The third part of my new book, “Because of a Teacher,” is focused on providing advice that you would give to yourself as a first-year teacher. When I described my hopes for this chapter, it was to share a vulnerability in their own practice as truly accomplished educators and help others see the importance of growth in teaching and learning no matter how long they have been in the profession. No matter how good anyone is at their job, we (including myself) can always grow.
The authors did an incredible job, and this is just one of my favorite quotes from Stephanie Rothstein:
I love this quote.
1. As Stephanie shares, asking for help is a sign of strength. In fact, when we struggle and we don’t ask for help, that typically not only can make things worse for others but those they serve. I have been guilty of struggling when asking for help would have been better for everyone around me. I still struggle with this, but I am getting better as I grow. I was TERRIBLE at asking for help early in my career, and I remember about a 6 month period where I was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t even go in the staffroom, and it was tears seemingly every day, typically when I got home, but unfortunately, sometimes in the staff bathroom. It was rough, but I got through it. This leads to the second point.
2. My principal at the time noticed something was up and that I was struggling. He brought me in to check in on me, and with some coaxing, I shared how hard of a time that I was having personally, which made it really tough professionally. But he didn’t judge me, and he lifted me in the process and helped me figure out a way forward. I felt better after the initial connection, but he checked in on me continuously and never once made me feel “less” than in the process. We can tell people to ask for help all we want, but the environment we create where people feel comfortable to reach out and how we follow up is as important, if not more so.
I have talked openly about my struggles with my mental health in person and on this blog. I have had people reaching out to me and thanking me for vulnerability while also sharing that they would feel extremely uncomfortable sharing that with their own administrators for fear of repercussions. Whether that would happen or not is one thing; the perception that we can’t have personal struggles without being looked at as “less than” is the bigger concern. If one person is willing to share that, it could be that others feel it as well.
I remember Joe Sanfelippo sharing that no matter the time of year, we should always be asking the questions, “How are you doing?” and “Do you need anything?” and genuinely listening to the answers of those we serve.
We must encourage those to reach out when they have struggled because we all have struggles. But it is just as important that we create a culture where people know they will be supported if they do.
As Stephanie reminds us, creating a space where we are comfortable being vulnerable and feel we are supported matters in our first year of the profession, our last, and all of the years between.
(Speaking of Stephanie, this is one of my favorite tweets from the book launch and brought me to tears!)
You can read more of what Stephanie and the 15 other incredible authors shared in “Because of a Teacher; Stories of the Past to Inspire the Future of Education.”
Pick up your copy here!