Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Suck at my Job

I hate feeling stupid. Hate it. I hate feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing. I like being the person that others come to for advice. I like being the one who knows everything; the one others ask for help. I do not like having to ask anyone else for help. Yeah, yeah, it's good to let others help. It makes them feel good. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. I still don't like it. And no, I don't have control issues. I just always need to be right. And in charge.

If someone was to ask me a parenting question on nearly any topic, I’d feel confident that I could give an intelligent and constructive answer. That’s an area of my life where I feel like I have some degree of expertise. I may not be perfect at it, but I know what I’m doing. At school, however? I feel like an idiot. I don’t understand the terms they use here. Everyone tosses them around like they’re common knowledge, yet my head spins because they might as well be speaking a foreign language, as far as I’m concerned.

I don't know all the procedures and protocol for doing things here. What do you do if you have a student who is tardy to your class seventeen times? I assumed the attendance people would catch that I was marking him tardy every day and would do something. I guess not. When I brought it up, I was looked at like I was stupid for letting a student get seventeen tardies without saying anything. Sheesh, now that I think about it, maybe I should continue to let the kids get tardies. I should encourage them to take their time getting to my class because it means less time spent here making me insane. Kidding. Just kidding.

But really, I’m not a teacher. I didn’t go to college to be a teacher. I didn’t go to college at all, in fact. I didn’t student teach. I haven’t been doing this for years. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe I’m qualified for my position, but I lack experience and, unfortunately the only thing that can fix that is time.

I’m pretty sure all the eighth grade math teachers hate me. Yesterday, I alienated the eighth grade history teachers as well when I gave a student a copy of a vocabulary quiz with the answers filled in so he could study the words. In hindsight, that was a stupid move. Duh. I have no idea what I was thinking. Clearly, I wasn’t. I should only have gone over the words and never shown the student the test for him to simply memorize. The history teachers have every right to be upset. I was stupid. I hate being stupid.

When I (half) joke about quitting, some teachers nod their heads and commiserate, saying, “I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t take working with those kids every period, every day.” But, honestly, it’s not even the kids who make me want to quit. They’re not the problem. They are who they are. They do what they do. I try to keep them on track, help them develop organizational skills, encourage them to be responsible. Sometimes it sinks in; sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes they respond and surprise me; sometimes they don't. It’s more like being a mom to thirty kids than a teacher. I’m fine with that. Yes, it gets discouraging at times. But other times, it’s pretty darn rewarding.

Nope, it’s not the kids. It’s me. I feel like I suck at this job and I don’t enjoy doing things that make me feel all suckish. Sigh.

(Don't worry, it's not all doom and gloom. Come back tomorrow for a fun-filled poop extravaganza courtesy of Clayton. Ugh, he's gonna get us kicked out of our neighborhood.)


watercat said...

Did they have you go to any campus-wide trainings at the beginning of the year? And do they have a faculty handbook?

The high school I teach at has orientation sessions that review the main campus policies at teh beginning of each year, and all staff, including aides, are required ot attend. We also have a faculty binder with detailed printouts of all of the policies that each teacher receives. You should ask if they have any of that.

Additionally, you should ask if the school has a mentor program (for new teachers). If they don't have an official mentor system that buddies you up with an experienced teacher, ask around and see if one will agree to help you out. Most experienced teachers are usually willing to answer questions.

It will get better!

Judi said...

Your map of who is visiting my blog right now seems to be missing good old New Zealand!
And sometimes we all suck at our jobs and other days we are awesome.
Two days ago my big boss came up to me and gave me a hug and said I was a genius! I said I knew that but what for this time?

Red Velvet said...

Teaching is probably one of the least appreciated and most stressing and difficult job on the planet (second only to parenting)!!! Keep moving one foot in front of the other and know that you will have "off" days, days when you feel totally unqualified and yes, suckish, but what you are doing is so very vital. HUGS Dawn.

Janae said...

Dawn, I have been reading your blog for a few years now. This one caught my eye. I am in my third year of teaching junior high English.

I felt like this during my internship (first) year. And I felt like this last year because my kids were so awful that I felt hopeless and stupid.

I LOVE to share ideas and do "teacher talk." I'd love to help you out and give you all my stuff and processes and policies and everything. I'm pursuing a reading endorsement as well, so my perspective and methods are still in constant development.

But really, if you need anything, let me know. I can also invite you to my Teaching folder on Dropbox so you can look through and take whatever you want! My class website is at

Good luck, and you're right! It will be better in the en.

