The spinning head

A teacher’s voice:

I’ve got quite a few children in my classroom with special needs. I’ve been finding it hard to know where to start with them. I’m in my second year teaching, and I’m trying to teach a lesson while engaging all of the children in the room but I have a collection of students that are monopolising my time. I’m not sure how I can teach all of the students consistently. My head is often spinning before even thinking about the teaching and learning that I want to happen in my class.

I don’t know if I am doing my job well. I don’t get any positive feedback. When I have asked for feedback or advice I just get more to do — ‘you should try this’, or ‘you should try that’. Some of the suggestions I’m not even sure I know how to do, like to avoid addressing the class as a whole group. Or I was told to, ‘be harder on the kids’ but it doesn’t feel right because it seems like all I’m doing is ranting and raving. I was already struggling with the workload, and these strategies might be useful, but I just see them as another thing that I have to do — another thing I can’t get to and it adds to my sense of failure. It makes me wonder, ‘am I doing anything right?’ I just keep telling myself, ‘I’m doing the best I can’ because I just can’t do anymore. The other day was the first day I got up in the morning with a sense of dread about going to work.

It appears that other teachers don’t seem to be struggling like I am; do I care too much?’ Do I need to be more clinical in my approach? But I don’t want to become desensitised to my work. Sometimes I just have to laugh and other times I feel like it’s a madhouse. The other day another teacher acknowledged, ‘you have some tough kids’, and that recognition meant so much to me. Thank you — it’s not just me. It’s funny because we are always conditioned to find positive feedback to give our students but it seems rare as a teacher. Maybe because there is just no time to talk to the other teachers and see what is happening for them; to find out what is normal. Or when there is the time it’s too late and it doesn’t matter anymore.

I don’t know the right thing to do and I feel exhausted. I’m afraid that I made the wrong career choice and I’m kidding myself. I’m scared of failing, my reputation being tarnished and then not being employed. I thought teaching would get easier but it feels like it is getting harder.

 

Jean’s voice:

The struggle in this story is to strike a balance in care, which the teacher has identified: ‘do I care too much?’ It is natural for teachers to care about their students but it is also determined by the profession that teachers keep these feelings hidden, so the teacher in the story has no way of knowing what is ‘normal’. How teachers care for their students becomes a secret that teachers are less likely to discuss.

The teacher also cares about their own fulfilment and career, which can sometimes compete with student care. Sometimes one can be sacrificed for the other. Teachers need to be valued and recognised to gain fulfilment, so balance in care is required which the teacher acknowledges: ‘I suppose you have to be happy and confident in who you are and how you manage your class that satisfies your needs of enjoyment too’. Self-care is important to be able to care for others  — so give a teacher friend a kick-start and let them know they are valued — and that you care.

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