being me, new year, reflection

I Need to Forgive Myself

image from etsy

I have been rather contemplative as of late, not quite sure of myself, not quite sure of my worth as a teacher.  I think many of us experience this every year as we start fresh, as we perhaps move grades, or move schools.  Or even if we stay put, these new kids present us with a whole new world, and we forget that our old kids were once new to us as well.

So we beat ourselves up, think we are no longer great teachers, that we are not doing as well as the year before or that somehow we have already messed this year up.  We lament our own limitations, highlight the things that are going wrong, and punish ourselves for not doing enough, teaching enough, being enough.  We spend hours at night searching for solutions, new ideas, and new possibilities that will help us become that teacher again.  That teacher that feels on top of the world.  That teacher that feels like they did their part to help a child.  Yet we forget that we already know a lot of what we need, that this too shall pass.  That with each day and each moment with these kids, we get better, we grow together.  The newness wears off and these kids became our new old kids and we settle into our groove.

So instead of continuing to beat myself up on this path of new, I am going to give myself a break.  I am going to remember that I have never taught this grade level nor this curriculum before.  That every day I AM trying something new even if it doesn’t feel that way.  That it may not feel like I am becoming better or that we are growing together, but that we are, and I would know that if I only paid attention rather than beat myself up.  I am forgiving myself for not being amazing.  I am forgiving myself for not continually trying to be creative, push the boundaries.  I am forgiving myself for the mistakes I am making every day.  I am letting go of the need to try to be perfect, to even be great, and instead focusing on getting better, greatness will hopefully come some day.

I don’t know why i beat myself up.  I don’t know why I pull myself down.  But I do know that it doesn’t help.  That reflection is great but self-doubt isn’t.  I am learning once more to forgive myself for the teacher I am right now, with an eye on what I want to become.  The path is there in front of me, I am already on my journey, but first I need to forgive myself.  Do you?

PS:  My second book comes out today.  Empowered Schools, Empowered Students is finally ready for others to read, dissect, and hopefully like.  Thank you to those who pre-ordered it.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

12 thoughts on “I Need to Forgive Myself”

  1. I have always felt you to be a kindred spirit Pernille- never more than now. Your honesty is generous. I am a self doubter and tormenter as well. Even after many years of therapy, and self help books, and buddhist readings…it is in the genes. Fortunately being aware of it makes it have less long term hold, but it is still a vicious process.

  2. Thanks for this post. It is a helpful reminder–especially since I’ve been saying things to myself like, “Pernille was recommending books on the first day of school–why is it taking me so long?” and “Pernille’s classroom looks amazing, and what do I have–posters that won’t stay on the walls and only half-finished bulletin boards …” Clearly I need to stop comparing myself to anyone else and look for the good in what I’m dong.

  3. Thank you! After teaching 33 years, I also find myself teaching a new grade level. I’ve felt some of those same feelings. I too want to be perfect but you are right; it takes time to learn a new curriculum and the quirks of a different age group. There are challenges and successes everyday. Again, thanks for sharing! This too shall pass.

  4. Pernille, I sooo needed this message today! This was one of those days that I just felt useless and incompetent. Thank you for the reminder that we need to cut ourselves some slack and be patient! Thanks!!!!

  5. Sometimes, we all read what you have to say and we think to ourselves, “Thank goodness she also feels that way!” I have not changed grade levels. I am still in the same grade level I have been in for the past TEN years. I am just trying new things, new ways of being, and it has left me feeling so unsettled, so uncertain, so unsure of what I am doing and how it is working. It is an awful feeling AND it is also a feeling that I know is almost certain to lead to something better.

    You have put so much good into this world and good into the children who are lucky enough to come into your classroom every day. You have put SO much good into this world, that in your moments of uncertainty, you get to withdraw from that reservoir of good and keep pulling until you have once again found your footing.

    Thanks, as always, for letting us come along on your learning journey. You lead by such an incredible example of honesty and vulnerability and doing best for kids. We are lucky to catch a glimpse of it.

  6. Reblogged this on This is How We Do it and commented:
    I couldn’t agree more with what Pernille is talking about in this blog. I was sharing the exact same sentiments with my colleague today and feeling bad about how I was feeling. Instead, I am going to forgive myself like she so eloquently put and just trust the process and trust myself. Thank you for the wise words, a good reminder.

  7. Thank you Pernille, you just made my day!!! I was feeling the exact same way today and especially over the last couple of weeks. I think as teachers we expect so much from ourselves and from our students, that it’s hard to take a step back and remind ourselves of who we are as teachers and what we offer everyday. So thank you for reminding me of this powerful lesson.

  8. Pernille, thanks for sharing what so many of us are feeling. Those of use who seek to push the boundaries, to be more, to do more, always seem to come up short in our own eyes at least. Know that you are an inspiration to many, but most importantly, to the students in fron of you every day. Keep your focus on what is best for them, and things will brighten up for you as well!

  9. The system puts an awful lot of pressure on teachers. You can feel successful in one of two ways:

    1. Volunteer for every committee, attend every game, call every parent once a week, redo all of your assessments to tailor them to each child, study more of the educational research and present your findings each week, focus on achieving the highest test scores and forget about your home life and sanity because your duty to school takes precedence.


    2. Teach.

    Ignore the voices inside your head. You are successful. The system doesn’t define success. You do.

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