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I’ve been feeling a little “BLAH” as an educator. Can you relate?

I’ve been an educator in some capacity for 25 years now and since I can remember, I occasionally go through these mini identity crises. 

  • Who am I? 
  • Who have I become?
  • Does something need to change?

From teacher to coach to educator trainer, I’ve experienced it all. If you’ve been feeling “BLAH” in your role as an educator or even questioning why you’re doing this work at all, I invite you to sit in that place with me and learn a few tips that may help you get unstuck.

You can watch today’s video by clicking on the image below … or read on for the transcript.

Are you going through an identity crisis? 

As an educator, I have to say, “Me, too.” I just want to commune with you for a little bit, tell you what’s going on for me, imagine what’s going on for you…and see if we can support each other in our way through. You game? Let’s dig in.

Today was on my calendar as a YouTube filming day. I woke up and brainstormed topic ideas with Edward, my fabulous YouTube guy. I even brainstormed a few more ideas while I was washing dishes, and I just felt like my heart wasn’t in it. 

What do I want to say? 

What’s the most important thing I bring to the world that makes a difference that I should talk about in these videos today? 

And I just felt blah. So I started thinking about that blah. And I remember that through the course of my life as an educator, which is a 25-year-long career now, I’ve just felt blah at times. Usually, when I’m honest about what I’m feeling blah about, that’s like watering the soil, and something new grows. I think I’m at a new place where it’s like, “what” is not even the right question. It’s more like “who.” 

Who am I? 

Who have I become, as a person, as a teacher, as an academic coach?

And because I’ve become this person, I have less tolerance for some things and more tolerance for some things. And it becomes untenable to continue performing habits and ways of being that I was comfortable with before. For example, a long time ago, back when I was a classroom teacher, I was comfortable with telling the students what they needed to do, requiring homework, and giving grades. I was comfortable with being in charge in that way. Until I wasn’t.

I think I was comfortable with it, but something was nagging at me in my system that said, “you’re unhappy, something’s not right.” So then I started paying attention to that. I should have quit that job, actually. But instead, I was kind of fired, or at least not re-contracted for the next school year because the administrators could also read something in me that just wasn’t quite right there. 

Then I discovered this world of academic coaching, and I just loved being able to ask students and explore alongside them, “Who are you? How do you learn? Maybe school doesn’t have to include so much suffering, maybe there are some things you can do differently around that. And I’m happy to support you with learning those new habits.” 

And that was fun and exciting. And I felt good as I was learning new skills and experimenting with things, and then I learned brain science, the neuroscience of learning. And I thought, “oh my god, this explains everything!” And I created my Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying. 

Yes, students have the capacity not to bore their own brains, if only we learn what brains are good for, how to use them, and then design our studying accordingly. Cool. But then there was this nagging sensation, like I’m helping students learn to tolerate the world of school that is, in so many cases, kind of violent. Students are asked to submit to the dominant teacher or the policies at the school, submit to the rules and regulations and in ways that didn’t feel right to me—don’t feel right to me still. 

So then I thought, “oh, yeah, I could work with teachers. I could work with educators. There are some things I’ve learned about how to help students feel empowered, and own their own learning. And I could work with educators around that. And that’s exciting. And I created my course the Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically and trained hundreds and hundreds of academic coaches, educational therapists school counselors, and so many other educators. 

But there was also this feeling in me like, “Yeah, but classroom teachers need this work. Classroom teachers could learn how to be with students in fundamentally different ways that actually help them coach students around academics—not just teach them—but coach them around skill building and how to be lifelong learners; how to call out students in our aliveness, rather than just dominate with rules and regulations and policies.” And I got invited to work with more and more schools. More principals administrators invited me to come work with teachers, and you know, many teachers are a hard bunch. 

After watching this video, maybe you’re a teacher at a school looking around and noticing, “Wow, I feel like I’m out of the norm. I’m going through an identity crisis. My world around me doesn’t match my inner life. The kinds of questions I’m asking, the ways of being that I want to have and be with students don’t match the community that I’m in.” 

