Teaching is hard. Leading is hard. Both roles are meaningful and worth it, but that does not make them any less difficult.
Although I believe in perseverance and positivity, I also believe in being authentic. Some of the tough stories that we are coping with as educators and leaders can weigh us down if we do not have the opportunity to share them.
I will never forget my first year of teaching. I was working at a low-income school, and my class was filled with a dynamic mix of behaviors and needs. One particular student in my class was destructive to the classroom, to staff members, and to students on a daily basis. I was genuinely scared. But, on the surface, I held it all together and did whatever I could to keep the other students safe. Staff members in the school knew how tough this situation was and praised how well I was handling it, especially since I was a first-year teacher at the time.
Inside, I felt hopeless and terrified. I kept a smiling face on and was as proactive as possible with what was going on, but I did not expect to encounter this experience during my first year of teaching. Although I appreciated the praise from others, all I wanted was a shoulder to cry on or a person that I could tell my worries to. However, since I had a handle on the situation, others seemingly thought that I was doing just fine on my own.
I think many of us have similar stories like this that we can relate to within our career.
Sometimes positive and tenacious spirits can be the best attribute, but it can also be your Achille’s heal.
We sometimes assume that if we are usually a positive person, that we cannot open up and share struggling points; That by sharing something negative that is happening to us, that it also makes us negative. We also think that if we share our pitfalls, that we then place that burden on someone else; So, to avoid this, we handle it ourselves.
But, I know now from experience that we cannot put the weight of the world single-handedly on our backs as educators and leaders. We can remain positive and determined, yet still share our tough stories with someone else. This is what makes us real. This is what makes us all authentic. We are all going through struggles and we are not alone.
From my background with leading new teacher induction programs to leading curriculum and department teams, to working hand-in-hand with teachers on a variety of grade levels, I have gained much valued insight. It is a beautiful thing to share the successes of your day and what is going right. But, also, sometimes what people need is a listening, trusting, non-judging, and open ear willing to hear anything and everything.
As Maya Angelou says, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” We understand that quote as it relates to our students entirely but resist the urge to apply it to our personal story. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable.
Taking this idea further, take a deeper look at the people around you and find ways to lighten the burden of others as well. Lifting others up can be the most effective way to lift your spirits as well.