Frustration Time

frustration photo
Photo by e-magic

It’s frustration time. I know this is a bit of a pattern with me, and maybe it is with most teachers, but I find I’m at my most frustrated this time of year.

I keep thinking of the things I wanted to accomplish but didn’t. I keep thinking of the students with whom I tried to establish a rapport and a relationship but failed. I keep thinking of discussions and disagreements. I focus almost exclusively on everything that went wrong. I wonder sometimes what it would be like to be the kind of person who wasn’t bothered by such things. I suppose I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t, but this time of year can be agony for me until the summer arrives, and I find myself wondering if my fellow teachers commiserate.

One thing I wonder is whether I care too much. I realize that’s a loaded sentence. One never wants to be accused of caring too little unless we know it’s something we shouldn’t care too much about. For instance, I believe that as a colleague and teacher, I have earned a fair amount of respect—even some appreciation. So why do I focus on encounters in which I have felt disrespected to the exclusion of the large number of encounters in which I have felt respected and perhaps even truly appreciated? Why does the negative weigh so much more in my mind than the positive? Why is the negative so much louder than the positive? I seem to be especially vulnerable to this kind of thinking at the end of the year. Perhaps it’s because I’m clinging to the end of that frayed rope, hoping I can hold on for a few more weeks when I can decompress and get rid of the stress.

The end of the year is so stressful. I think a lot of teachers—perhaps all of them—feel it. Is it just my perception that everyone else seems so much better able to cope with the stress without being upset? Are they just hiding it really well?

I value reflection a great deal. I think it is a helpful practice to examine myself and determine how I might do better. Sometimes, it ventures into the realm of being unproductive, however, and I feel like I beat myself up more than it seems like others do. Is that just a perception? Do we all kind of beat ourselves up?

I have been bending my poor husband’s ears for two days on my end-of-year frustrations, and he’s been a great listener. I know he would like to figure out a way to help or to say something that would make me feel better, but at this stage, I feel like the only thing that will help is a break. And I know it’s coming soon enough. I know I have only a few more days with students, and then just a few more after that with colleagues. I will have some wonderful things to look forward to this summer. A trip or two with family. A U2 concert. The opportunity to study Emily Dickinson and her poetry at her home in Amherst. Most of all, time to read, learn, and relax.

I’m wondering what coping strategies other teachers have for making it through the end of the school year, especially when a pile of frustrations regarding everything from personnel issues up to angry students or parents seem overwhelming. If you’re so inclined, I would love to have a discussion here.

How are you feeling?

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12 thoughts on “Frustration Time”

  1. Don’t let the frustrations get the best of you. Finish the year with a positive attitude. It matters. I see too many teachers in the hallways wearing those marks of exhaustion and frustration. The kids see it and feel it too. Perhaps use this time to do a special read aloud with your students. These moments can be so calming and intimate, just you, your kids, and a good book.

    1. Thanks for the advice! We are finishing up final projects, and I really just have one more regular class and then a review day with shorter classes.

  2. Something I repeat often to my friends/colleagues is: just care less. It sounds terrible, right?? But I too get really caught up in my job as a teacher and it’s important to ground ourselves back into what truly matters. What matters for you? For me, it matters that I spent time with these students. That I tried my best. That I did what I could. That maybe I’ll have an impact on them, but it’s also okay if I don’t. They’re human and I’m human.
    I would recommend taking some extra care of YOU this week 🙂 That also helps me.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can not believe how much you have just echoed every single feeling and doubt that I have had in the last couple of weeks!

    I actually had a conversation at lunch when a co-worker told me to “care less.” A large part of me wishes I could do that. I also wish I didn’t desire some kind of sign that all of this hard work is worth it.

    I book talked Nothing by Janne Teller the other day and told my kids that this is my May book because May is when I am tired, filled with self doubt, and lacking the energy and motivation to pick myself out of that dark hole. I know many of my honors kids are feeling the same way. It is so close to the end but there is still so much to do and our will power is at the lowest point of the year. The characters in the book question whether anything matters. It is a dark, dark read, but in the end, we are left thinking that some things you just have to accept on faith. You have to dig down deep and be okay with the idea that some things you can’t prove, you just have to belief. “We can all get through this,” I told them. We have to have the grit to not give up, and we need to believe it matters.

  4. I have a love/hate relationship with the end of the year. This is the first year in 20 years that I have no regrets. This year, I told myself last year, I was leaving it all there. I was going to reach those kids that I don’t normally click with. I made it a point to try different strategies to build rapport and classroom community. And it worked for me. I talked about it in my post today.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I’m having a terrible time this year. I always second-guess what I did and didn’t teach during the year – I think that’s normal. But the stress feels rougher this year — and not just with students, colleagues as well. I just want to retire — and I don’t want to be that teacher. Normally, I would not have commented, just been grateful to read your post, BUT . . . I will also be in Amherst studying Emily Dickinson, which I am really looking forward to. And I am so excited to meet you! I’ve been reading and borrowing from you for a while now 🙂 Hope you’re attending the first session. I know this summer will renew us all. Hang in there.

    1. Oh, bummer! I’m in the second session! I wonder if we might still figure out a way to get coffee or something. I am about an hour away from Amherst.

  6. Ugh, the weight of self-driven expectations. A friend once told me to keep a notebook beside my bed and each night write three things in the day for which I was grateful. Little things. The bit of blue sky that showed through yesterday’s clouds, for example, would go on my list. Somehow, that helps me get outside my head. Hang in….

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