The Island Revisited

Teaching is hard.  Let me say that again, teaching is hard.



Let that sink in for a minute.



Teaching is so hard, that as a nation and even much of the globe turns its attention to vilifying educators and the profession, it has become increasingly stressful.  We see teachers not only fleeing the profession, but pouring gasoline on the pile and tossing a lit matchbook behind them on the way out.  It seems like every week we hear about another teacher “calling it quits” over the stress and struggles of daily life in the classroom.  Why is this?

There are many possibilities, but two jump out at me.  The first, which is almost certainly true for most, is that preservice teachers don’t always get to see/hear the truth upon entering the profession.  So for those of you thinking about teaching, here is the blunt, brutal truth:

Teaching is stressful, there is way more to do than there is time.  Teaching drains your emotions, every class has more sad stories than a Chicken Soup book.  Teaching isn’t valued, everyone says they love “their child’s teacher/school” but rarely do people truly apply that value across the profession.  Teaching is lonely and often you will be unsupported, looking for solutions to problems you couldn’t imagine, with no one to guide you.

The next possibility is that our educators are on an island.  Each and everyone of us finds ourselves alone at some point.  We are alone with students, alone in our doubts or worries, and alone in our decisions for the best intentions of our students.  In schools with great cultures (often promoted and cultivated by great leaders) teachers rarely feel alone.  Unfortunately, even in great schools there are pockets of isolation.  In other schools, there are vacuums.

What can be most disheartening and overwhelming as an educator is not that there are problems in education.  There have always been problems in education.  It is instead, the greatest trouble is when the promise that we are working to make things better feels violated.  When we become isolated from one another we start to lose the joy in sharing, the power of collaborating, and the hope that strong bonds can create.

One of the greatest struggles for an educator is dealing with being alone.  When you are alone you don’t have anyone with which to share your triumphs and struggles.  When you are alone you will second guess yourself, your stress will build, and your enjoyment will fade.  Being alone in the profession leaves educators increasingly distressed, without hope that things will get better in far too many cases.

Instead, now more than ever, we need to reach out to one another.  We need to find our people.  Find them outside the walls of your school and find them within.  Reach out to people, be there for them, mentor them.  In turn, find mentors for yourself, find people with whom you can develop relationships that guide your experiences.  Being alone seems to be so easy for educators.  We close our doors, we shut out the world, and we get to work.  That trend of forced isolation needs to stop, not for the empowered few, but for the every day educator.  What are you doing to build up others around you?  What are you doing to help people off their islands?  Too many educators are left on their islands, starving for mentors, starving for hope that what we are doing is making a difference.  Are you giving it to them?


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