How I taught myself to be a better teacher
Mariam’s stress went through the roof after she started a teaching placement. Here she blogs about how she conquered it.
Mariam who suffers from anxiety, is a student teacher.
I’ve come to learn that the word ‘hope’ is the most powerful word in the English dictionary. I’m currently in my teacher training year and my journey has certainly not been easy.
I was so excited to begin my journey as a teacher. I felt like I was ready. After completing my Masters, I had a lot of confidence, especially in myself. I was genuinely happy and I knew exactly what I wanted; to become a teacher and write for children.
My first few weeks at university were great. I learned a lot and I could not wait to put everything that I had learned into practice. The anxiety of starting placement was unreal, but I was also very excited. I could not believe that I was about to begin my journey to become a teacher.
"I really enjoyed all my classes. But suddenly, the workload started to pile up, and I started to get stressed."
The first few weeks of placement went really well; I was mainly observing my mentor. My students were amazing, I really enjoyed all my classes. But suddenly, the workload started to pile up, and I started to get stressed.
I found it really hard to juggle my placement, my university assignments and my home life. On several occasions I was told that “if you can’t handle the stress now, maybe teaching is not for you”, “It’s life, you have to just deal with it”, and “as a teacher, you need to leave your baggage at the door”.
"I’ve cried alone in my car these past few months more times than I can probably count."
I would leave my house at around 7am and not return home till around 8pm. I hardly slept; I would cry at night. It got to the point where I used to dread going into placement - as soon as the lift got to the third floor my hands would shake, my heart would race and I'd feel physically sick. I often wished that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I even stopped eating. I completely lost myself. I felt like I was not worthy of becoming a teacher.
It’s okay to cry. I kept telling myself this. I’ve cried alone in my car these past few months more times than I can probably count. I’ve cried in empty parking lots because I could not face going home. There was some sort of comfort crying alone in my car.
For the sake of my qualification I kept saying to myself that I could get through this. I refused to ask for help, I refused to tell anyone. As much as I tried to hide my sadness, my family and my friends could tell I had changed. I was not the person that I used to be. It took me a few weeks to acknowledge and accept the fact that this was not healthy. I went from being the girl who is always smiling to not smiling at all and I wanted to change that, because it wasn’t me. I knew that the change had to come from me.
The first step was therapy. I’ve had therapy a few times in my life after traumatic life events. Therapy helped me. I still go to therapy weekly and I’m not afraid to admit that I go to therapy. I wanted to leave university. I had a meeting with my university tutor and told him exactly how I was feeling and was ready to quit. My university tutor was so understanding and after having a very long conversation he said to me that I didn’t have to go back to that placement, and that he’d find me somewhere else. After hearing those words, I felt like I could finally breathe.
"One of the things that helped me was going on morning runs. I think running saved my life."
During the next couple weeks after leaving my placement I tried my best to work on myself. I knew that the work had to come from me. One of the things that helped me was going on morning runs. I think running saved my life. I would be up at 5am and go for a run. The first few days I don’t think I made it past five minutes. But I found myself getting out the door every morning. There was something about putting my headphones in and running in the dark. It felt like I had the whole world to myself. I don’t think I’m still fully myself yet, but I make sure that every day I take time to work on myself.
I’m now just a few weeks into my new placement and it’s a place that I love going to. I’m made to feel like “I can do it”, I’m trusted, and I’m valued. Above all, I’m happy. I’ve had three observations and I have done so well. I can see the change in myself. There are still things I struggle with, like taking criticism. I still find myself beating myself up over how I should’ve done things differently.
I know and I am aware that I still have a long journey ahead of me and a long way to go. There is still a lot going on in my life and at times it’s difficult. My anxiety is the worst that it’s ever been. However, I have developed ways of managing stress. I make achievable daily to do lists, even if it’s something very small; I make sure I have some ‘me’ time every day and I make sure I get to sleep at a reasonable time (I’ve finally got my sleeping pattern back). Running also helps me – I would say it saved my life.
I think it’s very important to acknowledge your feelings. Be honest with how you’re feeling. If you’re not happy in any situation, it’s okay to leave. It’s also okay to ask for help. Asking for help was the probably one of the best things that I did. Before it was too late.
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