Year: 1997-1998
Month: October
Leader: Group K

Situation/Case Study:

The new teacher feels overwhelmed with all there is to do and all the expectations others have of her. She is concerned about turning in weekly lesson plans, being observed, the meetings she has to attend, the expectations of parents, meeting individual students' needs, compacting the curriculum, and on top of everything, thinking you have to know it all, you have to be the expert. She wonders what is most important, what can she let slide. There's the new curriculum, knowing procedures in the school (and the assumption that she does know the procedures) and time limitations to find out what she needs to know before the deadlines (unknown) pass her by. Often she doesn't even know who or what to ask! Sometimes the expectations are not clear. She feels as though she is coming up short, she becomes anxious then feels the pressure of not enough time, becomes frustrated and takes it out on the kids, the last people she wants to take it out on. Sometimes she gets so busy with so many things that she feels that she has nothing to give. Some kids really wear you out as well, five of them really need one-on-one attention to succeed. Then there are the skills you didn't learn about in to negotiate with parents, the principal, other teachers, the kids; and how to make mistakes and fix them. Where does a personal life fit in with all this!

A teacher is frustrated and panicked because he/she realizes how much time has passed and he/she has not completed half as much as they wanted to. Grad standard testing is just 4 months away and we panic when we look at the expectations and the tests they will take in February. The teacher feels frustrated because of so many demands put on her time, her energy. She will possibly be short with her students and feel overwhelmed. The job will not be fun! A teacher in this situation might feel conflicted and unprepared because there is an overwhelming amount of knowledge a teacher needs to have as a base or starting point to draw from for each and every event or situation. A teacher may feel totally overwhelmed when there are too many things to do and not even know where to start. A teacher in this position feels pressured to perform because she feels that all (almost) tasks are important to help kids become successful. A teacher might feel frustrated and ineffective due to a lack of clear expectations and poor two-way communication between teachers. A teacher may feel like a failure because she/he can't do everything well. She/he may feel she/he is letting down teammates, parents, students because not everyone is getting what he/she needs. A teacher may feel frustrated because there are too many priorities. A teacher might feel unprepared because there isn’t enough time in one day to get everything done. A teacher might feel pressured to say “yes to everything. A teacher might feel they are doing a poor job, are a failure with everything when trying to do too much. A teacher may feel resentful because they have no time to have a life outside of school. A teacher may feel useless or unprepared when this happens. (May feel like they do nothing right when they are overwhelmed.) There is no feeling of celebration or time to take even a quick break. A teacher who is spread too thin may feel anxious because he/she wants to meet all of the expectations placed upon him or her and can’t and so feels he/she will let people down.

Theories behind practice:
Teaching is one of the few professions where beginning teachers are expected to function as experts, to know all they need to know to meet the multiple needs and demands of the job. The apprenticeship (student teaching) is extraordinarily short, but yet they are expected to act as experts on the first day of the job. They have the same responsibilities and challenges of those with many years experience. Teachers need to recognize that no matter how hard they try there is no way that they can or will be perfect. So to demand perfection of themselves is to ask for frustration and failure. Squeaky wheels seem to get the grease, that’s one way to handle priorities. It’s okay not to be perfect and to let others know you aren’t. Make lists. Prioritize.

Impact on others:

KISS (Keep it simple stupid) Choose only one area to elaborate on at a time. Use teachers' manuals, that's what they are there for. When a great idea occurs in the middle of a lesson, write it down on a post it note and use it next time you teach. Lesson plans don't need to be all that detailed. Just list the pertinent information needed. You can keep separate notes or lists (on post it notes) with the extra details and reminders you need. Create a list: what I'm not going to do. Ask yourself, "Can you live with it the way it is?" "Can you control it?" Then make a decision on what to do or not to do. Reward yourself when you have accomplished something big. Document late assignments. Keep a calendar. Help kids learn about failure and accountability. Use some of the language from Cooperative Discipline when dealing with parents. Be very specific and insist that they are as well. Learn shortcuts, don't be afraid to ask. FOCUS ON LEARNING - yours and theirs.

This was a session about which everyone felt strongly and could relate. It was helpful for the new teachers to hear that even the experienced teachers could feel overwhelmed at times and that they were trying to come to grips with the pressures they put on themselves as well as those others put on them. Everyone contributed enthusiastically to the solutions with ideas that worked for them and everyone felt as though they had picked up some valuable tips and felt better just expressing their frustrations.