When You Feel Misplaced

image from icanread

It seems like I have had more bad days than good in the last few weeks.  You probably wouldn’t know that if you knew me though.  Us teachers tend to not share too much of the bad.  In fact, even if you were in my classroom, you might not even have noticed.  I don’t yell.  I don’t slam doors.  I don’t take it out on students.  Instead I get quiet, I reflect, I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder why it is that I feel like I am in a funk?

It dawned on me today as I picked my heart up off the floor; I miss my 5th grade.  I miss teaching so many different subjects.  I miss the hugs.  I miss the stories.  I miss the parents randomly stopping by with a forgotten lunch or just because.  I miss my old team, even though my new team is incredible.  I miss knowing the kids in that way you know them when you have them all day. I miss snack time and read aloud.  Our first grade buddies.  The excitement that comes with being a 5th grader and being on the cusp of middle school, not knowing what to expect.  And did I mention, I miss the hugs?

Yet, I also love 7th grade.  I have incredible students.  I am part of an incredible school.  I would walk through fire for my team.  I am surrounded by so many inspiring teachers and I get to teach reading every day.  How lucky am I?  But, it doesn’t feel like enough.  Not tonight.  Not this week, for some reason.

So on this day, I wonder where I belong.  I wonder where I am supposed to be.  I wonder whether it will ever feel like home again.  Whether I will ever be anyone’s favorite teacher again.  I know it shouldn’t matter but for some reason it does.  I wonder if I will make a difference in a middle schoolers life or if I will be just another teacher on their way toward high schooler.  I guess I didn’t know how much I just don’t want to be just another teacher.  I guess I want to feel like I am making a difference again.  I wonder if I made the right choice…

24 thoughts on “When You Feel Misplaced

  1. It will happen. You just won’t know it right away. As long as you know in your heart you doing the right things, the knowing of the impact you had will come. One student at a time. Yes seventh graders do not always show how they feel or that you impacted their lives. But it does happen. You find out later when that a student is becoming a teacher because of you. Or they read because of you. Or they write because of you. Or simply that you made them feel like they counted. Trust in yourself and the rest will take care of itself. And you will know your impact.

  2. It may seem wrong right now, but wait it out and be brave! Feeling comfortable in your old role felt good, but when we are experience change comfort levels are all over the place. You are waking up at night because your mind is seeking that comfort level and making you work overtime to get it back. The fact that you know what is causing your funk is part of the solution. Seek happiness in small moments and know that you are on a new path, but the outcome in the lives of your students is still the same. . . you will make a difference in their lives because you care about them. Take care of yourself and know that good things are ahead!

  3. Middle school is frequently one of the most challenging times in students’ lives. This is the time that they desperately need talented, caring teachers. You may be just where you are needed most.

  4. I think your feelings are very normal. I felt that to a small degree when I went from 5th to 4th (5th grade is a magical year) but I still got plenty of hugs in 4th to keep me feeling like I belonged.

    Last year I moved to 6th grade at a Middle school and felt exactly like you. I became just one of their seven teachers and for many I was no longer a favorite.

    I tortured myself night after night from September through June trying to find a way to fit in, to be one of the “cool” teachers. It was in the summer that I realized exactly what went wrong. I had run into a group of my past students at the beach and started talking with them about School and summer trips when one of them said to me, “You were one of my favorite teachers last year. Not as cool as Ms. Blank but I learned more in your class than any other.” That’s when the lightbulb went off. I am a teacher first. That’s what I love about what I do.
    This year has been amazing! I’m teaching my heart out and I’ve learned to accept being one of their faves and the occasional hug still makes my day.
    Hang in there! We make more of a difference than we’ll ever know.
    Kim

  5. I completely understand! When I moved from the magic of 5th to teach Language Arts in the middle school I thought I would LOVE it. There are things I did enjoy very much, but I missed integrating subjects. I missed being able to ‘borrow’ ten minutes from this block to come to a good stopping point in the fantastic learning that was going on in a different subject. I missed math! (This is a whole thought on its own.) I enjoyed the challenge of making workshop model work within the parameters of middle school. I also found that teaching the same thing, four times in a row, isn’t my passion. I enjoyed my time in middle school, but I am thrilled to be back with 5th graders, getting them ready for middle school. Isn’t it great that we don’t all love to teach the same thing?!

