Today, I’m sharing something on a personal and professional level. If you have read my blog before, you probably know that I’m a teacher (I talked about it here). Earlier this summer, I decided to leave the school I started my career at. As I finish the first chapter in my career, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned from my first teaching position. Although I feel like I’ve gained so much knowledge and experience, today I’m sharing 7 important life lessons I’ve learned from teaching. These life lessons have made me a better person and I’ll carry them onward to where life takes me next.
I’m a young, petite Asian woman with a soft nature. In my first year of teaching, I was fresh out of college and the newest and youngest teacher at my school. I wanted the parents and kids to like me, but I quickly realized that there is a difference between liking somebody and respecting them. After that first year, I learned how to respectfully stand my ground, set boundaries, and stand up for myself. There were still a lot of times where I had to bite my tongue, but when it came to the important matters, I fought for my beliefs in any way I could.
Through all the disrespect teachers get, we still have to grit our teeth through our smiles and handle all situations respectfully and professionally. Although I always hated doing this, in retrospect, I’m proud of the way I handled tough situations. I have never regretted how I acted towards a parent, but I know not all parents can say the same. It’s a simple lesson I always taught my kids: just because someone does or says something bad to you doesn’t mean you have to do it back to them.
A lot of parents, and even teachers, don’t understand the long term implications that their actions have on children. Children come into the world as blank slates and learn by example. It didn’t take me long to realize that my students looked up to me and developed my habits and mentality. I knew I had to lead by example and be better if that’s what I expected of others. For example, if I allowed a child’s disrespectful comment about women to slide, then the message I’m giving is that it’s okay for that child to continue saying those things. Although not all people are as malleable as children, you have to do better and be better to make a difference in the world.
I’ve always been a very compassionate and empathetic person, but teaching heightened those traits. I taught at a private school, so a lot of people just assumed I taught spoiled kids. Although that was true, it didn’t mean they didn’t have their own stories or problems. I’ve found that 100% of the time, the hardest kids to deal with were the ones who needed the most love and guidance. You never know what’s really going on, so be kind and compassionate.
I learned this through many failures of my own, but also by watching my students. During my teacher training, I learned so much from my own mistakes with the help of amazing mentors. Although embarrassing, it helped me be a better teacher. Mistakes are proof of growth as long as you keep trying.
Although kids are lumped into one class based on age, there are so many different stages they can be at. At first, it was so hard for me to realize, but everyone learns and develops at their own pace and succeeds at different times. I’ve had students that struggled with the alphabet in the beginning of the year end up reading fluently by themselves by the end. I’ve had students that didn’t do well in my class do much better when they got older. I find this lesson applicable to people of all ages. Growing up, I was an average student and never aimed for the stars like a lot of my classmates. I never felt smart enough compared to all the kids who strived to be doctors, but I also lacked the motivation to be better. It wasn’t until college where I developed an appreciation for my education and really started to work hard. Not everyone will be successful or hit milestones at the same time, and that is okay.
I had no social life the first two years I taught. I didn’t know what work life balance was and I put work and my kids first. As the years went on, I started to realize I had to take care of myself. By the end of my fourth year of teaching, I was mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. Although I love working with kids and love being a teacher, I wasn’t happy or healthy for many reasons I had not foreseen. That is why I have decided to take a year off to refresh and reassess myself on a personal and professional level. At first, I felt really bad about it, but after speaking with many people I respect, I have now come to terms with putting myself first! Happiness means a lot to me and continuing with a job that makes me unhappy is the biggest disservice I could do to myself.
What are some life lessons your career has taught you? I would love to hear more about your career path and any of your thoughts on the 7 important life lessons I’ve learned from teaching. Feel free to comment below or reach out on Instagram!