How Teaching Has Transformed Me For the Worst (and For the Best!)

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Being a teacher isn’t just a clock-in, clock-out type of job. It’s the kind of profession that sinks into your bones and alters your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Here are the top 5 ways that teaching has transformed me for the worst and for the best.  

1. It has made me chronically tired and emotionally drained. 

When I say tired, I don’t just mean “get some extra hours on the weekend” tired.  I mean completely and irreversibly exhausted to the point where I am a living, breathing GIF of a catatonic zombie. This job makes you give and give and give until you are scraping the bottom of the barrel to give some more. It’s difficult to explain your daily state of being rundown to non-teacher friends. That being said…

It has made me an infinitely more patient person. 

Waiting in line at an amusement park? No problem. The line at Target is wrapped around the corner? I’ve totally got time! Thank you, wonderful profession, for equipping me with the skills necessary to not get flummoxed by things I can’t control.  

2. I can no longer handle excess sensory stimulation. 

I recently made the mistake of going to my first hockey game after a full day of work. What resulted was my family dealing with the worst possible version of my cranky-ass self. The lights, the sound, the smells, the cold. I needed to be in a sensory deprivation tank after work and I had literally thrown myself into the exact opposite. Since becoming a teacher, I am much more sensitive to extraneous sensory stimuli like the above. After being in a stinky classroom for 8 hours a day, seeing odd behavior, and hearing constant noise, I’m DONE with going out to places that overwhelm my system.

Because of all of the extra stimuli, flexibility is my middle name.  

I used to be a very type A person who couldn’t budge from the schedule I designed. While I’m still a very type A (boo hoo), I’m happy to report that teaching has made me much more “go with the flow”. The lesson plan is going south? I’ll change it up! Someone just fainted in class? Let me breezily call the nurse. A teacher had an emergency and needs someone to cover her class? I suddenly speak fluent Spanish! Thank you, teaching, for forcing me to be okay when the road takes a sudden, unexpected turn.

High school students running and throwing papers in the air

3. I’ve been more preoccupied with my financial situation than ever before.

Before becoming a teacher, money was never something I openly discussed and/or complained about. Now, all I seem to do is complain about my paltry joke of a paycheck and how I don’t get paid enough for everything I have to deal with every day. Part of me hates myself for focusing so much on the money, and the other half applauds me for talking about something that is normally hush-hush.  

I have much thicker skin than when I started teaching.

Teaching is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been screamed at by a parent and disagreed with via countless passive-aggressive emails. All this backlash has not broken me or my quest to have an impact on as many lives as I can. I’m a much stronger individual because of everything I’ve had to endure simply by standing strong.

Teach

4. I have an extremely hard time turning off my “teacher mode”. 

What’s it like to turn your brain off at night and to NOT think about your job? I spend nights staring at the ceiling, wondering how I can better support my students academically, emotionally, and socially. While this can be downright frustrating most times, I have to remember that it definitely has an upside.

It has prepared me to be a much better parent to my unborn children.

Being a young teacher without children is great. You can see how parenting differs in each and every household and then learn from the best and trash the rest. I’m so happy to have years of practice working with children before I (someday) decide to have my own wee little terrors. 

5. I’m worried about the well-being of the next generation.

Spend a day in my classroom and you’ll see why. Each year, I have more students who are struggling in some way, shape, or form.  More and more students are being diagnosed with mental and physical health issues. Parenting has, by and large, completely gone out the window. Add the trials and tribulations of social media to this list and you can see why many of us teachers have debilitating anxiety.

I’ve said the word “love” more times than I can count since entering this profession. 

Studies show that we say far more negative words on a daily basis than positive words. I, single-handedly, am trying to break this rule when I recount stories about my day. Most sentences start with, “So my favorite student”, only to remind me that I have over 300 favorite children. Yes, teaching can be exhausting, but my vocabulary of positive words far outweighs my negative words. While the adults may suck at times, my tiny Grinch heart has grown infinitely bigger since the day I started teaching, and I absolutely love to love those precious little chicken nuggets I get to call my students.  


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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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