Teaching is Tough, but Teachers are Tougher

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Teaching is tough…

“I’m a first year teacher and I’m STRUGGLING. I literally cry in my car every morning before work. My kids are sweet, but they also struggle with behavior. Talking over me, talking while lining up, chasing each other around the room. Please tell me it gets better.” – T. B.

“Rough day. I Had to stop Centers early. I’m worn out. Tired of having to repeat myself and directions. I know they are still young and learning, but we’ve been doing the same thing every day. Is there anything, behavior-wise, you just let go of? (Like pencil tapping, tipping in a chair, calling out, etc.) Sometimes I feel like I’m micromanaging and maybe if I stop, it will make things run more smoothly.” – Kasey G. 

“I hate the fact that I hate my job. I always wanted to be a teacher, but this is not it. However, I feel bad for the students that do listen and are ready for me to teach them, but I can’t give them my all because of the students that don’t listen.” – J. T

Tired, worn out, frustrated teachers, we see you and we hear you. Teaching is tough, but YOU are tougher! Teachers are tired and sometimes feel isolated. This is your reminder that you are not alone, teachers are struggling but they are also here to support each other.

This is some advice teachers had to give about dealing with difficult classes, rambunctious students, and overall frustration.

Focus on the Great Behaviors you are Seeing

“I find myself often calling out about those types of behaviors, they’re irritating. What does work instead is to try super hard on focusing on the great behaviors you are seeing. Praise those who sit safely in their chairs, etc.” – Amber W. 

Try Smaller Doses of Learning, a Slower Pace, Lots of Positive Feedback

“I was pulling my hair out until I started treating my students as if they were in Kinder. Smaller doses of learning, a slower pace, lots of positive feedback, and rule referring. It has finally helped. It is one of the most difficult years of my career of 25+ years due to the major gaps in academics and social-emotional maturity. I told my principal today what I had to do and she said I needed to meet the kids where they are.” – Jill M. 

Teaching is Tough… But Teachers Give Students and Themselves a Break

“Give them and yourself a break. Try to get them to move as much as you can, keep things consistent, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Some of these kiddos have never been in school. Some of the things you are mentioning such as tapping could be stimming and if it is, that is how they try to focus their brain. So it doesn’t make your brain hurt, turn it in your favor. Change it into something a little quieter like a fidget or a large gross motor elastic that can be used for feet or legs. You’ve got this! It’s been hard, for everyone! Don’t be hard on yourself.” – Colleen R. 

Teaching is Tough… But Teachers Let it Roll off Their Backs

“Calling out is a definite no, but even the strictest teachers sometimes have days with incessant chatter. Let it roll off your back and know that you’re doing a great job…and that some days children just have a lot of wiggles inside of them!” – Tiffany H. 

Some Just Need a Break

“Some just need to go to the office for a break from the class. I have a teacher friend, we send each other’s students who need to just be removed for a bit. They don’t like to sit in another class and do work at a back table.” – Lynda Z. 

Teaching is Tough… But Teachers Know that Others are Feeling the Same Way

“I’m so glad you posted!! I’m feeling the same this year. Such a great class but the chair rocking and the constant drum class sessions with the pencils are driving me insane!!” – Ann A.

Channel their Inner Competitive Spirits

“I have lots of chants – like “Oh Class” in a sing-song tone and they repeat back, “All set = you bet”. I also say “ready hands” and we have practiced how to sit with our hands nicely folded on our desk – if they feel fidgety they twiddle their thumbs or tap them together. That has really helped. They like being the first with ready hands.” – Susan A. 

Give Them a Thank You 

“Start focusing on the students that ARE doing the right thing and give them a thank you. Say in an uplifting voice “I love seeing Maya looking right at me quietly and ready to learn.” Or “Wow, look at how Nathan is standing in line quietly ready to walk outside to recess!” When I do this soon all the rest follow along. They all want attention from us. Give them positive attention. Another strategy I use is counting down from 10 to 0 method where students know to be quiet and look at my eyes by the time I get to 0. Students in First Grade love competition in this way.” – Dorion H. 

Teaching is Tough… But Teachers Choose to be part of the Solution

“Tough day here too! I’m dealing with all you mentioned and I’m really afraid this last year has trained them to do all those things and have an attention span the size of a flea. I try to be part of the solution rather than the problem but I am afraid I have no advice.” – Brantly C. 

Have a Heart-to-Heart

“This isn’t a solution for anything, but specifically for pencil tapping (and humming and other sounds in my case), I had a heart to heart with the whole class about how it’s really hard for me as the teacher to focus on anything with those noises going on. Not that they’re being ‘annoying’ (even though it is, lol!), but that it makes teaching difficult for me. Since it was coming from a place of personal connection, I’ve found that they’re much quicker to stop if I get their attention and in some cases, they check on each other. It’s not perfect and we’ll probably have to readdress it soon, but I just noticed that it helped me.” – Halle P. 

Let Them Get Comfortable

“I also built lots of looser times into my day. I let them draw or sprawl on the carpet when I read to them after lunch. Same thing for snack time once they finish eating. The only time I am really strict with sitting still, pencils down, and in their desks is during direct instruction, and I try to keep the whole group’s direct instruction short. I have a child on the Spectrum who stands to do a lot of his work. He’s so smart he teaches me a lot. I am really blessed with a terrific schedule for recess and pull-outs, so my kids are never too still too long to handle.” – Debbie O. 

Teaching is Tough… But Teachers Say “Thank You for Following Directions”

When some students are keeping my lesson from continuing I sometimes just stop and pass out “good choice stickers”…(whatever stickers I can put my hands on in my desk) I just ignore the tappers and hummers and I walk around and give a sticker only to those listening and working. I say thank you for following the directions! And then I move on with my lesson…” – Cindy K. 

Silent Redirection

“There are many things I ignore or let go of because acknowledging them would derail the class. Or I resolve them without stopping (I just take the pencil or tip the chair back upright without comment). I never make eye contact with someone who calls out. I just completely stop speaking and wait, then call on someone who raised their hand and thank them for doing so.” – Leeann K. 

Music is the Universal Language

“Music helps me cover a few background noises —for myself.” – Jennie B. 

 

For more support in and out of your classroom, look to your fellow teachers, join the Facebook groups Fearless KindergartenFearless First Grade Teachers, or Fearless Second Grade Teachers and lean on your peers for support and guidance. You’re never in it alone. 

You can also join Teaching Tiny Humans for emails, and support on dealing with touchy or difficult subjects. Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @educationtothecore for continued information and resources as the season progresses, or listen to our podcast Where the Primary Things Are. 

In addition to these helpful resources, Education to the Core has introduced the ETTC Premium Membership, a way for teachers to obtain unlimited access to resources at an affordable price. 

Written by -Korryna Sanchez 

At Education to the Core, we exist to help our teachers build a stronger classroom as they connect with our community to find trusted, state-of-the-art resources designed by teachers for teachers. We aspire to be the world’s leading & most trusted community for educational resources for teachers. We improve the lives of every teacher and learner with the most comprehensive, reliable, and inclusive educational resources.

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Welcome! I’m Emily, Founder of Education to the Core. We are all about helping K-2 teachers by providing unlimited access to affordable printables for every subject area.