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Back to the Top Teaching Blog
April 2, 2015 Staying Strong When Teaching Gets Tough By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    We work in a relentlessly tough profession. Our industry has, and most likely will always have, controversy, opposing sides, endless change, and even some haters within your staff that you will inevitably encounter. I was recently perusing the Scholastic Teachers Facebook page and the "10 O’Clock Teacher Question!" I came across a post from a new teacher, Jessica, whose story sounded oh-so-familiar and all too sad. Here’s an excerpt. Raise your hand or give a holler (or cry) if this rings a bell for you:  

    "I'm currently in my first year and it's been rough. My team is extremely unsupportive and it has taken a toll on my love of teaching. I've been recognized for my hard work and dedication a few times this year and it has just seemed to make them resent me."

    Isn’t it ironic that we teach anti-bullying within the classroom, yet what Jessica describes and so many of us have experienced is just that on an adult level? I don’t have words of advice for Jessica or anyone experiencing similar frustrations, but here are a few strategies to help keep things into perspective.




    I grew up in the 80s and 90s and remember when rappers finally stopped attacking each other and started collaborating on songs and albums. Guess what? Those tracks were instant hits. We as teachers need to do the same. We are BETTER TOGETHER, and in this tough profession we need each other every day.

    Sometimes it is your team who can be there to support you, other times it might be a teacher within the school, but from another team (if you are facing conflict within your own team). Always look for shining lights within your team and school to support you and collaborate with. As Oprah Winfrey said, “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”



    Technology makes this easy. Reach out to other teachers around the globe, and you will be amazed at how you will connect to others with your exact same struggles, and who can offer great advice. You'll also come across positive people to join your support network focused on lifting you higher. Even better, YOU will become part of others’ support networks.

    Local Connections: Don’t overlook the importance of starting new local teacher connections and maintaining existing relationships. Make it a goal to keep in touch with teacher friends from past grade levels or other schools where you have taught. Join local teaching organizations, and attend seminars and meetups. Within your school and district, make a point to join a committee where teachers from other schools participate or, talk to new people at district meetings or at times designated for collaborations.

    Blogging Buddies: If you don’t have an existing blog, or you don't plan on starting your own, no problem! Follow teaching blogs, comment regularly, and see how you become a part of their network. Bloggers love new followers, especially if you are actively contributing to the conversation surrounding topics at hand. Look at a few of my new blogging buddies in the Chicago area that I met at a recent local teacher blogger meetup!

    Left: to right: Cretia Kirkwood from It's Elementary KiddosLauren Kolod from iWonderTasia Fields from Great Minds Teach Alike.


    Webinars, Blogs, Social Media: You have so many vehicles for collaboration without boundaries thanks to online webinars, teacher/educational organization blogs, and social media. Below, read how I use different social media tools to connect with teachers beyond local borders:

    • Facebook gives me quick peeks at updates on blog posts, products released, reviews, and tips from teachers around the world.

    • Pinterest is one of my biggest obsessions. I search Pinterest for classroom ideas, resources, decor/bulletin board ideas, and organizational tips.

    • Instagram allows me to get more personal glimpses of the life and classroom happenings of teacher bloggers and colleagues. I have connected with countless educators on a deeper level starting with following them on Instagram.

    • Twitter is the perfect forum to soak up top educational trends and tidbits, and then further explore via links provided if you choose. Also, watch for and engage in top weekly educational Twitter chats that will provide a more personal interaction when Tweeting teachers.



    Beyond new avenues of collaboration, sometimes we as teachers just need little pick-me-ups.

    LAUGH: I love someecards no matter what the topic of their hilarity is, but when it comes to their teacher quotes, I roll on the floor laughing. They are so true. Hilarious things happen every day in the classroom, but we are often too overwhelmed to appreciate them. Whether it’s something a colleague says that makes you chuckle, a funny retort from a student, or searching out a source of humor online, relish the moment and have a giggle. Check out the entire collection of teacher-themed someecards, and save this link for when you need it most!

    INSPIRE: Sometimes we need a gut-wrenching, tear-jerking reality check to remind us about why we entered this crazy profession to begin with and the difference we are truly making each and every day.  Whether we realize it or not, we are inspiring people all the time. Check out the "50 Most Inspirational Quotes for Teachers." Here's one of my personal favorites:


    WATCH:  My friend and fellow blogger, Erin Klein, wrote a fantastically uplifting Scholastic Top Teaching blog post on "9 Videos to Make Teachers Laugh, Cry, and Feel Inspired!" Anytime I can refer to something that’s teacher tested and approved, I go for it. If you need to feel uplifted, check out her post and the videos within. Edutopia also put out a great list of "20 Movies Every Educator Should See." Some of my favorites are on that list! I want to curl up on my couch with a blanket and waste a few hours watching them right now.


    What’s MY favorite inspirational teacher video? "Kid President's Pep Talk to Teachers and Students!" I adore this kid, and his video pep talk both made me laugh and cry.




    Thanks for reading and see you next week!



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