Trying to Thrive as a Teacher Right Now is Just Ridiculous – Here’s Why

Trying to Thrive as a Teacher Right Now is Just Ridiculous – Here's Why

Everyone knows what typically happens after spring break in pre-pandemic times–the weather warms up, testing concludes, kids get squirrely, and everyone starts eagerly counting down the days to summer. It’s hard to survive those April and May months as a teacher on a good year. This year, it’s downright impossible, as we all approach our 14th month of the pandemic, and all of the unforeseen and immensely difficult challenges that come with it. If you are feeling tapped out, burned out, and “so done,” you aren’t alone, and you have some valid reasons to feel that way. 

#1 Standardized testing…just to “see where we are” 

In some states, not only are we going through a typical testing schedule in spite of the pandemic, but we are doing so with some kids virtual, some in person, some hybrid, and many with learning deficits only yet to be seen. Sounds relaxing. If you are one of the states enduring the typical testing ritual, only for the tests not to count at all, you have a right to be stressed. So much goes into scheduling, practicing, and administering the tests, and some students are well aware that they “don’t count,” making it all the more difficult to keep control of a classroom sitting through hours of tests. In other situations, where they do count, tensions are high as test scores can reflect poorly on a teacher, who may have been just barely getting by themselves during the pandemic and virtual learning. 

#2 Making sure the kids are okay, when we know they aren’t 

Teachers try not to look, but can’t look away from the devastating mental health results of the pandemic when it comes to their students–compared to 2019, mental health related hospital visits increased by 24% for 5-11 year olds and 31% for 12-17 year olds, the CDC reports. Now those students are coming back into school, sometimes in person, and we are working with a whole new level of mental health challenges. If teachers were often serving as counselors, therapists, parents, and more before in some cases, now it’s even worse, as this many more students need way more than just academic support right now. We see you–all the teachers who are trying to prioritize social and emotional health to support your students’ mental health needs on top of what you were already doing. 

#3 Trying to teach between the protocols 

Maybe your 5-minute class changes, where you could refill your drink, stop at the bathroom, and maybe even chat with a kid who is struggling for a minute, have long ago been replaced with sanitizing duties. Enforcing hallway social distancing is another task many teachers have added to their plates, and catching up kids who have had to quarantine or have been out due to sickness seems like a full-time job. While most teachers recognize the importance of protocols, it can feel like they dominate the day and that there’s no room left for teaching, let alone relationship building and impact making. 

#4 Keeping up with our own families’ changing needs 

If your mind has been wandering lately about how your own family is doing, you aren’t alone. Many teachers are still battling the impossible balance of educating their own kids who may still be in virtual settings, while keeping up with their own classes. The expectation that things across the board have “gone back to normal” since vaccines undermines the struggle working parents are still having, both from the personal decision to return their own children to in-person learning, and from the fact that some districts remain virtual, expecting parents to help facilitate at-home learning through the workday. Either way, it isn’t over yet, and the final few months of these mish-mashed hybrid situations remain a struggle for teachers balancing home and school. 

#5 Feeling like a failure in spite of endless effort 

Teachers responding to a Bored Teachers post on how we are all in survival mode expressed a common sentiment–feeling like they are failing, despite trying harder than ever before. One teacher writes, “Today I feel like I’m failing in my classroom.” Another adds, “I’m so burned out that I have zero idea what I am doing tomorrow much less for the rest of the school year.” Still, others express the desire to quit or that they’ve already quit, citing how they could never do enough or keep up with the demands of this year, nor did they want to. Teaching is already one of the toughest jobs without teachers feeling like they are failing on a daily basis. 

#6 Teaching through grief 

Teachers working double-time have had little time to process their own grief and loss thoroughly, let alone engage in a full-blown mental health recovery plan. Without time to journal, see therapists, exercise, meditate, and more, teachers themselves are just beginning to deal with the mental fallout of the pandemic personally. Still, others have lost family and friends, and have had to lesson plan and grade through this pain. One teacher posted, “I have lost many people the past years and more to Covid. Now my grandfather is dying, not of Covid, but I am a wreck.” For teachers to regain balance, a systematic change has to occur, or at least to get started, buying 2200 Lisa Frank stickers to put all over their classroom to cheer them up, as one teacher posted. 

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Trying to Thrive as a Teacher Right Now is Just Ridiculous – Here's Why

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Alexandra Frost

Alexandra Frost is a freelance journalist and high school publications teacher in Cincinnati, OH. She's worked with other publications such as Glamour, Women's Health, Reader's Digest, and more. She has three young sons under age four and has been teaching high school for ten years. She encourages her students to develop communication skills, independence, and a passion for writing in their authentic writers' voices. To connect or read more of her work please her website or follow her on social media: Twitter Instagram Linked In.

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