In a Rut

As I may have mentioned at some point this is my 20th year in the classroom. I’m starting to wonder if it will be my last. I’ve hit slumps in the past, times when I knew what I believed in doing but wasn’t actually doing it. I changed grade levels or began teaching our gifted class to mix things up and get me rolling again. Not only did I get rolling again but I grew a lot as I looped with a class (twice), taught our gifted class, and moved from the upper grades down to first grade and then kindergarten. It’s been amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And (mostly) I believe my students have benefited from being in my class.

This year I adore my class. I knew half of them from kindergarten, either because I taught them or because I worked with them in some other way. The work we’ve done as a school around academic talk is showing amazing benefits. I’m working with a special education teacher this year (who is awesome) who takes five of my kiddos for a good portion of the day. I’ve always worked with a push-in model so this is new for me. Teaching only fourteen kids for much of the day is fantastic and adjusting to when I have all nineteen and have to address needs very differently is an interesting challenge. I have no complaints. I mean look at them. They’re awesome.


And yet.

For all the things that I am doing well as a teacher there are so many that I’m doing badly. I’m not suggesting I’m a bad teacher. Simply that there are too many things, and things that matter a lot to me, that I think are not good at all.

I can’t figure out what’s got me in this rut when it comes to some aspects of teaching this year. That’s part of the problem. If I could figure out why it’s happening, I’d be far more likely to be able to figure out how to fix it. Instead, I go in every day with the best of intentions and, somewhere during the day, slip right back into behaviors that I hate.

I’m not looking for reassurance that I’m a good teacher. Whether I believe that or not, there’s plenty of reassurance for me. What I need is to figure out why I’m stuck like this or how on earth to turn things around. I believe students deserve better than what mine are getting from me right now.

4 replies on “In a Rut”

  1. Charlene says:

    As I read this I couldn’t help but think about the word “slump” and “rut” as they relate to sports. What did I do when I was feeling flat in my training? Did you ever experience that when you were swimming or coaching? I usually took a day off or participated in another sport so I could look through another lens. I know you can’t take a day off too often but what are other ways you can redirect your teaching? I also think this happens a lot- the work is hard.

  2. timstahmer says:

    I had similar feelings during my 18th year of teaching. I still loved working with the kids but didn’t feel as if the challenges were still there. As a result, I also had that sense of being in a rut.

    Everyone has their own way of dealing with this kind of situation in their lives and for me, it became a turning point. The following year I had the opportunity to move into a new role, working with teachers in multiple schools, and I took it.

    For the first few years I felt guilty about making the change, and I never really stopped missing the kids. But I also greatly enjoyed the chance to make a difference on a larger scale. I’ll leave it up to someone else to judge whether I was successful in my new work. I can only say it was good for me, personally and professionally.

  3. Tara says:

    I think there’s a point where all of us ask, “Is that all there is?” I won’t claim that you’re at the halfway mark of your career, but I’m guessing you’re close to that. It seems to be a place where (a) that feels like a lot of water under the bridge and (b) do we still want to keep doing the same thing until retirement? It doesn’t matter that the kids change each year or there’s new curriculum or that we grow as professionals. At some point, it’s still getting up each morning, Monday through Friday, September through June, and going to a classroom. This is a wonderful thing—otherwise, we would not have done it for 20’ish years. But if you feel like you are in danger of mistaking the edge of your rut for your horizon, then there are things you can do to change your view.

    (to be continued…WordPress won’t let me leave my whole comment…dammit)

    • Tara says:

      As Tim suggests, you can look for new roles. I know you did last spring, but perhaps it’s time to pull out your admin credential and take it for a test drive. To keep myself “fresh” the last couple of years, I’ve gone to non-education related conferences. And that has helped not only expand my viewpoint, but inspire me to try new things (like my data stories) when I get back to the old job.

      Or, maybe there is something you’ve been wanting to do or try. Could your family afford it if you job-shared for a year (or took a sabbatical) to write a book or work for a non-profit or something else? Something that fills you up as a person so that if/when you return to the classroom you don’t feel spent? I know…easier said than done…and a real privilege, at that…but maybe you need to engage in some self-care for a bit. It’s okay to make things all about you for a short time. You know you’re a good teacher. Maybe you’d like to be good at some other things, too.

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