The School Year Roller Coaster: Do You Scream or Do You Enjoy the Ride?

Think back to your first year of teaching EVER.

How were you feeling? For most first year teachers, August-June takes you through a whirlwind of emotions.  There are tears of happiness and tears of frustration, moments where we love our students and moments where we wonder why we even started teaching in the first place.

For some of us, we still experience similar ups and downs throughout the school year.  We feel it in its most extreme form during our first year, but I think that we all have “most favorite” and “least favorite” times the school year!  We refer to this cycle of emotions as the “roller coaster” of teaching:

PhasesOfFirstYearTeaching

courtesy peacecorps.org

Does the graphic resemble anything you went through during your first year of teaching? Does it resemble your school year right now? You’re not alone! Teaching is not for the faint of heart.  Let’s take a closer look:

  • Anticipation: Ideally, this is where we are launching and wrapping up our school year.  We’re excited, looking forward to the Fall, making plans, brainstorming, and ready to take on the next challenge.
  • Survival: At this point in the year, we’ve used a backup plan more than once, classroom routines are being challenged, and our “tomorrow” pile continues to grow because of things we couldn’t get to today.
  • Disillusionment: As soon as we get to school, we already can’t wait to get home.  We have a ton of work to do and our students are challenging us at every turn.  We feel overwhelmed and wonder what life would be like if we had chosen a different career path.
  • Rejuvenation: Winter Break brings us new life.  We’ve visited with family, read that book we were never able to get to, took a day trip, and reorganized our thoughts to tackle the challenges we left behind in December.
  • Reflection: As we start to see changes in both our students and our teaching, we start to think back to the beginning of the year and think either, “why in the world was I doing that?!” or “why don’t we do that anymore? I wonder how we could make that work for next year…”  We start seeing the next school year as a fresh beginning.

Not every teacher feels every phase!  Surround yourself with a positive support system, find what you’re passionate about in your teaching, and take care of yourself.  In the next two blogs, I will walk you through not only how to recognize the low points in the year for ourselves, but also how to turn them around.