- Teaching in a Pandemic: Help Teachers, Help You - February 2, 2021
- The Importance of Feedback in Distance Learning - October 9, 2020
- What a Teacher Wants: One Teacher's View - March 25, 2018
- Artist is Not a Dirty Word - March 18, 2018
- The Death of Reflection in English/Language Arts Classrooms - March 9, 2018
- More Than A Teacher - March 4, 2018
- Real Teaching Resolutions - January 5, 2017
- 23 Times I have Questioned My Sanity While Teaching - September 7, 2016
- Part 3: Adventures in Real Word English/Language Arts - Let Them Be Great - August 23, 2016
- Part 2: Adventures in Real World English/Language Arts: Making Them Care - August 4, 2016
We started school a few weeks ago and I am still getting to know my students. I teach at a small school, around 400 students, so I know faces and names before they come into my classroom. The students know me as well, even before they enter my classroom. You develop a reputation outside of your classroom and like it or not, the students decide whether they like you based on the opinions of the other students, especially high school students. My fourth block informed me of my reputation this past Friday. We were are working on our first formal paper and I was being pulled in every direction. I have twenty-eight students and they are very smart, but do not trust themselves so I had a hand up every time I turned around and one of my students stopped me as I was walking toward another student and said, “Miss, why are you so happy?” I laughed and said, “Because I love my job” and I moved on to help another student. And I thought about it and yes, I really am happy.
It is easy to find so many reasons to be unhappy in the classroom. We are underpaid, overworked, and unappreciated. We know it and the public knows it, unfortunately little is being done about it. We have to focus on the good not just for ourselves, but for the future we are helping to create. This is how I stay “happy” for my students:
1. Positive People. First and for most, you have to surround yourself with positive people. You need a support system, not a group of people who are going to pull you down into depression. Find people who make you feel better about yourself. As I said, I do not need to spend my days at school, thinking and talking about all the things wrong with education, goodness knows there are many. Find the people who smile, the ones that will show you pictures of their kids and grandchildren and remind you why you do this. Look for people who have fresh ideas and are willing to collaborate. I love seeing how other people make their teaching style unique and I feel refreshed when I see a new way of doing something.
2. Personal time. You need to take time for you to do what you love. There is so much to do and I know that you cannot get it all done at school, but you have to take a break. Pick up a book, go shopping, go to the school supply aisle and get new pens, do whatever you love because you have to be rested and ready for your students and if you didn’t take a break from school, you are hurting them as much as you are hurting yourself. I leave essays in the car because being with my son makes me happy and grading essays all weekend does not. I know I will have to do them, but I don’t have to do them ALL weekend. Find a hobby outside of teaching. Spend time doing that because new ideas come to you when you are not consciously thinking of how to improve the lesson. Give your mind a break.
3. Reflect. I’m not always happy. My students do not see that I close my door and cry sometimes or that I am so overwhelmed that I just want to curl up in a ball under my desk until it is time to go home. I know I have to find a way to deal with the frustration and heartache that comes with teaching. I write. I write all my issues down and write about how mad I am that this happened or why I cannot understand why student A and student B are both scheduled in this class and everyone knows darn well they hate each other and I will have to break up a fight before it is over and I rip it up and throw it away. Just writing it down and ripping it up makes me feel so much better. It’s out and I said it and I did not bring anyone down with it. And I remember that tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start.
4. Have fun. There is so much to do in the school day. I feel like I live in alphabet soup: AP, EOC, CCSS, LEAP, SPED, GEE, LAA1, GLEs, etc. I know you feel overwhelmed, but the students do too. I want them to love learning and reading a story alone and answer questions is not a way for them to love learning. I try to find a lesson at least once a week that will make us happy, something fun and exciting, not just reading informational text and answering questions. I cannot function in a quiet classroom. We talk in my class. All the time. We talk about what they would do in this situation. We predict what may happen if this occurs. We work in groups, we work in partners, they teach the class, I play music, they make playlists that tie to the novel we read, etc. We have fun. I need my students to be happy because happy students are more eager to learn and they want to do well. When they are unhappy, I am unhappy. And as my father once said, “When mama isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
5. The Children. There is a reason you went into education. It is not the fabulous pay or the glamorous benefits, you went for the future. You must love children because here you are. No one would put themselves through this if you didn’t believe in it. Teaching is a magical. You capture the attention of a new generation without I-Pads, cellphones, or even movies. You give them new ideas and show them how to make the world a better place. That is magical. You see the “a-ha!” moments, the smiles when they finally understand a concept, and the “Dang! That was messed up!” when they see the irony in a story. Those moments are so precious and not everyone sees that. Not even their parents.
I hope you are happy this year. Find little moments that make you thankful you are a teacher and write them down. Keep the little notes and pictures and look at them when you are feeling sad. There is more good in this world than bad and we need to focus on the good. The bond you have with your students is important, and it is a bridge into the future. You are sending them out with your influence and I don’t know about you, but I want to send them out a positive one.