The Biggest Struggle I Faced as an Educator
I wanted to take this opportunity to take a break from all the tips and tactical strategies we like to share around literacy-based instruction and reading intervention to have this truly personal conversation with you.
Because while I think that sharing this experience is deeply personal for me, I would like to believe it will resonate with you too.
Every now and then I sit down and take time to reflect, which is difficult for me because my mind often races from one thing to the next.
I used to find this unnerving and frustrating, wishing I was someone else who could just have this calm and collected being. I now find the beauty and the magic in my raving squirrel brain. I think if we could all just take a step back and see the beauty in the way we are versus wishing we were something else it would be a much easier world for us and our students to live in.
I’m not sure where this quote came from so that I can pay proper attribution but it feels like the perfect representation of my mind on most days :)
You know, the one I used to hate but now thank daily as a part of the gratitude section in my goals journal. Are you writing down daily affirmations and goals?!? If not, why not? Go start now. I’ll wait.
But, I digress (there goes that squirrel brain again), I was reflecting on why this field can be so difficult at times. I was considering the beliefs we have, the realities we face. This field is beyond rewarding and the impact we make as therapists and educators is truly second to none. But it’s hard.
And part of the reason it’s so hard is because we expect a lot from ourselves. And then we never seem to measure up no matter how many hours we put in. It often feels like there is no winning. When I started out in this field I thought I had two choices. I could only be one of two types of educators.
I could be the educator who would stop at nothing to give her students everything they needed.
I could be the one who showed up early to prep my materials and the one who stayed late responding to every last email, entering every last piece of data, perfecting that last resource that kept me up the night before because I just KNEW that I was only one perfect resource away from making this massive impact for my students.
I could be the educator who left right after my students walked out the door.
I could be the one who was eagerly making plans for the next break. The one who lived for summer, for time to myself, who jumped for joy anytime there were whisperings of the coveted snow day. I could be the type of educator who just walked in, showed up, did my work and left.
It was an either/or and I could feel the judgement from within me and from everywhere around me. I knew deep down I needed to become one of these two educators.
And there was clearly the type of educator I was supposed to be.
It was so difficult, because I have a huge heart and want the absolute best for my students. I care for them more deeply than I ever could have imagined when I started out in this field. But I felt stuck, stuck between this either/or in being self-sacrificing or taking care of my own needs. But the crazy thing was, it didn’t feel like the difference between taking care of others and taking care of myself…it felt like a decision between right and wrong. I was going to be the good type of educator or the bad type. I was going to be the type who cared for students or the type who cared about herself.
But why did it have to be an either/or?
Why couldn’t I be the type of educator who would stop at nothing to give her students everything they needed AND…be the type of educator who left right after my students walked out the door eagerly making plans for how to take care of myself while spending time with my friends and family?
Why did I have to choose?
Ultimately, I had to choose because I just couldn’t get everything done while piecing together this program and that program. Because after everything I’d learned about what MUST HAPPEN for my struggling readers, my dyslexic readers, my ADHD students, my students on the spectrum - I knew that the programs I was using just weren’t cutting it. I knew that if I didn’t stay late creating new materials, new lesson plans, new ways to piece it altogether, I would be leaving critical components out of a research based lesson and my students would suffer.
It felt like a lot, but I knew I had no choice really - I chose to be the type of educator who would stop at nothing and yet at the same time resented that choice.
I LOVE my students and to this day would do anything for them, but what ended up happening was that it cost my time with my family, with my boys, with my friends - who all started resenting the amount of time I spent working to help these kids because while they appreciated the work I did it meant I wasn’t present for them.
My students came above everything else in my life because I knew I couldn’t be “that educator who was only in it for the summers off” - what would people think of me if I was that type of educator….what would I think of myself?!? But to be honest, is the “type of educators who is only in it for the summers” even really a thing?! I don’t know…I really doubt it.
I think at a certain point our spark can burn out if we’re not careful, or we don’t have the training or support we need to be truly successful, but I don’t think there is a therapist or educator out there who really just went into this field for the “summers off”.
Maybe I’m naive, but I’d like to believe we’re all here for a common purpose - to make a difference, an impact in the lives of the future, to matter.
It’s just that it gets really hard sometimes, and sometimes we lose sight of why we started. Because sometimes the challenge of making that difference feels insurmountable.
At one point in my career I felt that way too…
But now, I can truly say that I’ve finally found balance. 10 years into this career and I’ve found a way to give my students everything they need while also having my life back. I’m able to show up deliver a life-changing lesson, and then go home. No more late night lesson planning, no more jolting panicky thoughts about my students in the middle of the night. Just a sense of calm…and if it’s possible for me, well then I know it’s possible for you too.
So stay the course, don’t give up, don’t let that spark burn out - because you’re making a difference, you’re making the impact on the future you dreamed of when you started in this field, and you matter.
If you want someone to stand next to, we’re here for you - because it doesn’t have to be hard, we can show you how we’re working with our students, sometimes you just need the steps, the HOW for crying out loud.
But even if you don’t want our how, we want you to know we’re here for you, we believe in you. This profession matters and unfortunately it, too often, feels marginalized by society and sometimes the worst part is that we feel marginalized by one another…but not here. There’s no high school lunch room drama here.
You can sit with us.
If this resonates at all and you’re interested in learning about our framework, we’d absolutely love to have you in our >>free training about reading instruction that works<<…but again, even if that’s not a fit, you can sit with us. We’re here to stand (or sit) beside you. Whether you use our approach or someone else’s, it doesn’t matter.
And we want you to remember that you don’t have to choose.
You don’t have to choose between being the type of educator that stops at nothing to get her students where they need to be and the type of educator who shows up and leaves on time and puts her work down when she’s at home. You can do both. It doesn’t have to be so hard.
Signing off with nothing but love and admiration for what you do every day (the things you do for your students and also the things you do for yourself),