It has been just over a year since my last blog post, although my ‘write’ page is filled with dozens of half finished, just begun posts. My reason for beginning again has been inspired by a recent post by Sonya terBorg in which she explains her reasons for taking a break from blogging and her battle with Imposter Syndrome. There was a lot in the article that resonated and gave me the push to write this post and maybe complete the dozens of unfinished posts. This is a post I have been meaning to write for sometime now but needed that little push and courage.
I think back to the educator I was just over a year ago. I was motivated, driven, inspired and with a huge self-confidence in my approach to teaching and learning but even then not all was right. I kept myself extremely busy and had probably the most productive year of my career to date working as Homeroom Teacher, Team Leader, Chair of Committee for NEASC and IB self-study, football coach and much more. From the outside I seemed like a very driven colleague but on the inside things were not so bright. I began to feel anxiety, frustration, unappreciated, unsupported and many more self-pitying emotions. It felt like that no matter how much I tried the people I really wanted to make proud, or acknowledge my work, didn’t seem to notice or appreciate my efforts, or in the ways that I expected anyway. The more these negative feelings increased the harder I worked driven by a mission to prove some point.
It was around this time last year that I had accomplished all my assignments, the self study was finished, football tournaments over, curriculums and documentation completed as much as possible for my team and there was nothing in front of me, nothing to distract me from myself. It was at this time self- doubt crept in. I tried to keep things going but the motivation and drive was gone. I started projects but then could not complete. Things that would have usually been so easy turned into a mammoth task. My head was spinning and with it I spiralled into depression, self-doubt and shame. I started to compete with my old self and the more I tried, and failed, the deeper I seemed to fall. In my head was a voice that screamed, ‘why is no-one helping!, and I was too scared to reach out and admit I needed help. Or in the times I did I felt that the right kind of support was not there. For many we continue to suffer in silence and put on a brave face. That brave face becomes a weight and is so tiring to maintain.
The more things increased the more isolated I became. Social anxiety became I huge issue as my self-confidence no longer supported me. I began to hide away with feelings of being a fraud. I stopped blogging, stopped socialising, became quieter and afraid. I stopped answering messages and participating in chats as I felt afraid of being exposed. All my support and connections were falling away and I was soo tired all the time. All I could think about at times was when I could get my next sleep and how long for.
Education can be a scary place when educators feel like I did or do still at times. The vision of an educator is a driven, motivated, confident and sociable creatures. A problem solver, curious, creative, independent and collaborative but there were times when I was none of those things or at least not the way I was. During the last year I continued my fitness routine, ate well, slept well but nothing seemed to lift the haze.
What has changed? Well the simple fact is I have become to recognise that I had a problem and needed help. I could not do this on me own. I became more open about my feelings to those close and leaned on them when I needed. This was the greatest challenge, opening up, being able to say that I need help. The more I opened up to friends and colleagues the more I felt my burden shared and more surprisingly there are a lot of us out there experiencing the same things. We are not alone and that in itself is comforting. We all need support at times.
The good days are beginning to become more frequent but I cannot be naive, it is a process. I need to continue to open up when I need to, look for help when I can. I am not invincible. I can feel the change in my mindset and aspects of the old me beginning to return. Even writing this post I can feel a new sense of motivation and drive, a new beginning and who knows, I may even finish those posts I started. I must state that the purpose of my blogs has never to gain recognition but it was an excellent way of self-reflection, a way to improve practice and make connections with like minded educators.
For those that read this, I spent a lot of time debating whether I should. I didn’t want it to come across as self-pitying but as a way of getting things off my chest. It is quite scary to expose myself in this way but I feel better for doing so. Sometimes you have to forget about others and do whats right for you.
Final thought: I believe that schools and school leaders need to do more to support educators and let them feel safe that it is ok to need help. I know some schools and individuals try hard but we still have far to go. To everyone, not just teachers, social and emotional support is something that we should continue to be proactive about and not reactive. Is it the saying it is much easier to fix broken children that fix broken adults? We need to all work hard to ensure that things don’t get broken in the first place and if they do then there is a community there ready to support them. All it sometimes takes is a smile and a good morning. The recognition that you care.