  6. I totally understand your feelings,right now the same kind of thoughts are going through my mind . You definitely have made a huge impact on your students in the past and am confident you’ll make a big difference in their lives in future too.Mark my words the hugs will be back soon.Good luck.

  7. I feel the same way, but every day I wonder if I made the right choice, and even question whether teaching is still right for me. I came from a school where I LOVED the diversity of the kids, but it was a very urban, rough school where poverty was the norm. I had worked there and made my niche for seven years. And though my team wasn’t the strongest, I still felt like I was loved and was making some sort of small difference for our students. I had to move last year. Working at my previous school was taking its toll on not just my health, but the health of many of my co-workers too. Moving was so hard. I left financial stability behind, along with some very inspiring, amazing teachers to move to a small town school where it has been hard to feel accepted or loved-mainly by the staff. To be fair, I am more introverted, and it is hard to go out there and be friendly with other teachers. (We do get so busy and I am getting used to SO many new things-curriculum, helicopter-though well meaning parents, new team that doesn’t really function as one, etc.) It is hard to know whether I made the right choice. i am happy that my students seem to accept me, however. It keeps me going. I am glad you wrote this post. A teacher’s little miseries can pile up. Noticing them and moving on is important for us all.

  8. I taught at a middle school to begin my career. I taught science and loved it for the first couple of years then like you it was getting bored with teaching the same thing 5 times a day, no variety. I then realized there was variety in the sense of every class has its own personality. This was 20+ years ago and I still am in contact with several of my students and their families, even though I only had them once a day I made and impression on them! 🙂
    I did choose to switch to elementary but it was due to the boredom of doing only science and I wanted to try other things. It was not due to the fact that I did not feel I was connecting with students. You may only connect forever with 2 or 3 a year but it is a connection for life. You will not know the effect you have had on them until later in their school careers.

  9. Last year my district moved me from elementary to middle school. I never imagined teaching middle school and it was a hard adjustment, for all the reasons you (and others) wrote about. I knew, while I was going to make the best of the situation, at some point I wanted to go back to teaching elementary school. It took me until about April to feel like I hit my stride, really knew the kids, and was enjoying being at the middle school. At the end of the year I was moved back to an elementary school. This year I’m actually missing the middle school.
    Hang in there! You’ll find your place and come to love your decision.

  10. Dear Pernille,

    My experience tells me that we need these times of challenge, discomfort and doubt in order to grow and learn. Times of break-down, break-ing or un-belonging can lead to a break-through or a new sense of self and place.

    Thank you for a post which reveals vulnerability! I think it is important that we share and hear each other’s stories of complexity and struggle.

    Deb

  11. It takes time. Particularly with middle schoolers, reputation matters. Now, with my 8th graders I have a rep and they look forward to having “Miss Vicki” (as we say in the south.) That said, I think we all have our favorite ages. While I love all ages grades 8-10 are my all time faves. I have taught seniors and juniors but there is something about that age. My sister loves middle schoolers – it is a crazy age where they laugh at body functions and gross stuff and sometimes they smell pretty gross too – but they still think teachers are cool and she loves that. I know teachers who just gel with the little ones. I think sometimes it takes teaching a different age to know which ones you are most crazy about — and I”ve taught 5th graders too and while I love them – grade 8-10 — that’s my sweet spot. So, if you view this as a journey to finding your sweet spot, that is important. It may just be your sweet spot is closer to fifth grade than 7th. You’ll figure it out and with your talent figure out a way to get to work with that age. I think most teachers will agree that we sort of have a “favorite age” — although we love them all we are just sort of made for a certain age group.
    Best wishes. Also remember that this is BURNOUT TIME. Be careful with yourself and learn when you’re too tired not to entirely trust everything crossing your brain — some things at this time need to cross our brain and keep going. Others need to stop halfway. 😉

    Have a happy day and know that these sorts of thoughts come to us all. It isn’t that you’re disloyal, you’re just learning about yourself and where you fit best in the world.

