First Year of Teaching Blues: Does it get any better?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by pinkcupcake90, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. pinkcupcake90

    pinkcupcake90 Companion

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    Mar 7, 2016

    Hi, everybody.
    I know I've been a pain with these questions, but I am seriously feeling hopeless. Perhaps I'm just depressed and longing for spring break. I would appreciate any of the advice.
    I dread going to work every morning. I work at a high school that's about an hour away from home. The minute the bell rings at the end of the day, I jet outside.
    I'm a new teacher, alternate route. My first and only love is English literature. I had plans of getting into a PhD program and becoming a professor. Sadly, this dream went up in flames. I graduated from a rough grad school and couldn't get into a PhD program. Therefore, teaching was my backup plan.
    I have 3 different grade levels and they literally threw me in without training wheels. My mentor is a Spanish teacher in our school, and although she tries her best to help me, it's fruitless. :(
    Don't get me wrong; there are some days when I absolutely love my job. However, every single Monday is a struggle to get out of bed. I suffer from severe anxiety attacks and crying spells. I somehow wish that my car breaks down so I don't have to go to work. :(
    I don't want to spend the rest of my life this way. Does teaching get easier? Maybe I should just be a librarian. I feel so lost.
     
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  3. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Mar 7, 2016

    Pinkcupcake,
    You have no need to apologize for posting and asking questions -- that's why we're all here! I really struggled my first year teaching, too. Now five years later, I look back at that time and just see how far I've come. I wish I could go back and do those first years over, but I also realize that I really wasn't as bad as I thought I was at the time! I was just overwhelmed and depressed and beating myself up for a lot of things that were beyond my control.

    I also struggle with anxiety and depression and the stress of being a new teacher is like fuel for the fire of these conditions. One thing that I have learned over the years is that people who have depression/anxiety tend to focus on the negative experiences of their day, even if it's not all negative. I learned that we need to retrain our brains to refocus our attention from the negative to the positive. Even if there is just one tiny, fleeting moment of positivity in your day, you have to stop in that one moment and really let it sink it. Whether it's that one kid who is trying, or the kid who usually is a PITA who says hello to you for once, or even 30 seconds where your class is focused and on task, stop what you're doing in that moment and savor it. Lock in the details of what is going on and how you feel. It will be easier to let the "bad" go if you train your brain to focus on the "good," no matter how small it may seem!

    You are probably doing better than you think. Even if you are a hot mess (as I was my first year or two!), you will get better, and it will get easier. One year is just not enough time to know who you will become as a teacher!
     
  4. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Mar 7, 2016

    First year can be very hard.
    I think in your situation you feel so miserable that you are kinda stuck in that depressed, sad mindframe. It's hard to see clearly like that. You really need a break and recharge your batteries. Yes, spring break is coming up, but if you can, take a day off here and there and do nothing school related.
    I think you will feel better after the break.

    In the meanwhile I would do the following:
    - make a list of everything you like about your job - big and small things.
    - make a list of everything you don't like about your job.
    - then put this list in categories of smaller problems (maybe just annoying things), bigger problems and the biggest problems. Maybe even break them down to the frequency, some things happen here and there, some things are ongoing, etc.
    - then pick 3 things you want to work on. It could be a big problem, but it can also be an ongoing annoyance. For example students taking too long to settle down in the beginning of the class. Not the biggest issue in the whole world, but if ongoing, it's not good. If you solve that, other things can fall in line as well, especially since it's the first thing the students do in the beginning of the class and it can set the tone.
    - and of course focus on things you like, and compare the list of like/don't like. The list cold actually be even, but you might only see the negatives right now.

    So take baby steps of fixing things, and then keep them up. In the mean while don't be so hard on yourself and try to take a break.
     
