with them. It's the administration. Heck, it's all the adults in the building. I stay at work til 8pm every night but I still get nothing I need done. There is always something more that is needed from me that I have no idea what it is. I didn't go to school for Special Ed... I'm just learning as I go. This is craziness. I have spent $4000+ on supplies for our classroom, and I don't mind that, but I feel as if no one is meeting me halfway. I am told continually what is WRONG and hardly ever what is working. I don't feel respected or appreciated and I dread each day.

    I dread the adults. I don't dread my students. I love my students.

    Anyway, I've been out of work for 3 days now due to an absolute nervous breakdown and the worst part is I haven't talked to my school about it. I've been going back and forth between quitting and not quitting and I can't come to any kind of decision. I don't know what to say to my school so I don't say anything... and the days drag on. Today is Friday.

    I'm not hoping to get hired again next year. I don't even have certification. I want more than anything to go to Graduate school full-time to get my Master's and certification. So I'm not worried about "getting a good review," which, hrm, is obviously out the window now. But I do want to finish the year if it's possible. I need some of this PRESSURE to be alleviated. I put quite enough pressure on myself without constant abuse from others in the school. I WANT to make things better. I still do, even sitting here staying home from school, I'm just not sure how.

    Any advice on what I could say when I go back to school on Monday (that's the plan, at least)? If I'm not fired already? I was wrong to not go to work, and I know that, and I'm very sorry, but I don't want to just bow down and apologize for everything. That kind of thinking and action drove me to this point. How can I be assertive yet humble?

    Agh!:dizzy:
     
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  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Feb 20, 2009

    When you say that you were out for 3 days but didn't talk to your school about it, do you mean that you didn't call in? If so, that's sort of a problem, and it's pretty likely that your employment has been terminated. No call/no shows are pretty bad in any profession, and especially so in teaching. I'm not trying to get down on you for that--I understand that you were going through some messy stuff. But I am trying to be honest with you about what's most likely.

    The truth is that maybe this position isn't right for you. You might need to decide whether you can stick it out for the rest of the school year or leave now--if that choice will even be yours to make.

    There is no reason for a teacher to be regularly staying at school until 8 PM or spending $4,000 on his or her classroom. That is a problem, and it's no wonder that you're feeling some stress! Why have you spent so much money? Why are you staying so long?
     
  4. crosscountryski

    crosscountryski Companion

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    Feb 20, 2009

    Hi

    I am in the exact same position that you are. Read "ready to crack" post in special ed forum. I teach a self-contained special ed class in a large urban district in the southwest region. I have these student all day except for specials. I get to deal with behaviors on a daily basis from students/staff/admin. My students are great for the most part. I went to college and got a master's degree in special ed, so I am trained in doing this job. Just lacking experience because I am a first year.

    I am ready to crack. They put me on paid leave for the last 6 days for stupid things. My admin is unsupportive and spends more time searching for what is wrong versus finding what I am doing right. When you hear day after day what is wrong, you question if this is the job for you or is it the school or the state. Every day, I go in and feel like a failure when I leave. I am just not happy at this school. I love teaching special education.

    I am the type of person that stays late and brings work home on the weekend. It is the only quiet time I have to write IEPs and do lesson plans. That will change when I go back. No staying late. I will only bring home IEPs on the weekends.

    I used my budget to buy stuff for my classroom. I refused to use my own money. I can't afford it with $50,000 in school loans.

    Good luck
     
  5. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    Feb 21, 2009

    What has helped me TREMENDOUSLY is writing in journal every day. I write down what worked and what didn't. This helps me really focus on the positives. I always write down positives/motivators. I believe that this prevents any breakdowns. Plus, next year I can go back to my journal and look at what worked and what I have learned.

    I would not stay until 8:00 every night. You need your time. I leave at about 4:00. Bring your work home if you have to and watch tv or listen to music as you're grading and whatnot.
     
  6. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    Feb 22, 2009

    Is there anybody (another teacher or admin who has taught before) who can mentor you? Every teacher new to the building SHOULD be given a mentor of some sort. I'm a certified teacher and I was given a mentor, plus I have my guidance counselor helping me, and my best co-worker helping me.

    I had a recent break down in front of the guidance counselor (no kids around at least) and she privately spoke to my best co-worker to make sure she gives me some guidance and was very happy to hear that I already sought out guidance from the person. TEACHERS NEED TO HELP OTHER TEACHERS! Please, get yourself somebody to help!

    If you fail to find anybody at your actual school, even an educator at another school or online I'm sure could help you do wonders. My God where would I be if I didn't have other teachers to talk to and I've been trained to do this!?!
     
