I’m a selfish person. I care about myself a whole lot more than I do others – not the best trait for the teacher one might assume… and I recognize this. I am a very hard on myself and my performance, and I am very meticulous and perfectionistic when it comes to things that I care about. I am my own worst enemy, constantly in league with myself, trying to find the suitable routine, comfort, setting, mindset, and rejuvenation. I know who I am.
However, being a substitute is a lonely profession. You don’t have a space to return to everyday. No set of familiar faces to encounter on a daily basis. Friendships are hard to come by in the professional sense. There is no ownership to the job other than of one’s self – me. Students think little of you and do little for you. And the exhaustion that substituting evokes is something of its own rendering. Behavior management is a fresh task each and every day. The material to be taught is distinctive each and every day. The routine varies based on the grade level, the school, the classroom, the subject, the students, and my own self that wakes up feeling on and off based on the day I had prior. I am lost at times, but this sense of lost-ness has allowed me to better understand myself more so than I have ever undergone.
I need structure. I need my own space. I crave the designing of my own curriculum. I crave a classroom of students who I will come to know, and they will come to know me. I require stability and a place to call home within the educational sphere. I have found my place outside of it, but within it I am still searching. Still growing. Will more time be needed? Possibly.
From this lost-ness, I have gone insane. The only way for the sanity to return is through rejuvenation granted by natural exploration. In other words, the great outdoors. Yes, I like to fly fish. But I also simply just like being outside. Fly fishing is the perfect excuse – much of the time I spend fly fishing is not actually me fishing, but wandering around smelling dirt, looking at plants, scrutinizing bugs, observing clouds, wet wading and shuffling my bare feet in the rocky bottoms, and best of all, laying under trees reading books aloud to myself and the birds. Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire has been a huge influence for me this past school year – I’ve read it about three times over. I suggest it if you have not read it – it may just help your well-being.
When it comes to teacher well-being, articles online provide a whole lot of suggestions in terms of how to take care of yourself – at home, through peers, through school-support, through mindset. They discuss the many factors that cause teachers to become burnt-out. They expand on the ways to make the most of your summers and breaks so that you come back refreshed and ready to work. But most of all, they make it clear that teaching is perhaps the most difficult job in existence – especially in terms of mental exhaustion. Psychologically, teaching young, restless, apathetic heathens takes its toll. But it also is self-gratifying. It is rewarding above all else. It is a profession that fills you with purpose, with love, with learning, and best of all, with passion. A desire to better the world, the young, and yourself.