Making the Desert Bloom

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 16 2012

Finding Happiness while and hopefully in Teaching

It’s no secret that most first-year teachers (especially TFA Corps Members) are not happy during much of their first year teaching. Facing an incredibly challenging job without all of the skills to succeed is difficult for anyone no matter how much support you have. I am not making this statement to indict anyone, but rather it’s a fact (for me at least). It’s the reason why I avoid many of the parties of 2012 CMs throw since it’s simply too depressing to be around people who are always complaining even if you are one of them.

Starting at Institute, I would seek out adventures on my own to make sure that I was of sane mind when I was lesson planning and instructing the classroom. I would take trips to random sights in LA in addition to catching baseball games in LA, Anaheim, and San Diego. Sometimes I would take these trips by myself and sometimes I would do them with others (sometimes TFA people but more than often than not, friends from elsewhere). However, the main point of these trips was always to clear up my mind from whatever disappointments I was facing in the classroom. I was always trying to escape something, which is a horrifying thought for a job that I wanted to get. Overall, I liked my life outside of my job, but I hated my job.

Moving to Las Vegas, the same has proven to be true for better or worse. I love my weekends where I can explore new restaurants, new hiking trails, or simply catch up on sleep. Obviously, most people enjoy their weekends more than their workdays. However, like many people (especially my peer group), I want to work at a job that both challenges me and is fulfilling. That is what I thought would lead me to happiness in my life after college. I thought this job would provide the perfect balance of challenge and fulfillment, and maybe one day it will.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a control freak. Outside of the classroom and being single, I can control a vast majority of the variables in my life. I actively control my activities down to the smallest details. I know what I want, and most of the time I can get it. In the classroom, there are so many more variables outside of my control that it’s often over-whelming. I can keep improving, but that doesn’t mean that I will be able to control the other variables in the room and the whole school.

Last month I was talking to a second-year CM who admitted how happy he was with teaching. I gave him one of those weird stares, and he said that for most of his first-year he simply didn’t enjoy teaching. However, after seeing the progress of his classroom and their test results, by the end of his first year, he started to really enjoy teaching. Hopefully the same thing can happen to me, but I am simply pessimistic at this point since I feel like there are so many forces working against me in the classroom. Teaching (or really behavior management) feels like a giant game of “Whack-a-Mole”. Whenever I solve one issue or my students finally master a skill, a new issue and new objective arises that seems beyond the grasp of both myself and my students. It’s depressing since I want my students to succeed so badly that it’s not funny, but too often that success remains elusive.

I know that if I dedicated significantly more effort (time really isn’t the issue) towards becoming a better educator, I would be more happy in the classroom. However that would consume much of the happiness in my life that I experience outside of teaching. Is it worth giving up that happiness temporarily for longer-term happiness in the workplace? I think it is, so I have been cutting back a bit on the things I do outside of work for fun. But now I have just found that I am simply more tired and hardly any better in the classroom. I know that I will get better with time and experience, but I am impatient person. I want results now so that I can feel as though I am spending my limited time on Earth in the best way possible.

On dark days, I have started job applications for other positions, but I never get more than five minutes into them. That may be due to exhaustion, but more likely it’s due to the fact that while I am impatient, I am not even close to wanting to give up yet. I am not going to throw in the white towel unless someone else throws it in for me. I still believe that I can be a successful teacher with my students achieving as much as possible. I know that I can get to a place of relative happiness as a teacher. Now it’s my quest, especially after Winter Break, to actually get there. Hopefully, break will provide me with a large enough re-boot that I will really start to see results in my classroom in the following weeks.

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