  7. crosscountryski

    crosscountryski Companion

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    Feb 22, 2009

    Hi

    In my school, I do not feel that I can trust anyone. They spend more talking talking behind your back. I had a wonderful mentor teacher and she managed to stab me in my back. So, who do you trust? I lost track how many breakdowns I had in my classroom with no students in there. Love teaching, hate my school. Any ideas on how to survive the next 3 months.

    thanks
     
  8. PinkFish

    PinkFish Rookie

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    Feb 22, 2009

    I feel the same!!! I had to take one day off because I got to school early and was so upset to be there that I threw up! I took the day off, then next day I broke down to my mentor (which didn't really help...). I went to the Doctor and I now carry Xanax with me everyday. When I get worked up I take one. I feel that I can't really trust anyone at my school and I moved a long ways from home. The only think keeping me going at the moment is that I get to fly home for Spring break in 19 days. I am using that time to job search for jobs closer to my family... I can't wait until the end of the year!!!
     
  9. crosscountryski

    crosscountryski Companion

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    Feb 22, 2009

    Hi

    Wow! PinkFish, I am in the exact same position. Counting down the days until Spring break so I can go back home. Our spring break is in April.. I am also using that time to attend a job fair for an education job closer to my home. I am counting down the days until the end of the year. We get out June 4/5 and by June 7, I am moving out of my apartment and making the move home.

    I have not gone to the doctor yet. I suspect that I will need to. I am just so depressed and homesick. Not eating much or sleeping too much. I never should have moved 1000 miles away from home for my first teaching job. I regret it and not happy. Here it is Sunday, and I am already stressing about tomorrow. I am coming back after being gone for a couple of days. Couple parents request conferences since I have been gone. My aide drives me nuts and wants things her way. Guess what? She does not have a teaching license. Tired of trying to please admin, aide, mentor teacher, students, and parents. Now, I know why I am ready for a nervous breakdown. I just hope I don't crack and wait for spring break. 30 days to go!

    Thanks
     
  10. chebrutta

    chebrutta Fanatic

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    Feb 22, 2009

    Amen, BioAngel. Amen.
     
  11. PinkFish

    PinkFish Rookie

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    Feb 22, 2009

    Cross-
    I KNOW totally how you feel!!!! I also moved 1,000 miles from my home! I thought it would be so easy but its NOT! I knew I would miss home but I am really miserable. I miss my friends, my family, and my dogs. I feel so alone here. I too am already stressed about the upcoming week. Lucky I just have three more weeks and I will be back home.
     
  12. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Feb 22, 2009

    I wonder if the OP can give us an update...?
     
  13. crystalline

    crystalline Rookie

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    Feb 23, 2009

    Goodness. While it's nice to not feel alone, it's sad that there's several others out there in the same boat.

    Cassie753, I think you're right. I don't think this position, at this school, at this time of my life, is for me. I spent a large portion of the weekend planning lessons for this week but still, Monday is here, and I could not make myself go in. One of my students called me this weekend and left me a message asking me where I was but I still couldn't do it. I bought many natural calm and happiness remedies and have a very supportive boyfriend and friends... but...

    It's the school AND me. I'm not trying to eschew all responsibility here. I do not have the training, resources, or strength of character yet to take on this unbelievably difficult position. I feel so far behind that I can never get out of this hole.

    My school doesn't get out until 3:50, so leaving at 4 is impossible. But 8 everyday is still late. I started to unravel when the Special Education administrator accused me of "doing nothing" in my room. If she had said "doing everything wrong" I would've agreed with her, but doing nothing? Absolutely not!

    I gave my ALL to this position. I ate, breathed, and slept teaching at this school with these kids. I spent so much money because a) my school won't make copies for me--some kind of weird hazing ritual perhaps, but really messed up if you ask me, b) we have no science or U.S. history textbooks/resources c) we didn't have enough board space so I bought a few white boards to use in the classroom d) I (sometimes the kids bring things in too) buy snack everyday since we're in class together for SO LONG and their lunch food is atrocious e) we didn't have a computer, I asked so many people, got fed up and bought a cheap-$400-computer for our classroom.

