The Doubts of A Teacher

Maura O'Reilly

I have been having a bit of writer’s block. Which is funny to say because I only have about two pages to write a week. I am afraid, though, that I will produce something that is not meaningful to you. I want to help educators because your job is not easy. But I find myself questioning all the topics I come up with. Will this waste their time? Will anyone even read this? What if I start to lose followers?


As a classroom teacher, I have doubted myself in all areas. I imagine all teachers - all people - doubt themselves sometimes. Some may not let on that they feel unsure. I think I have done that many times. I don’t want to lose credibility or look unprofessional. I don’t want anyone to think I don’t know what I’m doing. I do know what I’m doing, most of the time. Then again things are always changing so maybe I knew last year but this year I feel less certain.

Here are some of the doubts just about every teacher has. Maybe ‘questions’ is a better word than doubts.

(Look at me doubting my use of the word ‘doubt’. That’s deep.)

You may ask yourself:

Am I doing this right?

Is this assessment valid?

Does that parent hate me?

Should I incorporate more technology into my teaching?

Do I want to do this for the rest of my life?

Are my colleagues talking about me?

How much should I spend on my classroom?

Am I making a difference?

If you have had some of these doubts or questions, count yourself in good company. The best of the best have surely asked themselves the very same. It is not necessarily the answers, though, that are most important.

Why are you asking the questions? Are you searching for something more in your career? In need of a change of grade, subject, or school? Struggling with low self-confidence, and imagining others see the faults you do?

Certainly, these doubts contribute to teacher burnout. It is impossible to move forward if you feel you aren’t doing anything right, and if you don’t develop the courage to move past the faults you perceive.

Doubt can sometimes be a powerful tool to help us grow. It is good to question our beliefs and actions. It is important to stop and reflect on what we feel isn’t going well or what we feel uncomfortable with. Maybe you feel that parent dislikes you, not because of his/her actions, but because you are struggling to see progress with the child.

It is okay to have doubts, the key is to not keep them from stopping you. I tell my students not to get ‘stuck in the mud’ when challenged while reading. Don’t get stuck on one word and stop reading. Move past it. Move past your doubts and keep going. Use them to fuel you, to make you better. Take the necessary steps to clarify and dissolve any questions you are struggling with. Be completely honest with yourself, then make a plan to improve.

It could be your self-talk needs to improve - perhaps you are far too hard on yourself. Maybe you need to keep more detailed records - so you are able to see progress where you believe there is none. Maybe you need to research alternative careers for teachers, or free online courses, or talk to your colleagues about solutions that have worked for them.

Everyone feels doubt - this is a good thing to remember so you avoid feeling you have to shamefully hide your struggles. Be humble and ready to grow and others will be open to helping you. This can only improve your situation.

(Now I find myself doubting the end of this article: Is that a good conclusion? Do I need another paragraph? I’m going to believe I did my best and stop…

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