As teachers and as parents, we all experience discouraging days. Sometimes they’re a result of a particularly frustrating incident. Other times, they’re the product of stress or pure exhaustion. And they’re no fun. These days make us doubt our ability; they make us feel hopeless; they may even make us want to give up.
I remember one particularly frustrating morning that left me crying in a back hallway – then trying desperately to get myself together before walking into a difficult first period class. Then there are days of pure exhaustion when the to-do list is a mile long but problems and issues keep coming up and you can’t even make a dent.
Discouraging days are going to come, and I think that’s the first thing we need to remember – that everyone experiences discouraging days. Especially in fields as challenging as teaching and parenting. When you’re discouraged, it doesn’t mean that you are a failure, and it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. But you do need encouragement.
When You’re Feeling Discouraged
1) Remember that growth takes time. It’s so easy to get frustrated when the kids just don’t seem to be getting what we’re trying to teach them. But we need to remember that growth takes time – and we may not see the results for a while. You are making a difference, even when it doesn’t feel like it. In my post What to Do With the Kid Who’s Driving You Crazy, I tell about a particularly discouraging student who transformed from my biggest frustration into my biggest blessing. But the change didn’t happen until halfway through our 2nd year together. If you’re just starting out teaching or are going through a rough patch of parenting, realize that your success stories are in the making, but it might be a year or two until you can clearly see them.
2) Pray and rely on God. When we are discouraged, we need to rely on God and His strength. Talk to God about your frustrations, discouragements, fears, hopes, and desires. Depend on Him to help you through the difficult days. You can find no better Friend or Helper. (If you don’t have a personal relationship with God, you are missing the biggest help, blessing, and encouragement in the world. Find out more about how you can know Him at godlife.com.)
3) Remember your calling. As teachers and parents, we have an incredible calling – to teach and disciple the next generation. Some days it feels like we’re trying to hold off a tidal wave with an umbrella, but the adversity we face serves as a valuable reminder of how important our task truly is. When you are feeling down, remember why you are doing what you do. Don’t give up – those kids need you.
4) Seek advice and help. Often we get discouraged because we are overwhelmed – either by our monstrous to-do lists or by our feelings of inadequacy. When this happens, we need to seek out help or advice. Others have walked the same road and have experienced the same challenges and frustrations. Their companionship, help, and wisdom can be just what we need to not only make it through another day but to eventually start thriving. [Teachers, if you’re looking for help, join our Christian Teachers’ Lounge Facebook discussion group & sign up to get regular encouragement in your inbox by signing up for Teach 4 the Heart emails.]
5) Find a way to rest and refresh yourself. Sometimes what we need most is a little time away or maybe just a nap. I know that’s sometimes easier said than done. But when you feel like you can’t take it anymore, this may be exactly what you need. So find a way to make it happen. Get someone to watch the kids so you can take a bath or go for a walk. Tell your husband you really need to order take-out today so that you can take a nap. Let the pile of grading wait until tomorrow so you can go to bed early (believe me – it won’t go anywhere). When you’re rested and refreshed, you’ll be more effective and better equipped to take on the challenges of tomorrow.
Have you been experiencing discouraging days? What has helped to encourage you?
Photo by Sara Björk