    For a teacher with no training--which Baltimore KNEW they were getting...that's what they get with the approx. 400 people they hire each year through the Teaching Residency program-- I feel like I've done VERY WELL. I even feel like I'm getting better at actually teaching. But because I work with Special Ed, mostly ED and behavior problem students, the biggest thing I had to work at was creating MOTIVATION and CLASS COMMUNITY and I **know** I did that. Students started attending class that no one thought would actually stay within the classroom. Students came back to my classroom and said, "Ms. G, you made me want to learn today." or "Ms. G, I came to your class and did work because you're the only teacher who I felt was teaching things I didn't know already. You really wanted to teach me." or "Ms. G, did you know you're the only teacher I'll read out loud to? You don't judge me so it's cool." and I could go on and on and I'm crying because I REALLY loved/love my students and they're the reason I kept doing this everyday and they should be the ones that school is about. School should be about kids! But it isn't. Not mine at least. My successes with students--teaching, motivating, relating to them-- were not appreciated or even acknowledged by anyone who mattered at school. They tore me down--and I know they are stressed too, everyone in Baltimore is stressed as hell- to a point where I couldn't focus on my kids anymore.

    I know I'm not alone. I'm not trying to win a sympathy medal or anything. I applaud--more than applaud, but I can't think of the word I want-- anyone who stays in their schools with that amount of stress and unhappiness. I applaud anyone who can dust that proverbial dirt off their shoulders and just work with their students. THEY'RE WHY THOSE SCHOOLS ARE CONSTRUCTED, THEY'RE WHY WE TEACH, THEY'RE THE REASON FOR EVERYTHING.

    Other teachers, and administrators even, would ask me, "Why do you even bother with (student name)?" WTF?

    Why do I even bother trying to jump through your hoops and try to please you would be a better question to ask. Why do I bother with students? BECAUSE THAT'S MY JOB!!! It's my job and it's why I exist!!

    I wish I had consciously dealt with this earlier... maybe I wouldn't have fallen into such a hole and things wouldn't have spiraled out of control. That's another thing I'd like to learn--coping mechanisms besides escapism/ignoring. Those just bite you in the butt later on.

    I still want to teach---more than ever before, actually. I know it's going to be very difficult/nearly impossible in the state of Maryland from now on. But I'm going to get the education and credentials I need and I know my passion and drive will shine through to Principals in the future.

    I'm extremely frustrated with the state of education and the way students are considered/not considered but personally, I feel liberated and scared, yes, of the future, but excited too. I'm only 22 so I've still got a lot to do.

    I think teachers are the most awesome people out there. I made a shirt for my friend that says "Teachers are f***in awesome!" with a red apple on it that I'd give to all of you if I could ;)
     
  14. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Feb 23, 2009

    I feel so awful for you, crystalline - and the others in the same boat. What a crime it is that school environments should be so toxic. One reason I teach at a private school is to avoid such environments. Although the money isn't good, it may be an alternative to consider in the future.

    Keep us in the loop, ladies. You are amazing for even wanting to continue to teach after you've been treated so badly.
     
  15. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    Feb 23, 2009

    crystalline-my school last year sounds exactly like your school this year. One of my colleagues had to stop coming to work because the principal would tell her every day he would fire her if it wasn't for the union. The kids put 409 cleaner in her coffee and he didn't lift a finger. He would sit in her room and watch them throw paper at her, and write her up for lack of discipline instead of putting a stop to the complete lack of disrespect.

    There are schools that are so completely backwards in the way they work. The teachers who work there perpetuate the craziness, and I still have no idea why. When I look back at the teachers that stayed there (we had a completely new staff the year I worked there-big surprise), the only teachers who stayed probably wouldn't be able to bring their bad attitudes and watered-down teaching anywhere else. The school is falling apart at the seems.

    Rise above, crystalline. Leave that environment if it will give you peace of mind. I left the terrible school in February of that year, and it was the best thing I could have done. Hopefully you will find a school in the future that loves and supports you-it sounds like many teachers on these boards have. But it's difficult, and for those of us who have gotten caught in these types of schools, sometimes it seems impossible. Make a clean break, though. You are not failing the students, you are protecting your mental health. Take time to revive your passion and then dive into the interview season. It sounds like this is a very dangerous school, if for nothing else than your mental health, so I would simply tell future employers that you left for safety reasons.
     
  16. hopefulnovice

    hopefulnovice Rookie

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    Feb 23, 2009

    Crystalline -

    You are one of many. MOST first year teachers are going through terrible times. Many just don't show it, so, perhaps even at your school there is someone who is suffering, and you just don't know.
    I completely understand what emotional heartbreak you are going through. It's not you - it's the school. The fact that you care about the kids so much already is telling me that you are a GREAT teacher. You are doing wonderful considering the circumstances. Should you quit? I really don't know...Talk to someone who is teaching with your type of credentials. Will quitting hurt you later on? Will schools be reluctant to hire you because you'll have only several months of teaching as opposed to a full year on your resume?
    I am a new teacher too. I had a horrible first semester, and I'm still not content here, in my school, but it's a bit better. It's better because I realized that I am doing the best I can, and it's the school that is making me miserable. I decided to stick it till the end of the year, just because I'm afraid quitting will haunt me in the future, especially in this economy.
    Be proud of yourself - look how much you've achieved! You got experience, you learn every day, you are so much tougher than you were in the beginning of the year. This experience is making a much better teacher out of you, believe it or not. So my advice to you - do the best you can now, take as much as you can with you from this experience, but look somewhere else for sure. That is what I am doing. I'm actually excited! The job fair season is coming up, I know what I want, and so do you. Best of luck!
     
