After almost 20 years in the classroom, I am finally starting to feel comfortable in my own skin enough to peel back the layers of some of the more difficult aspects of my career in an effort to encourage others who may be looking for encouragement in their own journey.
One of the areas that I’ve struggled with immensely is being comfortable in my own skin.
People who have met me would know that I am fairly extroverted. I laugh easily and love to have fun. I love thinking about how to make my lessons more approachable to learners and love talking about how to get better at my craft. I suppose I could be defined as the classic overachiever.
But there is something about that label that bothers me.
Something inside that tells me that when people say that about me, it’s not really a compliment.
So, over the years, I have found ways to make myself as small as possible.
In an effort to make others more comfortable with their ‘compliment’.
How is it that passion for the craft becomes something that you’re ashamed of?
How is it that after years of sharing and giving to others professionally, you look around and think..do these people even know me?
In my case, I think it’s because I wasn’t really sure of who I was.
I didn’t have a voice.
I was looking to be affirmed by others, when I needed to affirm myself.
Four years ago, I started blogging, and that was a new beginning for me. My blog is a place where I can be authentically myself. Out here in the cyber world, I can share what I am really thinking. I have found that I’m not so different. That I’m not strange. That there are others out there who are like me, and I don’t have to always go it alone.
Are you looking for your voice?
Do you sometimes feel alone at your school site?
Do you wonder if anyone really knows your heart or understands your passion?
Here are some things that I have done to help myself become a stronger, more confident ME.
1. Step outside of your comfort zone.
When I first started blogging, I didn’t really think anyone would care what I said. It was a risk, to be sure…as outgoing as I am, I was still pretty broken and insecure about sharing too much about myself…in an effort to not ‘shine too brightly’. I didn’t really think I would have what it took to train for SDE either until a few teacher friends encouraged me. Now, I’ll be training for them a few times a year. It was a risk to put myself out there, but…the rewards emotionally have been huge.
2. Know that haters are gonna hate.
Thank you, Taylor Swift! 🙂 There are always going to be people that see your passion, compare it to their own, and feel inferior. That’s on THEM. Not on you. You do what you need to do for your kids. You do what you need to do to make yourself happy in your job. Period.
3. Spend time with people who are like minded.
The large majority of my close friends are people who share my desire for depth and intimacy in relationships. I’m your friend that REALLY wants to know how you’re doing. I don’t do ‘fine’. Over the years, I’ve learned that kind of vulnerability makes folks uncomfortable. So, those folks are moved to the ‘acquaintance zone’. I don’t have time for shallow relationships, and so, I keep my circle of friends small and tight.
4. Get to know your students.
Don’t be afraid to have lunch bunch with your kids! 🙂 They probably think you’re a rock star and are super excited to get to spend special time with you. There’s nothing like kids to get you distracted from difficult things to ponder! 🙂
5. Don’t be afraid of silence.
If you know what you bring to the table, don’t be afraid to eat alone.
Take time during your planning or lunch break to just enjoy the quiet hum of your classroom. Get some extra work done so that it doesn’t have to go home with you. Listen to some music. Read your Bible. I don’t advocate isolating yourself all the time, but consider that maybe work is not always going to be where your most authentic relationships develop. Work on being your best YOU so that when relationships DO come along, whether at your school site…or out…you are ready to engage in a healthy way.
6. Find an online community.
There are tons of Facebook groups out there for teachers. Some are really big, and then there are some smaller ones too! 🙂 I became part of some large ones and through those groups, I found some like minded people, and now I’m part of a few smaller ones as well. The small groups are my favorite, because they are more specific. I am in groups based on my grade, my state and even a few groups that are just for teachers of color. I’m in groups with some of my girlfriends that blog, and some groups with bloggers who want to talk about the business side of creating curriculum. In all these groups, I’ve found out more about who I am authentically, and I have become more comfortable with me.
I truly hope that if you’re out there…if you’re reading this…if you’re lonely…that you’ll take some of these suggestions to heart. You are special. You are wonderful…and if someone is not telling you that on a regular basis…you need to switch that up! Life is too short to be around people that don’t lift you up when you’re down. Let’s do this thing called life TOGETHER! 🙂