October is “How Much it Sucks to be a New Teacher” Awareness Month

Messy Teacher Desk

If you signed up for the Disillusionment Power Pack during your first year of teaching, you already know what season it is.

The Disillusionment Phase, a term first coined by Ellen Moir as part of the Phases of First-Year Teaching, describes the drop in morale that first-year teachers experience between mid-October and Thanksgiving. This is the time frame in which new teachers are most likely to burst into tears in public, type up resignation letters “just in case,” or fantasize about breaking an ankle so they can miss a few weeks of work.

Sometimes, on the surface, these teachers seem to be doing great. They may be well on their way to becoming excellent teachers. But they may still have moments that send them (privately) into emotional tailspins.

It’s not a coincidence that the Disillusionment Phase often starts in October.

As reporter Madeline Will points out in this Education Week article about the “October Blues”, the month can be exhausting even for experienced teachers.

But there’s an extra layer for new teachers: they have to lay the tracks as they drive the train. And they may spend much of the year feeling like they’re about to crash.

New teachers’ treadmills have been on the highest possible setting for months and they haven’t had a chance to catch their breath. They may even be wondering whether they should have chosen this career in the first place—whether their students would better off with another adult in front of the classroom. And they’re often keeping the shame of all this to themselves.

At least I did.

It was this stretch of my own career—and the shame and secrecy that surrounded it—that eventually inspired me to create The Disillusionment Power Pack, a 30-day series of emails meant to help teachers through the toughest month their first year.

These emails are the notes I’d send back in time to first-year-teacher me. They include records of my absolute worst days as a new teacher, including pictures of actual journal pages I wrote at the time and the stories behind the stories I now tell in speeches and articles.

I’m proud to say this email series—first created in 2015 and revised each year using reader feedback—has now helped tens of thousands of teachers through one of the most difficult stretches of their careers. The feedback I’ve received fills an 88-page Word document. Every year, a new wave of beginning teachers signs up for the Power Pack. And the wave always crests between mid-October and Thanksgiving weekend.

If you’re an experienced teacher or mentor working with new teachers this year, please consider sending them the link to the Disillusionment Power Pack. Even teachers who seem to be doing fine. Even teachers who seem to be doing great! (Please, tell them you think they’re doing great! And still send them the link!)

If this is October of your first year and the road feels rocky, please know you’re in good company.

The teachers you admire most probably went through a version of the Disillusionment Phase during their own first year. One day, a new teacher who admires you may be surprised you had a rough first year, too.

Sign Up for the Disillusionment Power Pack

The Disillusionment Power Pack is a free one-month series of emails meant to help teachers through the hardest part of their first year.

It gets better. But until then, these emails should help.