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  5. MLB711

    MLB711 Comrade

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    Mar 7, 2016

    Pink, my first year was horrible too. The school was not a good fit for me. I started going to therapy and taking antidepressants and blood pressure medicine. My blood pressure was dangerously high (like 200/110 at one point). I had an anxiety attack one time at the beginning of the day at a PLC meeting, so some of my students inadvertently saw me crying on the way to the bathroom. One of their parents actually called the principal that week and said I was unprofessional - after her son got a failing grade of course. I also had a mentor who told me to be like the Dog Whisperer and accused me of making her write my lesson plans. So my first mentor was fruitless too.

    I found a new school and I am very happy here. I haven't had problems near as bad as my first year. I still have some small issues to work out, but I have come so far from my first year that sometimes I don't believe I'm the same person. I really feel for you. I understand what it's like to struggle. It will get better! Find something happy to keep you afloat until the end of the year. You can do it!!
     
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  6. miatorres

    miatorres Comrade

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    Mar 7, 2016

    pinkcupcake90, I have gone through rough times in the classroom as well. At the time, I couldn't understand how any student or parent could be that hateful towards others, especially with teachers who truly wanted to help students succeed. I moved on to a different school and have loved every minute of it since day one.

    Teaching definitely gets better with time and experience. I can count on my one hand the number of people who experienced good first years as full-time classroom teachers. Those few people either started their teaching career about 30 years ago (when there wasn't as much pressure on the job as opposed to now) or just got lucky and had good groups of students and administrators. One of the latter teachers landed her first teaching job in the same district where her relative worked as the superintendent. She was assigned to teach the best classes in the whole district.

    Now that you have mentioned that pursuing a PhD didn't work out, I would like to share with you what I would do in that situation. First, I would see if there's someone I can speak to in the admissions offices and inquire about the reasons of why I wasn't admitted. If I found out that I hadn't scored high enough on the GRE, I would apply alternative study methods and retake this test. If the content of my recommendation letters were generic, I would see if there are individuals who can write better letters about what I have to offer the graduate program. (Unfortunately, there are some university faculty members out there who don't want students to succeed and sabotage them by writing letters of recommendation that understate the applicant's true abilities and achievements. How appalling is that?) I would apply to programs again because there have been cases of individuals who weren't accepted at first but reapplied and eventually got into competitive graduate programs. Who knows, maybe your experience as a public school teacher will look good on your new graduate school applications as I have heard that graduate schools are interested to know what else applicants have achieved, aside from high GPAs and GRE scores.

    If graduate school still doesn't work out, I would consider becoming a substitute teacher. This experience will give you many opportunities to learn new classroom teaching strategies that complement your teaching style and personality. You can also explore different grade levels and find out which ones you enjoy the most. Subbing can be a stepping stone to a full-time teaching job that is the right fit for you.

    About the possibility of becoming a librarian, I think that it's a great career for individuals who have a strong interest in many subjects, including your specialty. One of the positives is that you will be able to work with mostly motivated students on a one-on-one basis.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
  7. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Mar 8, 2016

    I still hate Sundays, and sometimes get filled with dread. It's definitely not as bad as it was my first year though. So yes, it does get easier. Just push past this year, and think about what you'll do different next year and about how much better it will be. Every year should be better than your last.
     
  8. MathGuy82

    MathGuy82 Companion

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    Mar 9, 2016

    I agree. Anxiety starts to go down! You will get through it!
     
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  9. linswin23

    linswin23 Cohort

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    Mar 10, 2016

    My first year was super rough. Now I'm four years in and I have developed so many skills and ways to cope with the hard aspects of our job. Don't give up! Give it a try for another school year and really reflect and decide if it's right for you. Listen to your heart and your gut. It will tell you what to do. I think it's really hard for all of us the first year because (I know at least for me) my uni professors didn't go into the first year of teaching and how rough it can be.
     
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  10. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Mar 10, 2016

    I had an idea, because of your strong literary background, I wonder if you might consider writing, in your spare time, children's novels related to the experiences your students are going through, but that demonstrate more positive actions for students. I'm especially thinking of novels dealing with prejudice (as you had mentioned earlier many of your students express negative comments about your religious beliefs) or novels dealing with other negative issues students are involved in. This might be a way to turn a negative experience into a positive experience. From what I've read, it's difficult to find a publisher once a novel is written, but people like Beverly Cleary and others didn't give up, and eventually found a publisher, and I think about how enriching Beverly Cleary's novels have been to children throughout the years.
     