When I left teaching to do academic coaching full-time, I promised myself I would never work with another student who wasn’t actively choosing to work with me, who didn’t actively want what I had to provide. And by and large, I’ve been able to do that as an academic coach. 

But as I’ve been invited into schools to work with groups of teachers, it necessitates that I work with teachers who don’t necessarily want what I have to give—maybe 30% of the teachers in a professional development training at a school want what I have to give, and everybody else is just tolerating it. I can still make change that way, right? I can make a lot of change. I could reach a lot of students by teaching to that 30% who may want it, but I feel sad. I just can’t shake the sadness this morning, especially. 

And so I think I’m at a choice point again in my life. Maybe you are, too? How can I shift? Is it about shifting? I don’t know if it’s about shifting, but it’s about choosing: it’s about taking a stand for what and who I want. What are my fundamental values? And how can I move from that place? 

I’ve been noticing, the more work I do in schools, the more I feel frustrated. I notice I want to change people, I think they should be doing things differently than they’re doing them now. And I’m starting to want to force them. I’m starting to have that energy, like, “you need to be X, Y, and Z,” whether or not that’s what they want for themselves. 

How do we really present consent as educators? 

How do we provide what the student or the client wants and is ready to receive? 

How can we help inspire a vision, but not require the vision? That’s interesting? How do we inspire a vision for what you could be, but not require it—that requiring energy in my system is something I can no longer tolerate. It doesn’t make me feel good. And I have been trying to require a certain way of being from groups of people who may not necessarily want to be that way. And I wonder if you have, too; whether you’re a classroom teacher, whether you educate in some other way, do you notice you’re increasingly out of alignment with the who you want to be? I am right now. And I wish I could tie up this video with with a neat little whiteboard, right? My little whiteboard: Three Tips to Getting through an Identity Crisis as an Educator.

Oh, that’s silly. Huh? 

But if I were to have that whiteboard, what would be on it now? I’m curious. 

  • Tip #1 would be: notice. Notice how you’re feeling. 
  • Tip #2 would be: be honest with yourself about the gulf between the who you want to be in your work and the who you can be in your current environment. 
  • Tip #3 would be to sit with the discomfort of the gulf between the who you are right now and the who you want to be. And to just sit with that discomfort. Don’t run away from it. Sit with it, look at it. Let that discomfort be energized by the noticing of the discomfort. 
  • Tip #4 would be to watch for the little green sprout that may come up from the muck of the discomfort and offer a new way. 

This year, if you’ve been following my channel, you know I am going through a lot: I have braces, I’m going through a big jaw surgery in the month of May, I’m having to restructure my business so I can continue to do good in the world, but so that it also can run without me for a little while. And there’s a resurrection of sorts happening. I just want to get to the other side. I want to just jump past this identity crisis that I’m having—this new one, I know it’s such a good thing. It’s fallow ground this this particular identity crisis, and maybe it is for you, too. 

And, you know what? I want to invite you… 

If you want to have an identity crisis around other people who can really receive you, who can really hold you as you’re wrestling with your values and new habits about how to be as an educator in relationship to students; in relationship to curriculum; and relationship to what it means to be a coach, or a life coach… 

If you don’t want to wrestle alone, if you want to wrestle with other smart, big hearted people who can hold space for you to wonder out loud and who don’t need you to be a certain kind of way…but who invite space for your questions… 

I’d love for you to consider spending some time in my world. Check out my free gift. Because really, what you’ll find there is my how-to guide for how do we actually embrace who our human self is meant to be; what the neuroscience tells us about how our brains are; and how do we actually learn in ways that embrace our humaneness and our fullness rather than fight against it? You’ll find some tips and tricks in that free gift, and then, frankly, signing up for that will get you on my list where you’ll also get some invitations to come try out one of my community calls for free. 

Once you’re on my list, you can just reply to my Welcome email and say, “Gretchen, I heard you say that I could come to a community call. I would love to come check out the community; I’m going through an identity crisis myself.” Then tell me about it. Tell us about it. Feel what it’s like to drink in the support and the love from people who understand and who are questioning, too!

I hope I get to meet you. Take care.