Dealing with Depression and Personal Issues as a First Year Teacher

Discussion in 'Teacher Time Out' started by newteacher101, Sep 8, 2019.

  1. newteacher101

    newteacher101 New Member

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    Sep 8, 2019

    Greetings,

    I am genuinely looking for advice and support, as I'm not sure I've made the right decision for my career and want to do what's best for my students and myself. Apologies in advance for the wall of text.

    I am a first-year teacher in a "high-achieving" urban charter school, where I am teaching my college major content area to almost 150 sixth graders. I do not have my licensure at this point, but have taken education courses in college and was looking into going back for my masters in education. This school was one of the few in my area that offers my content area and was touted as being a school with excellent students and few behavior issues/high needs students. I thought this would be an excellent chance to flex my wings and teach.

    I'm three weeks in, and it is vastly different from what I thought it would be. Not just the general first-year "Holy crap, this is what teaching is like?", but the school itself is not what I thought it would be. I was told in my interview that I'd likely have around 5% of students on IEPs/504s, but right now its more like 20%, and is still growing as more students are tested. There are also A LOT of students with behavioral issues, and while I'm seeing improvements in some classes after readjusting my classroom management strategies, other classes are becoming more disrespectful towards me, even outright making fun of me behind my back.

    To top it all off, I'm drowning in all of the additional administrative tasks that are thrown my way, and have had a few testy moments with some helicopter parents already. One parent accused our whole team of targeting her student and said we were sexist towards him because we are all female. Luckily, our administration has our back when it comes to parent issues, but it still is not fun to be three weeks in and already have parent grief coming my way.

    Getting to the point, I have had issues with severe anxiety and depression. It has started to get worse over the past week or so, due to the workload, parent/student issues, and the amount of time I need to spend working. I knew I would be working long days, but I did not realize how exhausted I would be by the time the students left at 4. I miss having full weekends to rejuvenate, and by Sunday afternoons I'm dreading the upcoming week. While some people overprepare, my depression makes me slack off and lose my motivation to get things done. Or, on the flip side, my anxiety causes me to over-focus on tasks that may not be as important in the grand scheme of things, i.e. I'll spend an hour crafting an email response to a parent instead of grading that stack of quizzes that's been sitting there.

    To top things off, in my personal life, my mom just had a mammogram that came back negatively, and will be going in for a second test this November. I have a special needs sister who I would need to take care of if my mom got sick. My dad is not in the picture, and I live two hours away, so this is adding to my general emotional stress as well.

    At my last job, I had an emotionally abusive boss and was given duties that were not promised to me. I'm nervous that I may have gone into another environment that may cause more issues, and I'm looking for strategies from those who have been in a similar situation. I'm going to start seeing a counselor/doctor in the coming weeks I WANT to make it to the end of the year, but thinking about staying until June makes me more anxious, and I'm not sure if I can make it.

    If you've made it to this point, thank you for reading.
     
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  3. JimG

    JimG Comrade

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    Sep 8, 2019

    You are certainly going through a lot right now. My condolences and best wishes toward your mother. My mother in law had breast cancer two years ago and has now been cancer free for a year and a half. They say breast cancer is highly treatable when caught early, but that does not soften the blow of getting that kind of news.

    It may sound cliche, but the first year you are going to feel like you are barely staying above water for much of it. I encourage you to reach out to your mentor teacher if you have one, or to other veteran teachers in your school who seem open to offering advice. They don’t have to be in your content area. Talk with your principal or immediate supervisor regularly about the issues you are facing in your classroom. They will likely try to help you, not use it as ammunition against you if that’s what you are worried about.

    Regarding task and time management, I have found to-do lists to be helpful. Sometimes, it is beneficial to rank the tasks on the list in terms of their priority. Maximize your use of down time at work to get things done so as to limit what you bring home.

    Best of luck to you in your new job. One day at a time.
     
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  4. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Sep 8, 2019

    One of the major things you need to deal with first is your own mental health. I'm glad you will be getting help...the sooner the better. many young teachers find that medication and/or therapy will help them even out their mood so they can focus better on their tasks at hand.
    Then, as suggested, make lists. prioritize which tasks need to be completed asap and which tasks can be tended to later.
    It would be very helpful to get a handle on your parent interaction. Can your admin help you with that until you feel more comfortable dealing with parent issues?
    I'm sure you will receive many more excellent suggestions...that's what we do best here :)
    Good luck!
     
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  5. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Sep 8, 2019

    You can see where there is room for improvement, but you don't seem to be able to stay focused enough to prioritize the tasks, and then stick to the list that would allow you to accomplish the tasks that would help dig you out of the hole, which would alleviate your feelings of being overwhelmed.

    As for your mom, the fact that there is no more testing going on until November should give you some hope for a better outcome. When things are dire, they waste no time moving forward with referrals and additional testing. Ask yourself if you getting sidetracked with this, without a definite diagnosis and plan going forward, is going to make you a better teacher, or if it will change the outcome. If the answer is no, then you at least know that for the time being you should put this on the back burner.

