Tough Time of Year for Teachers

December 17, 2015

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or, is it? Some teachers say it’s the most stressful and difficult time of year, especially for those in their first year. National Public Radio says “one in 10 teachers will quit by the end of their first year.” In fact, some have dubbed this time of year, “DEVOLSON,” an acronym for the “Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November.”

Sara Jean Banks, an AP environmental science teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, had another term for this time of year.

“We call it ‘Rocktober,’ because it tends to rock your world,” she said.

The stress can be brought on by a lot of different factors. Chalkbeat spoke to a handful Colorado teachers who said the stress is induced by not feeling like they can do enough to improve the lives of their students, the amount of student assessments required this time of year, the pressure to prove themselves (as first year teachers), and the mountain of required paperwork and planning.

“I always hear first-year teachers say, ‘I don’t think teaching is for me,’” said Banks. “In fact, I said the same thing myself, but it most definitely gets better. Everyone’s experience is different but we all go through ups and downs.”

The good news is there is a lot of support in Colorado through programs, associations, and on the Web, that offer resources to help teachers through this difficult time. The Colorado Education Association hosts three to four seminars throughout the year geared specifically toward mentoring teachers and helping them get over the hump, so to speak.

Another option is to enroll in professional training or group or one-on-one counseling.  InwardBound Colorado offers all of those services for those who live in Western Colorado. No matter where you teach, Colorado has resources for you.

Denver Public Schools is a great example because they have a Teacher Leadership and Collaboration program which focuses on encouraging constructive criticism and collaboration among teachers throughout the workday  ̶  creating a sports team-like atmosphere.

What first-year teachers need to remember is you aren’t alone. There are hundreds of online resources, including blogs written by teachers who are either experiencing what you are going through or have been there before. Some blogs to check out are New Teacher Edutopia,  LoveTeach,  and CoolCatTeacher.

While speaking with several veteran teachers, here is some basic advice they had for those who are struggling:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Slow down!
  • Take time for yourself and take care of yourself. It’s okay to take 5 minutes here and there. Go to bathroom! Eat lunch! Hydrate! You’ll be surprised at how these simple steps will help you stay focused and be your best while inside the classroom.
  • Express gratitude to other teachers and administrators. Cultivate positive relationships within the school.
  • Seek out a mentor
  • Create a wellness and/or workout program for yourself and possibly fellow teachers, but make sure the time commitment isn’t too intense. You want to avoid having this feel like yet another thing to add to your To-Do list.
  • Meditate
  • Lastly and most importantly, remember why you became a teacher in the first place. Think about why it was so important for you in the beginning and why you wanted to make a difference.

“At the beginning of each year, I always encourage my fellow teachers to write down what their goals are for the year.” Banks said. “That way, when times get tough, they can review those goals and it will hopefully put things back into perspective. Remembering what your ‘why’ is, is so incredibly important.”