10 Years In, and Out of My Depth

This year has been… interesting. I’m entering my 10th year as a teacher this year, and in that time, I’ve been through some wild times – mostly in my personal life, sometimes in my professional life, occasionally in both at the same time.

This year has been, hands down, the most difficult – and we’re only two weeks in.

This is harder than teaching while 7 months pregnant in a high-risk pregnancy.

Harder than teaching while my mother underwent cancer treatment.

Harder than jumping into an unfamiliar assignment 1.5 days before the school year started.

Harder than coming back to work after parental leave to a new admin, a fall reorg, surprise tornadoes in September.

Other bloggers here have said so many of the things that I would have talked about – feeling out of my depth, like I can’t find my feet, like everything could change on a dime and we have no control.

What I’m struggling with the most, though, is how to teach French Immersion. So much of my program usually relies on students being able to interact in authentic and meaningful ways – something that I can’t quite seem to make happen when they’re all sitting in rows, facing the front, wearing masks.

I’m an experienced French Immersion teacher. I’ve been teaching FI of some kind since 2011, and specifically Middle French Immersion since 2012. I usually feel pretty grounded in my teaching, with confidence that I know how to adapt my teaching so that all of my students can succeed. I’ve walked into a class of 34 first-year immersion students! But this year, I’m struggling.

I say all of this because I want you to know, if you’re a newer teacher out there who’s thinking they’re out of their depths, they’re struggling to keep their head above water, they can’t find their feet – you aren’t alone. Being a new teacher is HARD. It’s fraught with uncertainty, anxiety, and second-guessing. Being a new teacher in a pandemic, though? That’s something else entirely. It’s a new league of “hard.”

Please, be kind to yourself this year. This is not the year to take too much to heart about your ability to teach. This is a year for survival – knowing that things will look, feel, and be different, and that many aspects of your program may not even work.

At the end of the day, ask yourself these questions:

Are your students cared for?

Are your students happy?

If you can say yes to those questions, you’re doing fine.

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Updated: September 29, 2020 — 7:50 pm

The Author

Shawna Rothgeb-Bird

Grade 6 Middle French Immersion teacher from Ottawa. Passionate about teaching (naturally!), board games, video games, music, and roller derby. Instilling a sense of wonder, curiosity, and critical thought in students since 2011 (or 2008 if we want to include Teacher's College).

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