What It’s Like To Be a Teacher During Difficult Times – (And How to Cope)

What It's Like To Be a Teacher During Difficult Times - (And How to Cope) cover image

I had a difficult time teaching English these past few weeks. I love my subject area, but lately, it hasn’t seemed as critical as it usually does. While my juniors worked on some practice items for an upcoming standardized assessment, I found myself questioning, “Does this even matter right now?

If our students aren’t safer, does it matter whether or not they can identify the error in subject/verb agreement in sentence 8? If my students aren’t safer, does it matter if they don’t conclude their persuasive essays with a call to action? If my students aren’t safer, does it really matter if they can’t write in a more formal tone?

I knew the answer to all of my own questions. No. Nothing matters right now more than safer schools for our students and teachers. This questioning and analyzing of life and what is important is a natural human response after a major crisis. And in recent months, we have had more than our share of crises across this country.

teacher with head on chalkboard with maths equations

Teachers are trying to do what they love in an unprecedented time. For weeks, our profession has been in the headlines every single day. And to my knowledge, there is no official handbook for teaching in such a tumultuous climate. But here are a few tips to help teachers maintain some sense of control and take care of themselves in the midst of upheaval:

1. Revisit Your School’s Crisis Plan

– Meet with co-workers, department chairs, and administrators to look for areas of improvement within your school. Schedule intruder training for faculty and staff, and ask the administration to have your local police department visit and learn the layout of your building. This could be invaluable in a crisis.

2. Talk to Your Coworkers

It is so important to express your feelings and concerns about your current work environment. We are already responsible for so much: planning, grading, standardized testing, role modeling, etc. Share those burdens with others, and it may help them seem less monumental. And don’t forget that your school likely has a trained counselor on staff already. He/she may specialize in working with young people, but school counselors can certainly listen to your concerns, as well.

3. Reflect

Take some time to think about why you became a teacher years ago and indulge in that. Do you love literature? Go ahead and read that bestseller on your nightstand that you’ve been putting off until you “catch up” on other work. Do you teach art? Visit a local gallery, or attend an art night in a neighboring district. Get back to the root of what you love about education and embrace that for a while. The papers and lesson plans can wait a bit.

4. Give Yourself a Break

Schedule yourself some time (yes, we teachers schedule everything) to do exactly what you want to do. Take an afternoon walk or jog; book a massage or pedicure, or have dinner with a friend. It doesn’t matter what activity you choose. Just take the time to do something that is just for you. You deserve it.

cup_of_coffee and a book in the sun stock image

Since I was struggling this week, I decided to do something with my own feelings of uncertainty. I used my background in persuasive writing to draft a letter to the members of the school board in the county in which my first grader attends. In my letter, I requested additional resource officers at campus-style schools and other safety measures that could be implemented immediately.

I am using the skills I have to help make a difference. It is important for me to try to make my small corner of the world a better, safer place. I worked really hard this week, and now I am going to be kind to myself, take a break, and get some rest. I deserve it.


What It's Like To Be a Teacher During Difficult Times - (And How to Cope) feature image

author_image_Melissa_Face_smallThis article was written by Melissa Face, a writer and English Instructor at a school for students who are gifted in the arts. Her essays have appeared in Skirt!, Country Woman, and 19 volumes of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Check out her Facebook page.

Like it? Share with your friends!

Guest Author

This article was written by one of our guest authors.
Choose A Format
Share your amazing stories, tips, opinions, and other stuff that matters.
Upload your funny, inspiring, DIY, or informative video(s) for the world to see!
Personality quiz
Leave the serious quizzes at school, these are strictly fun! You make the questions and pre-define the results.
Trivia quiz
Time to test your friends' knowledge! You choose the subject and have fun seeing who scores the highest!
Pose any question to millions of educators by creating your own polls/surveys, whether for research, for fun, or for the sake of curiosity!
Share your classroom decor, costumes, funny classroom antics, silly grading moments, or other teacher life shenanigans!