Dawn said...

Now I know that they did go over that kind of information during preplan, but since I don't have an instructional position, I wasn't required to attend any of that. Now, in hindsight, I wish I had gone anyway.

Notsopc said...

No matter what job you have you always feel like you suck until you get used to it.. I bet you are a coo teacher to help with kids you do... Hange in there for alittle while longer..

Unknown said...

Think of it this way.....A lot of the kids you see feel the way you did a lot of the time. Even if they don't show it they appreciate the effort you put into being a help to them. Everyone hates feeling stupid and everyone does at some point (or many) in their lives. The fact that you can look at what is going on and say that you know what the problem is and that it isn't "those kids" says a lot. Those kids are just happy (even if they don't show it) to have someone to help them and someone that cares. So you made a couple of silly the grand scheme of things does it really matter? I know you have told your kids that without mistakes how would we learn? Cliche but true!

Suburban Correspondent said...

Personally, I see nothing wrong with giving him the vocabulary quiz with the answers to memorize. Isn't that what you want him to do, anyway? Memorize the answers? It's not as if the quiz requires deductive reasoning, you know.

Tell the history teachers to get a life.

Caroline said...


Don't get discouraged. The first two or three months of a job are always the hardest. You can't learn all the procedures, etc. and ways people do things, the workplace culture, etc. in anything less than a few months - just too much information to learn while you are trying to actually do the job at the same time. I have had a number of jobs, due to constant moving, and always feel like a total moron the first two or three months. Around the end of the second month I started to believe I could actually do the job and by the fourth month, do it well. You are adjusting to so much all at one time. Don't get down on yourself and congratulate yourself on all the new things you have and are learning in this alien place called Florida ;-D. Hang in there - not only will it be fine, it already is.

Much love, Caroline

Beth said...

OH Dawn, you have made so many changes and you handle them all with humor and good common sense. This job is very new to you so give yourself a break. You will get all the little bits as you go along. You do what you do well. Your job is to help the kids and that has been your priority. just do what you do!!! If the other teachers are jerks aboiut stuff that does not make you stupid. Hugs

Lisa said...

Its growing pains and it sucks. On the brighter side they (pain's and sucking) don't last forever. You will get into your groove, if not year then it will be the next year. Hang in there, your brave, you have gumption and most of all a fiesty sense of humor and can find "Funny" everywhere and anywhere.

Mary-Leah said...

I am in the same boat right now. I'm working at a school as a one-on-one aide with a student. And it's not that hard, he's on the autism spectrum, but everything about him is fairly manageable. However, I spend 90% of my time nagging and "reminding" and prompting. And I'm BORED OUT OF MY MIND! I've been working for the school district for twelve years, mostly as a sub, and the variety and flexibility is nice, but this job is full-time and it's making me crazy. It's still a sub job, but there's a chance I could get offered it full-time and permanent. And as much as I need the money, I DO NOT WANT THIS JOB! I feel terrible for complaining (at least I have a job!) but I don't feel like I'm "teaching" or doing much more than being the warm body who can whisk him out of the room if he freaks out. I don't feel my job has much purpose and I NEED purpose. Also, I agree on all the terminology, etc. Even though I've been "in" the schools for quite some time, I often say "huh?" because I have no idea what a "data day" or "running record" is. PLEASE tell me, people. Also, I was at this job for FIVE weeks when the teacher mentioned my name. The kids all looked up and said "who's Mrs. Moore?" I had never been introduced and although I'd spent every single school day since the beginning of the year all day in that classroom, the kids just took it for granted that I was "that lady" who took care of the student who was "odd". Would it kill them to introduce me? I hope you can feel more successful at this job. If not, I hope you can find something that uses your creativity and gifts to their full potential. It sucks to not be able to do what you love. And as my husband says "if you don't love it, you won't be very good at it". So true. Good luck, Dawn! :)

Sharon said...

Oh Dawn! You are being so hard on yourself. This is a whole new experience for you. I'm so sorry that the teachers are not understanding that you are the newbie and they should be helping you and not criticizing you. Give yourself the entire school year and you'll be a've done this like what six weeks? Not long enough to know all the ins-and-outs yet! There is a learning curve for adults as well as kids!

Dawn said...

Oh, none of the teachers have been mean to me. I'm internalizing more than I need to, I'm sure. The history teacher who brought my mistake to my attention was completely nice nad polite. In my warped mind, I just know he went and told the other history teachers what a moron I am. That's how my brain works. The math teachers . . . I'm not sure. They're very particular about the way they want things done. And that's okay for the most part. But they need to tell me what their expectations are so we can work together. I have a meeting with them next week.

