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Sometimes it doesn’t take much.

Hours of heavy lifting can be negated by a letter (eval rating), a look or an unmet expectation.

A sculptor sees hourly progress. A writer, daily. But a teacher?

Weeks may pass without even the hint of a step forward.

And then what?

Give up? Start over? Salvage?

I admit there have been times I have tried all three in the same day and come away feeling no better, worse even.

Educators don’t mind struggle and they are not afraid of hard work and sweat. No, it’s something else that eats at them, eats at us. No matter how hard we try to be strong and balanced, there are times that we can’t help but feel paper-thin. Like someone could just poke a hole right through us.

Now a hole can be patched by tape. but a tear? Yes, a tear can be fixed with adhesive as well. But rarely is it worth the time. More often than not though, it isn’t the tears or holes that hurt so much. We have gotten used to them. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

No, what knocks us down is when we get crumpled, balled up and thrown away. Or at least that is how we feel. Easily disposable. Like we can be replaced by another sheet in the stack.

I am betting that every single one of us has felt this way at times. And it hurts. And that’s okay. And I don’t think there is anything we can do to prevent this.


What we can do, what we must do, for ourselves and for those we serve, is try to reduce the time spent hurting.

Unless we plan on numbing ourselves to the world around us, as if we have been injected with some sort of mental novocaine, then we need to find a way to bounce back. Quickly.

The longer we allow ourselves to feel hurt and crumpled and worthless, the more we tend to believe it. Here are 3 ways that I have been able to bounce back quickly.

Never Party Alone

Often our immediate response, when we are crumpled, is curl up into a ball. To feel sorry for ourselves and go into hiding. We feel down and we don’t want to be around others because we believe that we just need some time to ourselves.

To do what?

To spiral down even further into a self-pity abyss?

No! Don’t do this! I speak from experience when I say that this doesn’t work. In fact, it makes things worse.

It is at this point that we must reach out to others. As Brene’ Brown would advise, someone worthy of hearing our story. Someone who is not going to allow us to continue to wallow in a pity party. Someone who knows when to listen and someone who knows when to call us on our sh%&.

I have been whisked away from many a pity party by a close friend, my wife (and best friend), or a vox to a long-distance mentor. You would do the same for them and more than likely you have. Don’t ever go to this party alone. Trust me, you’ll never leave happy.

Education is What You Do, It’s Not Who You Are

Recently I interviewed for a job that I felt was perfect for me. I nailed the interview, or at least I thought I had. I had already envisioned myself in this position. It was going to be great. The change I have so desperately needed. And then I found out. I didn’t get the job. I was crushed. I was so certain. It hurt. As much as I know better, I sunk into self-pity for a few days. Not proud of it, but I am being real. I suddenly felt unmotivated to do anything. I took two naps in one day and really did a whole lot of nothing.

And then my son asked me for the fifth time if I wanted to go swimming. Yes, I am lucky enough to have a pool in my backyard. Yes, I am lucky enough to have an amazing son who still is of the age that he wants to play with me. Those days are numbered, I’m sure.

So, I finally took him up on his offer. And you know what? We had a blast! It was so much fun. Every time my son laughed or giggled I could feel a bit of my self-pity wash away. And I began to wonder why the heck I let myself get so down in the first place.

Yes, I am an educator. Yes, I was rejected. Yes, it hurt. But I mustn’t continue to allow my self-worth and my happiness be so dependent on my job. I know. I know. Education is our passion and yes there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our students and our staff. Blah. Blah. Blah.

That sounds nice and good and we mean well when we say this or write that. But the bottom line is that we are much more than educators. We are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and friends and…

We are more than just our jobs and it’s time we start learning how to separate the two. It’s okay to be passionate about what we do. What is not okay is when we let our job consume us and take away from our lives outside of school. It’s not fair to our family and friends and most importantly, it’s not fair to ourselves.

Maybe They Were Wrong

In the moment we give so much power to the person or persons that have crumpled us up into a wad that we never stop to think that they could be wrong. Yes, they got us for a moment. And yes, they rearranged our form for the time being.

But we get to decide how long the time being lasts. Not them.

Watch me unfold myself and show off my creases.

Watch me tape myself back together to become even stronger.

Watch me reinvent myself to become something you’ve never seen before.

Give yourself a moment to absorb and feel the pain and then get moving. This wasn’t the first time you’ve been made to feel disposable and it won’t be the last. But starting today, you can give yourself a new game plan. The next time this happens, and you begin to wallow and feel down just remember that you are amazing. Someone, I don’t know who, once said I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

You got this!

Reach out to someone!

Remember all that you are!

Realize that they could be wrong!

And above all else, keep moving!


*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your inbox just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive “A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever”. This is a free, 40-page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.








6 comments on “We All Feel Crumpled Sometimes

  1. scotfeld says:


    Strong piece and very timely for me. I’ve spent the weekend holed up in my apartment with the shades drawn. Not sure why I’m telling you this, but I can’t uncrumple myself.

    Scott Feldman

    1. jonharper70 says:

      You will. Hang in there my friend.

  2. Barbara Gruener says:

    I love that you added the part about finding someone to help. And I’m so delighted that you let it be your son this time. We simply can’t go it alone. Life is too hard. And life’s disappointments are sometimes too painful. The load can be way too heavy for us to bear by ourselves, alone. When we move with intention, even if ever so slowly, from me to WE, that’s where the magic lies, that’s where the healing begins, that’s where the hope springs eternal. Even if it’s only one other person. One small voice asking you as many times as it takes, to come out of me to the beauty of WE. Always connect with your transparent, vulnerable reflections. I’m sorry you didn’t get this job, but I’m certain that it’s because there’s something even better in store for you, and I can’t wait to read all about it.

    1. jonharper70 says:

      So true, I don’t know why at first we think we have to go it alone. There are always others willing to listen and help if we just ask. And yes, my son’s laughter popped me right out of it and reminded me of what matters most.

  3. Karen Kraeger says:

    Thank you! This was a great post! It reminded me of the power of moving on by connecting with others who know the truth of all that we are. Your post helped me tie my recent experience with an inaccurate and unfair evaluation to a fantastic lesson I do with my fourth graders. It’s based on the book, The Perfect Square. Simple message—I may not be a perfect square anymore, but who wants to be when I can take all the crumpled and torn bits and transform into something much more wonderful! Check it out!

    1. jonharper70 says:

      I am glad you are able to move on from that eval. I will definitely check that book out. Keep moving forward and enjoy your summer.

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