I was going to take a break from writing over Thanksgiving break, but I had a rough day on Tuesday (the last day of school for me before break) so I have been reflective. My reflections have been some thoughts that I really feel like I should write down. Writing helps me process them and will make them real to me. I decided to write them to you because, maybe, you are going through something similar and need some similar encouragement and thoughts.
This is one of those times that I am writing to myself and letting you listen in. Eavesdrop away, Teacher.
Too often I let myself get wrapped up in the actions, behavior, and/or attitude of one or a small handful of students. I let this small cluster change my day and change my attitude because of these students. I let this affect how I am feeling and change my behavior, actions, and reactions towards other students and my coworkers. I let this make me feel like a failure. I let this make me feel like a bad teacher. I let this make me doubt my choices the led to becoming a teacher at all.
These feelings do not last long, but they are nonetheless real. The feelings do affect me. They really do. Even if they are short-lasted, they do take a toll on me from time to time.
I know I shouldn’t let this happen. I know that letting one or a few students make me go down this road is not productive. But it happens. Every year. At least once or twice. The cycle begins and I have to work through it.
If I know that this cycle is not productive, why do I keep letting myself get forced into it? Do I have to go through this cycle? Do I have to let the few students affect how I am with the many other students that are learning and doing the right things every day? Do I need to go through this cycle of doubt and wonder about my choices?
If not, how do I avoid it?
Don’t get me wrong, reflection and analyzing what we do and say is important. It is vital. I am not saying that. I know that doubt can make you stronger when you work through it. I am just talking about the cycle that a handful of students can take you down where this few makes you feel like a failure as a teacher. Where your focus is on them and not the rest of your students who are thriving in your class. (I guess I should mention that it is not always the student that makes you feel like a failure…sometimes it is a parent like happened for me last year.)
So, how do I avoid this?
Today being Thanksgiving gave me a thought. Maybe one tool that helps here, one weapon in this battle, is thankfulness. Gratitude. The attitude of taking stock of what is going well instead of what is not.
Being thankful for the good things takes your focus off of what is going wrong. It puts into perspective that things really aren’t that bad and you that you can build on those things that are going great. It lets you see the “silver lining” and move on. Thankfulness lets the not-so-great things roll off your back like water off of a duck.
Being a thankfully reflective teacher can change you…especially in the moment when one or few students make you feel like you aren’t doing a good job.
Really? Can it be that simple?
I don’t know that this is all of it, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. A big step in that direction. As I have thought about this on this Thanksgiving morning, some of my stress from Tuesday has started to melt away. Not all of it, but a lot of it. It is changing my attitude. It is changing me. It is letting me remember why I do what I do and put up with what I put up with.
It is refilling my patience. That is a feat that is hard to do in the thick of a school year! I will be honest, it helps that I have a break from school…but I still needed a patience refill!
So, what can we be thankful for as teachers?
I am just going make a quick “Thankful List” for me. You can be thankful for whatever you need to be thank for…it sounds simplistic, but I think it will make a difference for you as it has for me. What are you teacher-thankful for?
My Thankful Teacher List
- I have a job. That is important. Not all teachers have one right now.
- I work at a great school with great teachers. ‘Nuff said. 🙂
- I am on the best team of teachers at a school of great teachers.
- I have wonderful, amazing students.
- I have students who actually care when I am having a bad day.
- I have students succeeding in my class who have had little success in school to this point (and I teach 6th grade).
- I have students whose behavior has improved immensely and they are really starting to take their job as a student seriously.
- Almost all of my students are interested in science, even if they haven’t been until this year (I teach science).
- Most of my students work, cause no problems, and are improving in their ability to think and learn on their own.
- I get to teach science to middle-schoolers, which is an amazing job to have!
- I have a few students who work hard just because they know I care for them and want them to succeed.
- Even those giving me a hard time will come around at some point.
- I work with teachers who will help me become a better teacher.
- I know I said it already, but I have amazing students.
Wow, I am glad I wrote those out instead of just thinking them. I feel so much better. Thankfulness does change you! Can you do the same? Write out a list of what you are thankful for in your classroom and with your students. You don’t have to do it here, but you can if you would like!
Let gratitude change your attitude.
I know that sounds cheesy, but it does work! 🙂
Happy Thanksgiving, Teacher! If you aren’t from the US…Happy Thursday!
You are amazing! You are awesome! You are getting through to your students. Don’t give up! Keep on teaching, Teacher!