JMM Haddonfield said...

Please stop being so hard on yourself. You are new at this particular part of your life. Give it a chance. You'll wonder how you did it, too, someday. Think of all you have accomplished in the past without a particular degree. You are a natural. You are kind to everyone. Be kind to yourself. :)

Kila said...

You're brand new at your job. I've been at mine for 10 months and still feel pretty green. Hang in there. I'm sure you're great with the kids, and before long you'll be the one teaching the other teachers a thing or two. There are teachers in my family, so I hear what a tough environment it is, but keep at it!

Michelle said...

I know just how you feel. I subbed in our school district for 2 1/2 years, as an aide for LD & CD kids. I actually preferred the CD kids -- as someone else said, being an aide all day for an LD kid, just tagging along to his classes -- was not fun for me. I had so thought I wanted a FT job in the schools & subbing was my "in". When I interviewed & was offered a job in a promotional products company -- which is what I did in my pre-kid life -- I had to take it, I need a "real" job with a "real" paycheck. You know what?? Best move ever! Those first few months I struggled, partly because I was missing working for the school. But mainly because I was new, the industry is a tough one, so many details, so much to learn. But now I've been there almost a year & a half & I LOVE it. LOVE LOVE LOVE it, best job I ever had!! will take time. And in the end, if this isn't something you're loving, you will find something you DO love!!


Marianne said...

This is the big difference between men and women. You worry, fret, and beat yourself up over every minor mistake. Yet I've seen guys in business make huge blunders and shrug it off like it was nothing. Find your inner man. Give him a name (Derrick?). Put him in charge when your ego has taken a whoopin'.

cm said...

Dawn, I am a manager who has trained many new people for jobs. In my experience, it takes people 3 months to get comfortable and 6 months to be confident. Let us know at the three and six months marks if this holds true. I think it will. Knowing this will hopefully help you relax, cause as you say, it is just a matter of time!

Alexicographer said...

Oh, Dawn. I did go to college, and on, and on, and then I got my first faculty job and I was teaching 6 new classes to college and master's students and it about did me in. At the end of the first year the chair of my department put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Don't worry, it gets better," and I though, "Gee whiz, couldn't he have told me that at the beginning of the year?" But it does, and it will. Hang in there. You're doing important work.

Frau Mahlzahn said...

So you feel like you suck, even though the other teachers gave you a compliment saying, they don't know how you do it? Which means, they think you can do it! And I'm sure you can!

From my little experience in the real world, this sounds like that lousy PHASE when you just started a job, the excitement about it has worn off, and you feel overwhelmed and all you do is want to take off.

We have a mom-mantra here in the German-speaking world, when our kids take us through rough times: "It's a phase, it will pass, it's only a phase, it will pass, it's only..."

So hang in there, it's only a phase, it will pass, and I am convinced that you will do just fine. You are not supposed to be a teacher, you have other qualities (like being an expert when it comes to kids) these kids need.

So long,

katherine said...

Dawn -
As a teacher, I wanted to second the suggestion of finding a mentor. Whether it's a formal arrangement or not, having a person you trust to answer all those little questions is invaluable. I also might suggest finding a fellow newbie to be a friend & work partner. I often found myself talking to that person first, and then feeling a whole lot less stupid when that person didn't know the answer either. It was a good reminder that the real issue was the situation, not me.

Working with kids never gets easy - I actually think that the challenge is one of the reasons it's so rewarding, but it does get easier.

Sherry said...

The good news is that from where you are (feeling, that is), the only place to go is up. Lots of room for improvement. Hang in there, you'll get past being the new kid on the block and will get there. Remember, these kids didn't get where they're at overnight. They're not going to improve overnight. They are lucky to have you, someone who cares as much as you do about doing a good job. Hang in there.

rachel said...

I got really good advice from someone (can't remember who) when I first started teaching years ago (I have been home with my kids since 2005 but I think the advice would still apply today). Here goes: when you first start teaching (or working in a school as you are) there is SO MUCH to do and learn and it is very overwhelming. You cannot do it all. Choose ONE class/aspect of your teaching/schedule/day that you focus lots, nearly all, of your attention on, in order to make that one aspect stellar. Spend the whole school year focusing on making that aspect/subject, etc. as flawless as possible. Then the next year, focus on a different aspect and after several years, you will more or less know what you are doing and you will be doing it well.