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  11. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    Mar 10, 2016

    My first year was hard too. Actually, my first year in each school I worked in was hard but I'm in my 14th year now so I know it gets better (or I would have quit already!). My first day taking over for a teacher who quit...IEP meeting and the old teacher lost the paper work. How's that for stress? What the heck was I supposed to do about that? I got through it and every day gets easier. I THINK (from reading your posts) that you just need to get out of that school at the end of the year and find another one. You should be happy with what you do or don't do it!!!
     
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  12. miatorres

    miatorres Comrade

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    Mar 10, 2016

    Obadiah, that's a super idea! Your idea made me think about others who have recently written or are writing books about their experiences and how these books express anti-prejudice or anti-bullying themes. For example, I heard that Karen Huff Klein is currently writing a book with an anti-bullying theme. In June 2012, someone filmed a video of four students verbally abusing her as they rode the bus. This video went viral and made national news. People who heard about the incident started an online fundraising campaign to give Karen a vacation; donations from all over the world rapidly poured in. In addition to writing a book, she has founded Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation.
     
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  13. carolinafan

    carolinafan Rookie

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    Mar 16, 2016

    I'm a first year, alternate route teacher as well, and I've had my ups and downs this year for sure. My mentor, or I should say the person who was supposed to be my mentor, hasn't really done anything past telling me she was my mentor after we had been in school for a month. I've felt like I haven't had much support at my school at times, even though everybody is really nice and I don't feel like it's a malicious thing. I think it's perfectly normal to have these down feelings, or wonder if you made the right decision career wise. Lucky for me, my wife is a teacher, so I have her to lean on for support. I honestly don't know if I would've made it this year without her to bounce ideas off of. If you have anybody to lean on for some support, that's already a positive thing, and we've made it to spring break already! It's just coasting to the finish line at this point! Use spring break to kind of recharge yourself. Think about school as little as possible, and get ready for the home stretch.
     
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  14. pinkcupcake90

    pinkcupcake90 Companion

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    Mar 16, 2016

    You know something funny? I was having such a good day today. And then one of my nightmare students starts yelling at me in front of everyone.

    There are days when I try to convince myself that I love this job. I feel like I'm feeding myself lies. I belong in academia. I want to teach college, not pretentious, little shits who yell at me for trying to teach them.
     
  15. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Mar 16, 2016

    I had the same experience as a new teacher -- my mentor was almost as overwhelmed as I was! I realized later on that there is no substitute for the learning we gain through experience that first year. We do, indeed, suffer into knowledge!
     
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  16. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Mar 16, 2016

    It sounds like you know the path you need to take. I would just provide one word of caution regarding teaching college. I TA'ed a 101 course while I was getting my Masters, and while no one yelled at me, I actually had worse rates of absenteeism, lack of work completion, excuse making, sleeping in class, inattention, etc, than I do now in my high school classes. Many of those "pretentious little shits" may end up being the same or not so different one year later when you see them in English 101. Just something to keep in mind as you consider your career options...
     
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  17. miatorres

    miatorres Comrade

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    Mar 20, 2016

    ms.irene reminded me of an important point that those who want to become professors should be aware that that they might experience even higher rates of college students' negative behavior (e.g., absenteeism, lack of work, indifference) as compared to that of some high school students.

    There are some junior colleges and four-year universities that are known for their highly apathetic student populations. After I earned my bachelor's degree, I worked as a student housing counselor at a university. In the dorms, students caused all sorts of trouble and property damage. Professors would tell me about how only a few students in each of their classes showed an interest in learning. Cheating and plagiarism were the norm. For me, the institution didn't feel like a university; it was more like a boarding school setting. Many professors moved on to teach elsewhere. The students who had decent grades transferred to another school by their sophomore year.