  17. Kangaroo22

    Kangaroo22 Virtuoso

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    Feb 23, 2009

    Crystalline--if it makes you feel any better I just resigned from my position a couple of months ago and am basically content with the decision I made. I know that if I decide to teach it will be extremely hard for me to get a job, but at the same time my health was suffering and no job is worth that.

    I moved back to where I was from and while it has been embarrassing to admit that I couldn't handle it. But it has been worth it even though I'm worried about what I'm going to do in the future. I can now weigh career options while working a part-time job where I can truly leave my work at work and have time to job search while I'm at home. Good luck!
     
  18. ZoomZoomZOOM

    ZoomZoomZOOM Devotee

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    Feb 23, 2009

    Okay, I've read all the posts to date and all I can think of is - you've got to get away from that school. Stupid admin. I'm mad FOR you. >:-( What you said about them saying stuff like "why do you bother with so-n-so..." Jeesh. As a parent that would break my heart to know that admin felt that way about my child. Good for you for sticking by those kiddos when the rest of the school has all but abandoned them. Not to say that you should feel guilt-tripped into staying there though. Those kiddos are doomed in that kind of environment. (I do think that's awesome that the kids have told you what a difference you've made to them. Wow! That's the best praise you can get!)

    Not all first year sped teachers are in your position. But I know that I'm very lucky to have the good admin that I do. And trust me, I have my share of gripes about them, but all-in-all, they're a good group of people that care about the kids. Though they don't come in and give me atta-boys, they don't rag on me either. So I guess I have it pretty lucky. And I do love my job.

    Judging by your posts and the amount of personal money you've spent on supplies - it sounds like you're a dedicated professional and a great teacher. I hop that you will take other's advice and find work in the private sector - or just move to a different school. Our kiddos deserve good teachers like yourself. Don't let a $hitty admin keep you from doing what YOU want to do.

    Good luck.
     
  19. crystalline

    crystalline Rookie

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    Feb 24, 2009

    Thank you everyone for your advice and SUPPORT!! I went back and talked to many administrators at my school yesterday and I feel a lot better about things. I feel slightly more respected than I did before, even considering my horrible no-show/no-call/nervous breakdown episode, and I appreciate that. The admin wanted me to finish out the year, and I wanted to too, so here I am, writing this from my classroom, actually. I've put it out in the open that I only wish to finish this year and then go back to school for Masters in Teaching and Elementary certification and consequently I feel a huge weight lifted off of me. My Principal is not on my back every two minutes. He sees that I'm here because I adore my students and they adore me back I don't feel so much pressure to be perfect. I'm still staying late, it's 7pm right now, but I feel like getting through the next 60-something days and finishing grad school applications, etc. will be surmountable.

    YAY!!! And I'm signed up to get counseling for anxiety through the school system, which is something I really really need. I wish everyone the best of luck and hope that they find exactly what they need ASAP. <3
     
  20. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Feb 24, 2009

    Yay! I'm glad it turned out as it did.
     
  21. crystalline

    crystalline Rookie

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    Mar 6, 2009

    Update: I went back to school and taught for about a week and a half before a relapse of this same anxiety, helplessness and futility came back. When I came back, I talked with some administrators and voiced my concerns (and apologized for my unprofessional way of dealing with the stress) but nothing really changed.

    Truth is, I've done my absolute best considering the situation and my limited resources. I can't do this anymore.

    I know my students are PISSED. One of them, who has my cellphone memorized (sigh, he got the # from his grandmother) called me about 10 times since yesterday. The last time he left me this horrible message. It made me sick to listen to it. I feel horribly yes, but there's nothing more I can do.

    Professional suicide? Maybe. I don't have certification yet so it's not as if my certification will be taken away. I don't plan on staying in this state to teach. I miss my family too and I plan to move closer to them. I plan to go to Graduate school and become the best friggen teacher ever, and I know that eventually I will become this. I need to find the right university and then even more importantly, the right school afterwards where I can flourish and work hard and be appreciated for all the work I do.
     

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