In my early career, many veteran teachers told me that if I could stick it out, then teaching would get easier with time. And now, after finishing 16 years in the classroom, two years in leadership, and several years coaching teacher teams, I understand what they meant.
However, with COVID and all of the many changes that have happened in the last couple of years, I don't think any teacher, new, seasoned, or otherwise would say that teaching has gotten easier.
Yes, planning lessons and managing spaces did get easier, but the daily grind of teaching really hasn't. And I'm proud to say that.
Although I've developed a solid repertoire of lessons and projects and have honed the skills necessary to create a completely student-centered space, my commitment to making learning accessible and engaging to all students hasn't waned, and therefore the amount of effort that goes into teaching still takes time.
Not to mention the emotional drain of being a teacher. Folks said that I wouldn't take things so personally after time had passed, but it seems I failed with this one completely.
Just like in year one, my commitment to kids is top of my list and teaching is very personal. Although I may be a little better at separating an adolescent tantrum from a genuinely hard piece of feedback, the amount I take home still wears on me, eroding away sometimes at my self-confidence.
Okay, so maybe I'm not crying during the school day anymore (thank goodness), which is something I did quite frequently my first year of teaching, but that doesn't mean what kids or teachers say doesn't hurt sometimes. It doesn't mean when a bad day happens, I'm able to brush it off like nothing.
What it means is I can put it into perspective; perhaps that's what the veterans meant.
Some aspects of teaching do get easier:
the lesson planning
the classroom structures
the confidence in the choices we make
making mistakes publicly
The fact is, once you've been teaching for a while, you realize you can't know it all and won't, but you can learn with the kids and your colleagues and every day is an opportunity to start from scratch.
It's kind of liberating.
At the beginning of my career, I felt like I had to know it all, and that was exhausting because I really didn't, and that was a private thing I kept to myself. I was desperately afraid that if the kids found I didn't know everything they wouldn't take me seriously. Of course, I know now this is not the truth.
Things that will never get easier:
how personally I take my own perceived defeats
saying things that in anger or out of ego - acting humanÂ
avoiding adverse reactions all of the time when that student gets under my skin (it is easier to apologize now though)
how hard I am on myself when I'm not the best version of myself
Being an educator requires constant growth. We're always on a stage. Students and colleagues notice everything and since we want to model best behaviors, we must be aware of ourselves. There are many lessons to be learned and taught in non-teaching situations, and they happen all of the time around students. One thing is for sure, we definitely recognize that faster and take more opportunities to use authentic moments as teachable.
What is one way that teaching has gotten easier in your career over time and one way that it hasn't? Please share
*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in July 2016.