Encouragement for Teachers Who Feel Like a Failure

Author: Britt Mooney


You’re not losing. You’re learning.

I was playing basketball. My son, who was four-years-old, was excited to join me. He took a few shots, but he could barely get the ball up to the rim. A few minutes later, he sat off to the side with his head down.

“What’s wrong, buddy?” I asked.
“I’m losing.”
“No,” I said. “You’re not losing. You’re learning.”

Encouragement for Teachers Who Feel Like a Failure

As teachers, we are faced with a host of crucial decisions daily. Relationships with students, parents, co-workers, and administrators, all require continued interactions that can be positive or negative. When you add lesson preparation and execution, it is compounded.

If you move to a new school, another area of the country, or overseas, it increases opportunities to fail. Dealing with that school’s norms causes stress. Even if we ask questions in advance, we will be ignorant of some unspoken rules and expectations.

All these elements combine for a perfect mix of anxiety and frustration. Most teachers feel generally intelligent and confident, especially if they’ve had previous educational experience, but learning new cultures can make us feel incompetent.

When failures start racking up, we may feel like quitting. Unfortunately, we don’t often realize our colleagues also feel frustration. We feel alone in the whole process.

What can we do when we feel like a failure?

First, be aware that all teachers want to quit at some point. We get frustrated and exhausted. The number of teachers who quit last year was 40% higher than the previous year according to LinkedIn’s calculations.

Second, realize that it will get better. Admit you need help and ask for it. If you stay humble enough to learn, you’ll adapt.

Third, enduring through these hard times will make you a better person and a better teacher. You’ll find new resources or be more creative with the ones you have. These are amazing skills you’ll take with you in other situations.

Fourth, talk to an administrator or colleague you trust and admit how you feel. They can encourage you with a new perspective and might give suggestions from their experience.

Fifth, remember the students need you to stick around and stay committed. Kids see people come and go and they remember the ones that stick around. Kids are great at giving second chances.

Failure is part of growing and getting better. Be encouraged and look at your mistakes as opportunities to learn and become an even better teacher.

For information on teaching in other countries, check out “The Challenges of American Teachers Overseas.”

About the Author

Britt Mooney

Britt Mooney has taught in private and public schools in the US and an international school in South Korea. He currently works for a coffee company, writes fantasy novels, and lives in the Atlanta, GA area with his wife and three kids.

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