I sat in an office listening to a recent SPARK U graduate telling me that as soon as the principal could find a replacement, she was done. She was so discouraged and disillusioned that she felt her only way out was quitting. Her hopes and dreams were crushed and she was resigning.

I thought a lot about this teacher and other teachers who may share some of her feelings at this time of year. I wondered about how to help combat these notions when I heard a moving sermon by Pastor Tim Moyer.

According to Pastor Tim, discouragement can be caused by many factors, such as:

1. False accusations
Have you ever been falsely accused of something like not caring enough, caring too much, not trying hard enough (passive), trying too hard(aggressive)? Being falsely accused of something can be frustrating, and can lead to discouragement.

2. Misunderstandings
This is a close cousin to false accusations, but goes deeper and gets to the core of who we are. Have you ever felt, after a conversation, that the person listening didn’t really understand your feelings? Have you ever felt misunderstood by your children, parents,

colleagues, administrators? Have these misunderstandings led to discouragement or even despair?

3. Fatigue
You’ve been teaching your heart out, spending hours preparing lessons, calling parents, monitoring the playground/cafeteria, attending meetings,etc. for 2-3 months and YOU ARE EXHAUSTED physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. This weariness can lead to discouragement and you can become too tired to fight the darkness.

But remember, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.


4. External conflicts

These are situations or people we probably can’t control, but stare us in the face daily. It might be the two students who WILL NOT sit still or the parent who WILL NOT stop emailing you about her pending divorce and how it is affecting her child. Or it could be the spat you had with one of your colleagues during PLC time. These are just a few of the situations that can cause you to be demoralized or disheartened.

5. Internal fears

This is the final, and perhaps most troublesome cause of discouragement. Does that clamorous voice in your head keep running the same tape over and over and over? Am I a good enough teacher? Am I truly making a difference? What if I fail? What if I can’t relate to that child or parent? What if my passion runs out? How can we tackle these fears?

You can let your discouragement lead to despair or realize that “It is often in the darkest skies that we see the
brightest stars.” – Richard Evans

Fortunately, there are some possible cures for discouragement:

1. Yield to your spirit.
Pause, reflect, and take some very deep breaths. Find a quiet place, meditate, pray, read poetry, write in your journal. But get back in touch with your inner spirit. We talked a lot at SPARK about passion, and what sparked you to go into teaching. Go back through your SPARK journal. Pause, take some time to renew the spirit within you.

2. Choose optimism.
Optimism is a choice, so think positively. Think of things that make you happy whether it be a good book, some photos of your kids or grandkids, or just relying on “self talk” to keep your spirits up. I used to tell my kids, “Smile, it will make your brain think you’re

happy. Barak Obama wrote, “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

3. Read uplifting literature
This can take many forms. You might read a novel or poetry you enjoy, or a book about teaching and learning. Parker Palmer’s Courage to Teach and Teach like your Hair’s on Fire are both excellent and uplifting. Or you could choose to watch Dead Poet’s Society or Rita Pierson’s You Tube clip we watched at SPARK. Fill your mind with thoughts, reflections, and examples that are uplifting and hopeful.

“Hope itself is like a star- not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. ”
― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

4. Find a friend
Seek out a person who is posiitive, inspiring and happy S/he may not be your best friend but is someone you’ve admired from afar, someone with whom you’d like to establish a connection. The first and most important connection you have is your love of teaching. Build on that! Above all, avoid negative people who will only make your discouragement worse!

You might be experiencing a period of discouragment and disappointment right now. Remember on Day 3 of SPARK when you saw the research on what a first year teacher feels throughout the school year? Your feelings right now are natural and predictable.

But the cures for discouragement will lead to refreshment and the ability to see the stars in the darkness. But you must have hope!

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson

How do you “find your stars?  How do you combat discouragement? Share you ideas with us.  Remember… “a good idea for one, is a good idea for all!”


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