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April 19, 2021

1st Year Blues Survival Guide: 10 Ways to Battle Disillusionment

Are you feeling like the time & effort you pour into your classroom each day doesn’t seem to be making the ROI (return on investment) you hoped?

Not sure what happened to the smooth functioning classroom routines you once had?

Wondering why kids don’t seem to want to engage in the lesson you spent 5 hours planning?

Have you recently questioned whether you are really cut out for this work?

You might be suffering from a case of the 1st Year Blues — a very common ailment suffered by many first year teachers OR teachers in first year turnarounds.


  • Snappiness caused by extreme sleep deprivation, eating air for lunch everyday and fighting the copy machine’s personal vendetta against you.
  • Confusion due to the inability to complete a full sentence without being interrupted by your own thoughts on how you are going to stop the students from talking over you.
  • Negative Nanciness caused by extreme overwhelment from the amount of things that went wrong between 8:00-8:03 this morning.
  • Dry Eyes from staring at a computer screen for hours desperately searching for ready made lesson materials from on-line curriculum guides, and classroom websites (because apparently, there are teachers in the world who have time to manage a website AND teach).
  • Brittle Bones from lack of vitamin D due to limited-to-no exposure to sunlight because you arrive at school before the sun comes out and leave after it’s gone down.

Other symptoms include: dry mouth, shortness of breath, dizziness, sleeplessness, nervousness, upset stomach, headache…

If this sounds like you, today’s DIY can help!  The following are 10 ways we’ve seen teachers fight back and give the “Blues” two fingers. (I said TWO fingers!)

1. Stop comparing yourself to others.  Learning something new is hard and imperfect by definition. Everyone’s learning curve is different.  Taking the time to compare yourself to others not only creates undue stress but it also detracts precious energy away from what’s most important – taking care of you and your students.

2. Take the time to have lunch with your kids.  Sometimes the only way to refresh your outlook on kids and teaching is to spend time with them outside the context of your lessons. Building additional reference points for your students buys you and them more road to travel together.

3. Leave the building early 1 day a week.  Commit to spending time with your family and friends talking, eating and/or doing something unrelated to school. Giving yourself a mental break from thinking about teaching and create the opportunity for you to come back more energized.

4. Eat Right, Take your vitamins & Exercise.  There’s a saying, “Man does not live on Microwavable Mac-n-Cheese alone.”  Take care of yourself during this time and make an extra effort to eat right, support your immune system and body.  Try getting a group of teachers at your school to go to a Spin or Zumba class 1 night a week or take turns bringing healthy snacks to share on lunch breaks.

5. Hold 10 pennies in your pocket.  Although it sounds strange, this is actually an easy way to get yourself back in the positive framing mood.

  • Find ten pennies and put them in your pocket.
  • For each time you check-in with a child, “I’m glad you are here today,” or notice them, “Ashley I noticed you participated without shouting out today.  I can tell you are really working on it,” you move a penny to your other pocket.
  • By the end of the day you should have moved all ten pennies to your other pocket.

Having this concrete reminder to continue to connect with students in this way can be extremely helpful to them and you.

6. “Curb excessively independent behavior.” One very smart fortune cookie gave me that timely advice.  Don’t close yourself off from help during this time.  You are not alone. Take all the support you can get.

The next 4 are effective reminders, or medicine, to give yourself during the duration of your minor infirmity.  Take it daily and watch the symptoms begin to fade away.

7. “It does not matter how slow you go, only that you do not stop.”  Confucious

8. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela

9. “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” Winston Churchill

10. “We are all going to keep fighting, Harry.  You know that?” J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Neville is right.  We are all going to keep fighting because tons of people have survived this 1st year teaching condition.  They made it through and you can, too, because at the end of the day there’s a darn good reason to keep fighting.


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