My previous position was at a private preschool in a tiny town. When I was offered the job, the preschool was in a bit of a crisis: the former teacher/director had resigned, opened a preschool of her own, and attracted many of the families who were originally going to go to my preschool. I had 12 students that year. 12.
I worked long hours trying to get my preschool to meet the state standards. I wrote curriculum, redesigned the classroom, and implemented PBIS. I think I took five classes from the AEA that year. I was rarely home and missed my very new husband.
We held registration meetings for the next year in May. I put together a PowerPoint to show off what we had done in my first year, we ordered a cake, and I made the classroom sparkle. Want to know how many new families showed up? 0. I was devastated.
I didn't give up though. I did a series of temple talks at the church my preschool was located in, we wrote a marketing plan, and we passed out information to anyone we could think of. By the time school started that fall, I had 21 students, enough for me to go full-time!
That year we went through the verification process with the state department of education. What a nightmare that was! I don't know if I have ever felt that much pressure in my life. Everything needed to be perfect. My portfolio needed to be spot-on. It took hours and hours and so much of my own money to get things right. By the time the actual visit happened in February, I was fried. All of the work I put in was rewarded though. The ladies who completed the visit were very pleased with what they saw; they used words like "exemplary" and "best they've seen so far." Unfortunately, I was so worn out from worry and hard work that I let the rest of the year slip by. I am so embarrassed by it now, and I wish I had been able to summon the gumption to do more.
Last year was hard in an entirely new way. I was up to 30 students and was able to hire an assistant teacher, which was amazing. I also welcomed three students with special needs into my classroom. In doing so, my life was changed. My eyes were opened to the wonders of Autism and Downs Syndrome, and it was making me a better teacher and, even more important, a better person. When I learned that I would be losing them the next year and that that decision was completely out of my control, I didn't know how to handle it. I was angry, frustrated, and sad. I cried for weeks.
That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I was done. I couldn't handle anymore heartbreak. I couldn't handle more hard work with little acknowledgement. I couldn't do it anymore. I completely shut down, and I started applying for other jobs.
Finally, the day came when I was offered my current position. This position was truly a gift, and I am so incredibly grateful for it. I'm completely out of that funk I felt in my old position. Every morning I wake up excited to go to work. I willingly spend free time connecting with other educators in order to better my own teaching. I have fallen in love with my kindergartners, my coworkers, and my school.
There really is hope out there for disheartened teachers! Sometimes it just takes a little struggling to get there.