  12. Middle schoolers aren’t always particularly like-able. And honestly, between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day are some of the hardest teaching days. Figure out what you love and find a way to put that in your day. I added workshop to Fridays — just so I looked forward to Fridays. Change is hard… positive energy flowing your way!

  13. Pingback: It Appears My Students Have More Faith in Me Than I Do | Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension

  14. I moved from 5th grade to high school. I have a mostly admin position now but also teach 1 class. I too am finding the shift from being THE teacher to ONE teacher tough. It’s a rude awakening to no longer know that my class is the priority. And, it takes me so much longer to know the students the way I did after the first week in 5th grade. That said, I love seeing how much students have grown up and how much their thinking has developed.

  15. This week I ran into one of my most challenging students from a few years ago. I have a high tolerance with kids, but I have to admit that he was passive aggressive with everything that I asked of him and he drove me crazy.

    He pulled me aside from a group of friends and told me that I was a good teacher. He apologized for his behavior even using some profanity to describe himself. I laughed and told him that we all need time to grow up.

    So many times the issues in our classes are not about us but about student’s personal growth or problems outside of school. School may be the only safe place that they can deal with their issues.

    And most of the time we never know the positive effects that we have on their lives.

  16. Change is challenging. The first year in a new district is challenging. Be patient knowing there will be many opportunities for you and that you certainly are making an impact on your students’ lives. Sending you joyful energy.

  17. I can relate. I taught 6th grade language arts at a middle school for 12 years and LOVED it. Feeling the need for a new opportunity and growth, I accepted a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) position as a K-5 Instructional Coach in the same district. This is my third year of supporting teachers and students in three elementary schools. I have enjoyed this position but it has been three years of awkwardness. I am not sure where I belong or if I belong. I miss my 6th graders and their quirkiness. I miss my team of 6th grade teachers. I miss belonging somewhere. In my coaching position I wasn’t used to getting hugs from the K-5 population. I was used to fist bumps or high fives from my 6th graders. I was used to students remaining in their desks while I taught and then moving around freely while working. I wasn’t used to teaching lessons where I sit up front and the students close in around me or nearly on top of me. I am more comfortable in year three than I was in year one. However, my heart and my mind are in the classroom with students. I recently put in to return to 6th grade language arts and I cannot wait.

    You are making a difference. Middle School students need you. Change is difficult, challenging, and rewarding. Embrace it.

  18. Change is hard. Fear of the unknown is scary. I, like you and many others have experienced the move from elementary to middle and when you’re tired and in the thick of things, it’s so hard to see past tomorrow. I will be interested to read your thoughts in hind sight at the end of this school year, but for now take comfort in knowing that this change will help you to grow and learn, just as we so often ask our students to do.

    I can’t shake something I’ve read a couple of times here though… The desire for the kids to really like us, to be their “favourite” teacher…. This isn’t sitting well with me, something. I think we need to reflect on deeply.

    Be well. The holidays are soon coming for you to rest and rejuvenate.

    • Thank you so much for your words and your way of making me thinking. I have , indeed, used the term :favorite” before and I think itis something I hang on to whenever the road is hard. However, I have also reflected on what it means to me and how I wish I am one of many “favorite” teachers. That has been one of the things students have showed me this year, that there is much appreciation to be handed out to many different individuals. It was also the message I told to my 5th graders at the end of the year last year and then wrote about here.

  19. Pingback: The Posts that Spoke the Loudest Part 2 | Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension

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