Yes, this is very labor and time intensive. But even trained teachers cannot be expected (realistically anyway) to have it all together and know everything on Day One. Figure out where you are most lacking and make a plan to remedy the situation. If that means asking for a mentor, do it. If that means sitting in on New Teacher Orientation next summer, do it. If that means asking for a professional day so that you can go to a seminar or class, do it. If that means asking to meet with your counterpart in another school in the district to see how he/she handles the same issues you are trying to tackle, then do it.

Yes, the teachers might be angry with you BUT you are there for the students and if the teachers would stop to think about your motives for filling in the answers, they would realize that you were just trying to help the student and that is the goal (or should be!) of all the adults in the building.

You can do this and you will do this very well, given time.

MoneySavingEnthusiast said...

YOU ARE HILARIOUS! Glad I found your blog through babble!Wouldn't you think teachers would be nicer about thinking someone is stupid.LOL @MSEnthusiast
☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺

Sarah said...

I'm sorry you're having a rough time. I can't imagine how hard it is, but I know you don't suck at it. You are doing your best and that's all anyone (including you) can and should expect! The good news is that it's the weekend. Hope you can have a little fun and relax a bit! :)

jessica said...

Sounds to me like the school didn't give you adequate training on procedures and such for your position. Don't blame yourself. If they can't find the time and resources to properly train their employees, then your only option is on the job training! You're going great!

JonesEthiopia said...

The math teachers like things done a certain way because... well, they're math teachers. Math is neat, there is no mess, and every number has a specific place. I'm sure they don't quite know what to do with you.

I'm a language arts teacher and am in my 11th year in education. My first 2 years of teaching (I taught HS then), I thought I was going to die, and I definitely hated it. Not just disliked it-- I HATED it. Reading your post brings back flashbacks of all the "dumb" things I did my first two years, as I, too, thought I totally sucked at my job. Honestly, I probably did suck at it, too.

Does your school have a mentorship program? Even if you're not technically a teacher, it might be nice to have someone who can help you with learning the procedural stuff, etc.

I know the first few years are so hard. I don't really remember the first quarter of my first year teaching. I think I blocked it out of my mind because of all the trauma.

You'll get past this. I promise.

The Mommy said...

Here's the thing: Every mother is a teacher whether we're "trained" or not. When I read this I thought, "YES! Teachers DO speak another language!" And it's not to their benefit. If you're teaching math using the pseudoquasicalc method - that means jack to me. I want to know that you're teaching fractions. Not what it's called in teacher-lingo. This is the BIGGEST disconnect between parents and teachers IMO. It makes us feel stupid - even those of us with advanced degrees - because my degree? Is NOT in education. If I were to talk to someone about my duties in my previous career and that person was a librarian (or other, unrelated profession) I wouldn't use chemistry jargon. That's just frickin' common sense! It's not talking down to someone (a very fine line...).

Hope said...

I started teaching a month after I got married. My husband often says that he thought the first year of marriage was your wife comes home from work crying every day. :) It does get better.

Anonymous said...

Psst.. I'll let you in on a secret
half the faculty throwing around terminology don't actually know what it means, the other half could give a rat's ass and shake their heads like they care what they other half is saying.
The attendance issue- that's the attendance clerks worry. You submit the attendance and he/she is supposed to do something about the student being tardy.
You are in the October doldrums. Aug/Sept start out with hope, and warm feelings of what the year will hold. Oct. hits and it's realization that you have another 8 mos+ with some of these kids that are driving you bonkers. Don't worry, you'll feel better in January.
Can you tell? I've been teaching for awhile now (ll years). Find some good people on your staff and stick with them.

E said...

I'm a teacher and a mom and I can tell you that 99% of the time, teaching is harder.

It takes a full three years to get a handle on everything. It seems like a lifetime but it does get easier, I swear!!!!

I've had jobs where I taught teachers and now I'm back in the classroom. I can assure you that the adults are much harder to work with then the kids. I believe that middle school teachers have a lot of the personality traits of middle school kids (I should know, I teach them!). Try to let what the other teachers say just roll of you're back.

As for the office catching things, they are overworked, understaffed, and underpaid. Point out kids who have issues and bring doughnuts every once in a while, they'll love you!

Hang in there. We've all felt the way you do now.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain!! I'm a human resources executive, and sometimes our staff behave that exact same way!! It's a bit like herding cats. LOL. Good luck and step forward, two steps backward, but you're still making progress!! You may be going backwards, but its progress, nonetheless! hehe

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