Four Ways to Stay Sane as a Teacher

Cross posting the Four Ways to Stay Sane as a Teacher column up at Ed Week, and the story of its genesis.

Awhile back, on this post, I got a heartfelt and heartbreaking comment from a pre-service teacher. It stuck with me for weeks and weeks. A literal haunting.

The question it posed flabbergasted me. I never would have thought myself in any position to give advice like this. This is less a comment on my modesty, I think, than the fact that teaching eats the clock, and after constantly questioning yourself as a teacher, starting again and again as a teacher, feeling green and inexperienced about at least two major components of your work day in and day out as a teacher, suddenly you wake up and it’s been twelve years, and new teachers are reading your blog and asking you for your wisdom. It’s weird.  

I got the resulting column up a couple of days ago via the Teacher Leaders Network, and I’m a little flabbergasted at the interest– hits and tweets, made a Smartbrief email, and so on.

I think it speaks to one fact plainly: how desperate we are for some ray of light in our profession. I tried to find it for my commentator. I won’t lie: it was hard. But it made me face all my fears and questions and convictions straight up– and I discovered that even now, I still believe that education is worth doing everything that I can do, with integrity, to stay in schools.

If I believe this for myself, then, I must honor and support the autonomous decisions of others who share this belief. What am I really saying about my belief in education otherwise?

Ed Week gave it the snazzy title, which assumes a sense of confidence about my work that I decidedly do not possess. I’m grateful for it, though, and for the attention. It puts me in that odd place where writers find themselves sometimes: having put our best selves out there in the world, sailing away on the little paper boats of our words, we now have to live up to them. 

That’s what this coming year is going to be about for me, I think. It can’t be about gaming the new eval system in New York, which may or may not cost me and other colleagues our careers. It has to be about this column– this letter to my new teacher friend. It has to be about living out what I say. That’s all.

5 thoughts on “Four Ways to Stay Sane as a Teacher

  1. Thanks for the post Dina. I’ve already passed it around.

    Your #2 really hit home for me. I am one of those teachers that always felt like he had to teach in a school like you describe. It took/is taking me a long time to understand that I’m not somehow more noble than a teacher at Exeter. Every kid deserves a good teacher (even private school kids).

  2. Thank you, Dina! Like the reader who sent you these questions, I am also a preservice teacher struggling at times to remain hopeful as I finish my program. Your article was an assigned reading for one of my classes and I’m really glad that it was. I appreciate your honesty in sharing your experiences and insight about the teaching profession. I was happy to find the link to your blog and thoroughly enjoy your honesty in ALL of your posts. Thanks again!

  3. You’re very welcome, Emily. What program are you in? It just floors me that something I wrote is being assigned in a class somewhere. 🙂

  4. I am in the teacher cert program at the University of Washington-Bothell. Your article was assigned as part of my technology class. It really helped me to put things into perspective. Thanks again!

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