    When you say you have had issues with severe anxiety and depression, do you mean just with this job, or at other times in your life? If it is just with this job, I would be shocked if you didn't have these feelings. You are a first year teacher, unaware of how prevalent IEP's and 504's are in the general population. No school can truthfully promise you small numbers of students with special needs. Since you haven't taught before, your classroom management skills are probably weak and inconsistent. Find yourself someone who will share with you, maybe even allow you to watch them in action, so that you will be doing more of what the experienced teachers are doing, which will help the students to assume they can expect the same from all teachers. Whatever you do, stay on top of your mandatory duties, including grading and recording grades, or you will get buried. It is early enough in the school year to fix your problems, but you have to be vigilant about time wasting activities, seeing them for what they are, able to keep them in check. By the way - parents are always going to be concerned - it is their job. Seeing them as truly concerned and maybe a little scared themselves may help you to be less confrontational and more understanding about where they are coming from. It is easy to get defensive, but sometimes you have to ask if they have any valid points to consider.

    If you are going to see a doctor, make it sooner rather than later. Pushing this aside will not help, and may create more angst. If you let anxiety build it will be harder to deal with.

    Hoping you can realize that some teachers are super managers, but that isn't typical of brand new teachers. See that you will have a sharp learning curve, and then honestly decide if you can commit to doing the learning necessary to be effective and self-assured. You may need a written chart for yourself to stay on track, and there is nothing wrong with that. As for your sister, IF your mother can't care for her, you will need to find respite care where she is at, two hours away. When you have legitimate free time, you might want to find people where she lives to steer you in the right direction. You are automatically assuming this will be your responsibility without finding out about all possibilities. Don't assume the worst and let it sap your strength and will.

    Best of luck - we were all new once upon a time.
     
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  6. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Comrade

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    Sep 8, 2019

    I am so sorry about your mom. An abnormal test is not uncommon. Try not to even think that far ahead. That seems to cause you more anxiety.
    Definitely see a counselor and find out how or if you can change yourself enough to deal with the stress and depression while teaching. I have known so many teachers who developed both while teaching. I have had some years of heavy anxiety in the past too. Depending upon what school you are at, the stress level will be different, but I have found anxiety is really inside us. We take it with us wherever we go. Situations can trigger it, more so for some than others, but some people are more prone to it than others.
    Teaching is a hard job to do well. The only reason I lasted through a few rough years was I needed a paycheck. Not a good reason, I know.
    As a first year teacher everything is new. You are learning a lot the hard way sometimes. Also, you are seeing the darker side of teaching (dishonesty). Parents are much more likely to cause problems with young or new teachers imo. Many say your 1st yr of teaching is the worst. That was not my experience though. I wish you the best.
     
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  7. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Sep 8, 2019

    I agree with a lot of the advice you've been given. I'm ten years into my career, but what you've described sounds very familiar to me. I just changed positions this year, and I'm working non-stop hours, it seems, plus experiencing a lot of anxiety (and I, too, get hyper-focused on things that don't really require as much attention as I choose to give them). It seems that, anytime I start a new position, it feels like the first year all over again. As others have said, I have found that keeping a running to-do list helps. I keep mine on Google Drive, so that I can constantly edit it without having to re-write the whole thing. I have it organized by chronological due dates, followed by content areas. As I complete things, I delete them. When I realize that some things aren't going to get done by the date I wanted them to, I copy and paste them to a new date or sometimes delete them altogether. It's necessary to give yourself grace and know that you likely won't keep up with others who have been at the school, working in the same position, for awhile. I'm behind all of my teammates in a few content areas, but I've decided that it's acceptable given that everything is new to me. I still get anxious, but it helps to be forgiving of myself and my newness. I'm not currently taking medication, but I have in the past. I would agree that seeing a counselor could be beneficial for you, but I've also found that meditation and/or yoga can be helpful too.

    My advice to you would be to start a to-do list and prioritize it. Begin something for yourself, whether it's exercise, meditation, yoga, counseling, or something else. Ask for help at school. Do you have an instructional coach or mentor who could support you with meeting the needs of your students? Don't get too upset with parent issues. They will pass. Just have a glass of wine or order a pizza, drown yourself in your sorrows or frustration for a night, and then move on. Don't let a parent bring you down. When it comes to your family, my advice would be to put them first if that is what you think you need to do. I've never been in that sort of experience, but I know that I would do whatever was necessary to be there for my family. That said, it doesn't sound like you are in the position where you need to care for anyone right now, and, as was already said, even if your family does require care, it doesn't have to be you unless you want it to be. Try to hang in there. This is the hardest part of the year, especially when you are in a new situation. There is no way that I could keep up the pace that I'm currently going at if if I thought that it were going to last all year. Fortunately, I know that it will eventually slow down. So, I'm doing what I can to hang in there with work and also to care for myself and my family. The balance is a little lopsided right now, but it will all work out soon. Try to stay positive.
     
  8. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Comrade

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    Sep 13, 2019

    I find this to be very true. Sometimes I am going what seems to be 100 mph and things slow down for a period. Then they pick back up. Rest when you can!
     

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