Do It Afraid | Days of Doubt

Editor’s Note: Ms. MacKenzie Orbaugh is a 2019 graduate of Butler University’s College of Education.  She has generously agreed to document her journey during the first year of teaching to better inform, prepare and celebrate the challenges and opportunities that preservice and new teachers face.  Her series will be featured on the Butler COE Blog throughout the 2019-20 year.  Ms. Orbaugh teaches Kindergarten at Boone Meadow Elementary in Zionsville, IN.

Days of Doubt
By MacKenzie Orbaugh

I stood, at the end of the day, looking into a room that displayed evidence of a day that was less than smooth. I could feel the tightness in my shoulders and the fatigue in my body. This was the first moment of silence I had experienced all day.  I peered around the room and thought to myself if someone else walked in I wonder what they would actually think happened in this room today. Books lay open strewed across the room, wall hangings dangled by a corner just waiting to fall, chairs lay on their sides, tiny pieces of paper covered most of the ground, writing utensils, and math manipulatives were everywhere except for where they needed to be. That day- I felt defeated.

Undeniably, I think one of the hardest things about teaching is walking through the days of doubt. Of course there are days that are harder than others, but the days where you doubt your abilities and the days where you doubt the career you chose are the hardest. Student teaching prepared me for so many different aspects of teaching and looking back there are so many things that I am thankful to have experienced with a mentor teacher right by my side coaching me on. But with student teaching, there is always a safety net and the responsibility does not fully fall on you yet.

I am not sure there could have been a way to prepare for the days where I would be picking up smooshed goldfish off the floor while racking my brain to find answers that I simply did not have. My thoughts would race. How do I best support this student? I have tried everything I can think of and everything I have researched and it just seems to be getting worse. I have come hours early and have stayed hours late and it still does not feel like enough. Am I cut out to do this? Was this my calling? I am not good enough to teach these kids. The doubt seeps in and soils any hope you have left for that day.

On one of my days of doubt I was flipping through old class notes searching for anything that might help me with that current day’s events, but I stumbled upon something else. Towards the end of the year my professors said, “You cannot be stuck in the problem. You have to look past it. Be asset based thinkers. Look at what the situation looks like when it is solved and work your way back. You WILL get there.” That was the answer I had been looking for.

Teaching is hard. No matter where you are or what grade you are in, it truly is hard. But you stick with it. You live and model the same thing you preach to your kids every day. Just because it is hard does not mean you cannot do it. Stick with it, hang in there, and sooner than later there will be a day or a moment that reminds you why this work is worth it. There will be a moment when you stand in awe of the students you have and the honor it is to be there teacher. The hours within the classroom doing the hard work is worth it. Find the joy and find the strength to dig yourself out of the days of doubt. That doubt does not belong in your classroom because you were meant to be there and you were meant to be those kid’s teacher. Allow yourself to be supported by the community around you and ask for help.

Continually look for the good and I bet you that the doubt fog will lift and you will realize the joy and goodness around you in those scholars you spend your days with. Celebrate the progress and celebrate the joy. For me- that looked like spending a day in our PJs with our favorite stuffed animals building stronger connections and laughing a little too loudly all day long. The days of doubt will come, but moments of joy are much stronger.