    On the other hand, there are other higher education institutions with high ratios of students who are a pleasure to work with and have a great deal of school spirit. These institutions actually feel like genuine universities rather than continued high schools or diploma mills.

    Therefore, if you truly want to become a professor I would advise you to make sure that you make an effort to find the institution that would be the right fit for you. As you can see, students' attitudes differ from school to school.

    I think that an upside of teaching in any higher education setting is that there is more freedom compared to being a high school teacher. For instance, in higher education you probably won't be confined to teaching the same five periods of students every day. Chances are good that you will have a lot more freedom in using different teaching methods and literature in your classes.

    Another benefit of teaching college is that unlike high school teachers, you will have more individuals such as T.A.'s and department administrative administrative assistants to help you with paperwork. You also will not have to worry about attending or chaperoning school events, which tend to be time-consuming.
     
  18. jadorelafrance

    jadorelafrance Cohort

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    Mar 21, 2016

    I think you really just need to find a new school and really do your research. You will always encounter some form of disrespect no matter where you're at, but the level of disrespect and indifference shown by your students seems extremely high, and I've never encountered it to that extreme. I was a new teacher once and struggled, and still do sometime, but I found a good school where most of the kids truly do care and are curious. Start doing a job search now.
     
  19. miatorres

    miatorres Comrade

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    Mar 21, 2016

    I agree that you should do the research and find another school. Reading what past students have posted about their schools on sites like Great Schools (K-12) and Students Review (higher education) can be great places to start. I know that some of the comments are written by people who never even attended or worked at the school in question, but it is easy to see the difference between bogus reviews and valid ones. When I first was offered a university housing counseling job over 13 years ago, Students Review was new and didn't have any posted reviews of this particular school at first. Now there are many reviews of it and most of them describe experiences that were similar to those of the students I had advised back then.
     
  20. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Mar 21, 2016

    I agree that every school or grade level will have different issues.
    For example if you teach at a school with higher SES levels, you will have more supportive parents, but also many more helicopter parents, complaints, pressure from admin to support the parent and student and not the teacher. A bunch of whiney, spoiled brats may be sitting in your classroom who would inform you that their allowance is higher than your paycheck so they have no respect for you. I couldn't deal with that.

    Then in a lower SES schools you will have parents who may be absent but can also be supportive and appreciative of your efforts, students who lack basic skills and have gaps in their knowledge but it is rewarding when you move them forward. You can have a lot of classrrom management problems, and disrespect and kids might not know how to act civilized. (some)

    Then in college you might have the attitude that they're paying tuition so you have to cater to them, but at the same time because they're paying tuition, they might be more into school. They're ore mature, but then again, at the community college level your freshmen are just student who barely graduated high school and they're still immature.

    Whatever you do, research, research, research and then go after they type of envornment you want and you will be successful.
     
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  21. miatorres

    miatorres Comrade

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    Mar 24, 2016

    The discussion angle of the pros and cons of teaching at the higher education level reminds me once again that it's a matter of a teacher finding the right fit for him or her. Remember how earlier another teacher on this forum said that the students in an inner city school were nicer and more cooperative than the ones in an upper class suburb? Well, that made me remember what I heard from a couple of friends who became assistant professors or professors. They said that at first they worked at a four year college that was more like a diploma mill with mostly immature students who didn't care about their grades. As soon as the professors gained experience, some moved on to other four year colleges with mainly bright and motivated students and thus didn't experience discipline issues. The other professors moved on to two year junior colleges with wonderful students. Ironically, they felt that these particular junior colleges felt like real colleges rather than diploma mills with rude students. Again, I think that one of the most important things is to find the environment with the most positives. If you establish yourself in the environment that's the best one for you, the positives will easily outweigh the disadvantages.
     
  22. EddieMSmith

    EddieMSmith Rookie

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    Mar 26, 2016

    It's kinda' interesting when I read stories like these. I've been working as a substitute teacher for 10+ years. Much of my work has been in long term assignments. So, when I (hopefully) get my classroom this fall, I won't have to worry about going in blind. I'll be a rather experienced first year teacher.
     

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