You are not alone – and you aren’t a failure, either.

Here we are, midway through yet another week of remote learning. I’ve lost count of how many weeks we’ve done this now. You would think that by now, someone with as much teaching experience and technological know-how as I have would feel settled, but… I don’t.

If you’re a newer educator and you’re feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing, you suck at teaching online, your students aren’t learning anything, you don’t belong in this profession: you are not alone. Many of us are feeling that way, even with 10+ years of experience and a lot of tech savviness. 

My confidence with remote teaching vacillates even now, after so much experience and time with it. One day I’ll feel like I really rocked it – my students were engaged, everyone was learning, we had some fun, the day flew by. The next, I’ll feel like I have forgotten everything I know about teaching – everyone will seem disengaged and bored all day, I’ll sign off feeling like we didn’t accomplish anything, the day felt like it was somehow an entire week long.

Most days, if we’re being perfectly honest here, are somewhere securely in the middle of those extremes. Nothing special, but not bad.

Why, then, is it so hard to remember this from day to day? When I think about remote teaching, my first impulse is always to say that I’m out of my depth. Sinking. Ineffective.

The reality is that the vast majority of my teaching is fine. No, it isn’t the same as being at school in person, but I’m also not failing. My students are learning. We are making progress. They are engaged, albeit at a lower level than they normally are in class.

And still, almost every day, I end the day and sit down feeling defeated.

The imposter syndrome is real. I’ve always felt it to some degree, even before I was a teacher, but I find it’s at an all-time right now.

In my rational moments, I remind myself of a few things to try and chase that imposter syndrome away.

  • My students are safe at home.
  • Curriculum isn’t everything. Learning doesn’t have to mean curriculum expectations.
  • My students are not falling behind this year. We as educators need to adjust our expectations going forward.
  • My students genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
  • Everyone has made so much progress since September.
  • I am a good teacher. I belong in this profession.

I can’t say it’s a perfect system, but at least one of those points usually helps me remember that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself every day.

I hope that if you’re reading this and relate to any of it, you can come away from this post feeling a little less isolated, a little less worried about how you’re doing. Are your students safe? Have they made progress? Do you have moments of fun and connection? You’re fine. They’re fine. 

This isn’t the school year any of us wanted, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad teacher.

You are not a failure.

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Updated: April 28, 2021 — 11:02 pm

The Author

Shawna Rothgeb-Bird

Grade 4/5 Middle French Immersion teacher from Ottawa. Passionate about teaching (naturally!), board games, video games, music, and TTRPGs. Former member of the ETFO New Members provincial standing committee. Current member of the OCETFO Collective Bargaining Committee, among approximately one thousand other things that I am always doing. No, I do not actually have spare time, I am just perpetually putting off things that I *should* be doing. @rollforlearning on Twitter.

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