As we navigate this new normal, just as it was in the ‘old world’, it is easy to get caught up in comparing yourself with others and harbouring feelings of not doing enough. We once looked around and saw teachers posting images of their pintrest worthy classrooms and that incredible lesson that produced the most beautiful looking pieces of art with feelings of insecurity and self-doubt because it seemed so far out of our capabilities, and we caught ourselves enviously wondering how they found the time. As we scrolled through the images on Facebook or spied the walls belonging to our colleague down the hall, we felt shame at that pile of unmarked books and paperwork that littered our desk. We would see that teacher who seems to exude knowledge and confidence and feel jealous we were not as knowledgeable or confident. We would wonder if we would ever be good enough. We would wonder if we were doing enough. We would beat ourselves up for not reaching this unachievable or unsustainable standard we placed on ourselves. We would tell ourselves we should be doing more, even when we know we physically can not. We would compare our efforts and outcomes with others and wind up feeling like we weren’t good enough.
Then things changed.
No longer were we able to work in our classrooms.
No longer were we able to physically see our kids.
No longer did it matter about the books piled up on our desks or the ugly ass art work covering the walls.
It no longer mattered that we didn’t have a pinterest worthy classroom, that was all but forgotten; there are many things, however, that have stayed the same.
We are still wondering if we are doing enough.
We are still wondering if we are good enough.
We are still beating ourselves up for not reaching this unachievable or unsustainable standard we get from comparing ourselves with others.
We are still working long hours, while trying to home-school our own kids who are now feral from a lack of contact with the outside world.
We are still reaching for this level of perfection that can not and will never exist within the parameters of education, whether it is online or face to face. Our “classrooms” no matter what they look like or where they are, are environments where perfection is one of many anomalies and something we should not be aspiring to achieve.
We are now bombarded with a plethora of apps, websites and other “incredible” digital tools that promise to inspire, engage and magically replicate the real classroom environment and we jump up and down with excitement, only to be bitterly disappointed when we can’t figure out how to use them or simply feel overwhelmed at the number of options to choose from, or get swallowed up by the clock because it takes so long to set everything up.
The teacher who thrives making connections with her students is drowning under a weight of her own shoulders. She loves her kids and wants to make sure they are feeling supported so she sends personalised emails and spends hours creating beautiful looking resources only to have half the class manage to complete the work. She sees other teachers who are engaging their class and producing some incredible things and is angry at herself for not knowing how to do the same. She beats herself up with negative self talk; she feels worthless.
The teacher whose light burns the brightest when he shares a laugh or an inside joke with a kid he knows is struggling, is blaming himself for feeling so disconnected from the students who need him the most. He’s tried to do everything he can but he still goes to bed at night worried and wishing he did more. He wonders if he is doing enough.
The teacher who has no idea how to use Zoom or GoogleClassrooms – or anything digital for that matter – is spending hours with colleagues and participating in online training, only to manage staying just one step ahead of the kids and constantly feeling as though she is wading in a pool full of piranhas constantly snapping at her feet. She thinks she is not good enough. She thinks she won’t ever be good enough. She is on the verge of walking away, but she won’t – not yet. But soon.
The teacher who is homeschooling her own kids while trying to teach 60 others, feels like she is suffocating. She sees all the stay at home mothers posting on Instagram about the incredible day they had with their children and how much they enjoyed doing arts and crafts or baking. She doesn’t have time to do things like that with her kids. She feels guilty when she is teaching her students because her kids do not have her attention. She feels guilty when she is helping her children because she is not at the beck and call of her students who ‘need’ her. The four walls of the house cave in on her, there is literally nowhere to run. She looks at the pile of books on the dining room table and the pens all over the floor. She compares herself to all the Facebook mums and feels like shit – again. She yells at her kids. She feels guilty – again.
To you, the teacher who is doing whatever it is you are doing, whether it be online or in person – thank you, I appreciate you.
To you, the teacher who is wondering if you are enough – you are. You are more than enough.
To you, the teacher who is worrying that you are doing enough – you are. You are doing more than enough.
To you, the teacher who is looking at what everyone around you is doing and feeling overwhelmed and anxious, look back at how far you have come – you are incredible.
To you, the teacher who has had to pivot so incredibly quickly and embrace the online world, I look at you in awe. I am proud of you.
To you, the teacher who is also a parent – I see you, and I salute you.
To you, the teacher of my son, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
To you, the teacher reading these words, I want you to feel an immense feeling of pride. Look how far you have come. Look how much you have learned. Look at all the new things you can do. This has been so incredibly hard and there have been days where you have questioned your worth and your ability to cope with all the changes; days where you have wanted to drink wine in your pajamas; days where you have looked at others and felt like shit because they seemed to be doing it so much better than you. Let today be the day you celebrate just how far you have come. Let today be the day you shower yourself with love, self-compassion and pride. Teacher wellbeing starts with us. It starts with me. It starts with you.
Believe you are enough.
Believe you are doing enough.
Because you are.
This too shall end. The day will come that we are reunited once again. Reunited with new skills, new outlooks and children who will be changed from this pandemic; a new world. The day will come where teachers are appreciated for everything we do, but first, we must learn to value our own worth and celebrate where we are at right now, be excited to become the teacher we are destined to grow to be, and be proud of how far we have come.
I appreciate each and every single one of you.
Happy teacher appreciation week xx