Let’s face it. Teaching is tough! Aside from being on our feet all day juggling the social, emotional, and academic needs of 20 or so little ones, we’re also dealing with endless stacks of paperwork (that often come home with us), increasing city-wide and state pressures, a new curriculum, after-school activities, professional development courses, observations/evaluations, and parent-teacher communications, all while earning a less than stellar salary that a good portion of the public believes is fair because we get summer “off.” Whew, I just stressed myself out!
Insert favorite Tom Hanks’ quote from A League of Their Own here:
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
The hard is what makes this profession great. You see, all of the difficult work we do on a regular basis leads to a bigger, better, and brighter future for the children lucky enough to step foot into our classrooms on the first day of school. While we may feel unappreciated at times, true worth and happiness comes from within and having a good outlook means everything in the world of education. Here are ten tips for maintaining a bright outlook:
1) Savor Shining Moments: Every once in a while there is a moment in class that makes you laugh hysterically, cry (the good kind), or feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for your job. Savor it! Share this moment with your colleagues, friends, family members, etc. You deserve it and people usually enjoy hearing a good teacher tale or two.
2) Count-Ups: As well-deserved as holiday breaks are, try to avoid the countdowns (especially in front of the students). It inadvertently sends a negative message to your brain, and behavior issues often ensue when students can sense that their teacher is ready to clock out. Rather than doing countdowns, try doing count ups to special events that celebrate learning such a plays/performances, spirit days, field trips, etc.
3) Praise More/Correct Less: It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to correct every negative behavior you see. But remember, take a deep breath and choose your battles wisely! Too much attention to negative behaviors can be counterproductive. Rather, focus on positive, specific feedback. Check out my article The Heart Of Positive Discipline to discover 101 techniques for how to positively discipline students in order to preserve a happy, healthy, and loving classroom environment that you enjoy.
4) Collection Box: Save the special letters, pictures, and thoughtful keepsakes you get from your students. Read them on a difficult day as a reminder of how much you actually love your job.
5) Vent to Few: It’s natural and sometimes healthy to vent. However, choose a few select people that you trust when venting frustrations. Chatting with a teacher buddy who can relate from another school may be your best bet. You certainly don’t want to be seen as “Negative Nancy” by your colleagues or have your frustrations get back to the wrong ears (thus creating a whole other slew of issues). It’s not good for you or the school climate. After venting, always ask yourself, “Is this something I can control?” If not, let it go and move on. If so, brainstorm solutions!
6) Love your Room: Be sure to make your room kid-friendly and teacher-friendly. Take some extra time to make it an organized, well-functioning, comfortable, and beautiful place to spend your countless hours. Bring in a soft-lit lamp from home to use while grading papers as opposed to the harsh fluorescent school lights. These little touches can go a long way!
7) The Mulligan Rule: Kids forget about their troubles in 2.5 seconds. We can learn a lot from them! Remember, tomorrow is always a new day. Teachers deserve do-overs!
8) Connect with Parents: Parents can be your biggest supporters or your toughest critics. Fostering good relationships with them can make all the difference in your happiness as well as the success of your students. Communicate often and approach issues in a sensitive manner. How would you want something communicated if it were your child?
9) Fun Factor: Keep it fun, both in the classroom and with your colleagues. Sing. Dance. Let yourself laugh a little too long. Do the messy project. Never take yourself too seriously. That is the beauty of being a teacher and working with children all day. Embrace it!
10) Count Your Lucky Stars: Yep, there are many things that make teaching tough. There are also millions of things that make it a fun-filled, rewarding profession. I sometimes scope the flawlessly dressed woman in pumps at the grocery store in envy while I’m rocking my modest flats, disheveled hair, and marker-covered hands. But hey, I’m sure she’d give anything for a summer off or an extended holiday break with her family. We’ve earned our perks, but let’s never take them for granted!