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This is the final piece of a five-part series called The New Teacher’s Survival Guide. Start from the beginning here, with creating a support network.


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It’s hard, this whole teaching thing. It really is. And for every amazing, inspiring day during this, my first year, I have one that is tepid at best. I know I am trying my best, and I do absolutely love what I’m doing – but some days I need a little reminding that what I’m doing matters. Some days I run low on the fuel that keeps the fire alive and burning bright.

I refuse to be among the 46% who leave this profession within the first five years. I love my students, my content area, and my purpose too much. Throughout this series I’ve explored what pushes that 46% away, and what I’m trying to do to combat those forces as a new teacher – but it is all for naught if I lose sight of who I am and why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Throughout my student-teaching year and this first semester as a full time teacher, I’ve honed in on five habits that work wonders for me:

Focus on the positive.  I realized a few weeks into my first term, I kept bothering my husband with the woes of work. This kid wouldn’t shut up, my 4th period is driving me crazy, and I can’t figure out a fun way to teach federalism! I was bringing my “emotional work” home. No more! I resolved instead to share with my husband at least three positive experiences from school, and to keep the negatives out (but… see below). Research shows that people who focus on, and are grateful for, the good things in life tend to demonstrate “higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others,” among other benefits. By continually focusing on the good, I become all the more appreciative of the hard work I am doing and the impact it is having, albeit small.

To read tip #2, click here.

Dana Dooley teaches high school AP Government, Government & Economics, and Yearbook near Sacramento,...

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