What Happened When I Started Focusing on What I Love About Teaching

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After contracts came out my second year of teaching, I (foolishly) marched into my supervisor’s office and told him I was looking at other jobs. Why you may ask? Because I was so completely, emotionally overwhelmed by all aspects of the teaching day that had NOTHING to do with teaching. My days consisted of daily gossip, political school rumors, and complaints about the crumbling infrastructure of my private school. Admission rates were not up to par, the employees hadn’t seen a raise in years, and teachers were leaving left and right. Why was I so drained after just two years in the field of education? Was I just not cut out for the exhausting life of this career? Or was there a way to make my days less burdensome and more fulfilling? 

stressed female at computer

To make a long story short, I (begrudgingly) ended up staying at the school where I’m still at today. And yes, the environment became slightly better, but my circumstances hadn’t changed much at all. It was my MINDSET that changed. You see, dear reader, I used to have the below thoughts take up a majority of my brain during my teaching days…

  • I work way too hard to make this little.
  • Yes, I chose this profession, but a little respect would be appreciated for someone with the amount of education and training I’ve gone through.
  • How do you expect these kids to succeed in life with the lack of resources we have and the constant standardized testing!?!

These thoughts went round and round like a never-ending treadmill that I could not get off no matter how hard I tried. I was consumed by the trivial things – monumental mountains that I could not move, no matter how hard I tried. It was a slippery slope of pessimism and disappointment.

Going into my third year of teaching, I had a major talk with myself. If I was going to try to survive in the field of education, I was going to put my blinders on, keep my head down, and focus on the biggest reason I became a teacher — my students. I would most likely still hear complaints, rumors, and accusations, but I was going to nod, say “That doesn’t sound good”, and then focus on my students’ triumphs, no matter how small they were.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you, reader. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are still days that the political nature of teaching enrages me and makes me want to snap every pencil in sight (that’s the PG version). However, I acknowledge my feelings, let myself get pissed off, and then come back to focusing on the loves of my lives, aka my incredible, kick-ass, hilarious, although-sometimes-infuriating students. When this happens, I no longer become an overworked cranky monster. I physically feel lighter and I go home feeling blessed to have a job where I get to witness all the amazing lightbulb moments. What other job is lucky enough to shape the next generation of individuals? To get random hugs and words of gratitude from the mouths of babes? To see a smile beam across a cherubic face? NONE. The daily interactions with students are fuel in my tank and I’m going to continue to block out any unnecessary noise that detracts me from why I fell in love with teaching in the first place.

And so, I challenge you to keep your head down and focus on the REAL reason we are all educators: to foster relationships with each and every child who sets foot in our classrooms. I promise you will walk home with more roses than thorns and a grateful heart.

I love my job MINDSET

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Abigail Courter is a fifth year music teacher at a K-8 private school in California.  She has taught general music, band, music technology, and performing arts.

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