You are passionate about your students and about teaching, there is no denying that. For that reason, when you have a REALLY challenging student, it is a struggle. You want to reach that student, but you also don’t want to sacrifice the other students and their learning environment. It is a mental and emotional tug-of-war that you deal with day in and day out. You do what you can and play each day by ear.
And you are TIRED!
Well, I just want to encourage you to keep it up! Don’t give up! Keep making those hard choices every day! We both know it will make a difference one day for that student(s)…even if it is in the far future and you will never know.
To help you do this and stay inspired to keep going, I went into the future and got that student to write you a letter. What, you didn’t know I had a time machine? 🙂
I’m attaching the letter to the end of this note. I hope it reminds you why you do the things you do. You are awesome and REALLY ARE making a difference! Don’t give up! Keep on teaching, Teacher!
It’s been a while. I am sorry about that. I have been busy…teacher busy. You know, no time for the extras in life. I know I am preaching to the choir here, but being a teacher is exhausting!
So much to do. So much to think about. So much to plan for. So much to do. Wait, did I say that already?
And that is just the school stuff. Then there is home life. Friend life. Life. Who has the time?
We do…we make the time…but we are tired. Being tired is okay. It comes with the job. But…
Make sure your tired is worth it.
Sometimes our tired comes from doing things that really, really, REALLY matter for our students (and our life). Sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes we are spending our time and energy on things that may not be that important. Often times, these things are given to us to do by other. Other times we give these things to ourselves.
It is easier said than done, but we have got to prioritize…and that means taking a hard look at ourselves and what we are doing. It might mean carving away things we love to do in our classroom but really aren’t making much of a difference. It might also mean taking a stand with powers that be about things that are not worth the time and energy taken away from your students.
It is hard, but you need to do it, Teacher. I need to do it. Our students can’t afford to have us burn out.
And I know you can do this. You are awesome! You are amazing. You can definitely make changes and fight battles for the sake of your students and your sanity! You can do it. I can do it. We just have to step up and do it!
I can’t be anymore specific on how to prioritize because I don’t know your situation. But I think you know the things that can and need to go. Whatever they are, I totally have your back and believe in you. I don’t want an amazing teacher like you to burnout and leave the field that needs you.
Have I mentioned that you are awesome? Well, you are!
Thank you for all you do. Thank you for the work you put it. Thank you for fighting hard to make a difference in the life of your students. You are. You definitely are! You rock! Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!
PS…Could you do me a favor and check out the new posters I created and let me know what you think? They are based on growth mindset. I tried to come up with a way to promote the mindset with my classroom walls. This is the second set of these (you can get a free preview of some of the posters from each set here). I am a big believer in promoting growth mindset…and students eyes wonder around the room anyway, why not have something on the wall to help inspire them to set goals and work hard to reach them?! Oh, and if you like them, they are on sale right now! Thanks! 🙂
It is early in the year, but if you have been teaching for at least a year I bet you already know something about your class(es).
We all know that there is always “that one student” in your class that, well…you know who I’m talking about.
Have you found him/her yet? Have you identified that student that is going to make the year more, um, interesting?
I am not saying all of this to mean that there is always going to be a defiant student that you just can’t reach. I am just admitting the reality that there usually seems to be at least one student (or more than one) whom it will be more off a challenge to connect (and operate class with him/her in the room some days).
I am sure that we have all seen the meme, or some form of it, that tells us something that is probably true about this student.
I guess it may be kind of a cliched thought at this point, but it is nonetheless true. These students are probably fighting battles that we have no way of knowing. They are acting out in response to the reality that they know or as a way to gain control of their lives in some way. I think we all know this and may even know some of the child’s story.
How in the [choose your own word to go here] are we supposed to teach when that student is “looking for love in all the wrong places” and you have a classroom of other students who aren’t?
What is worse is that sometimes these students learn that if they do this often enough, they are in complete control and this feels good against the chaos backdrop of their lives . Things that feel good are often repeated. This repetition causes a different kind of chaos for you and your other students. Not to mention you have an ongoing problem that makes other teachers and administration question your classroom management skills.
Gee, thanks for reminding me what to look forward to…
Do not fret, I have something for you to try!
Okay, I am going to be honest, this idea is not my own, but I have stumbled upon pieces of it by accident almost every year that I have taught (this year will be number ten). The basis of it is simple, and I think it is something we all know intrinsically (however, it is so hard to practice sometimes).
The key to working with difficult students is what you do when there is no crisis.
If the only attention that these students get from you is when there is a classroom disruption or some kind of drama and these students are acting out as way to get the attention they crave…one plus one equals two…they are going to show out in your class. I can say that with as much certainty as I can say that the Sun shines during the day more than at night. It is not rocket surgery (yes, I know what I did there).
This means that they have to have attention from you unrelated to their behavior. Oh, and just praising the “good stuff” is not enough. That is still based on behavior. If they want attention and are used to getting it for negative things, the negative is easier for them to attain. If “being good” is a stretch from what is comfortable and they want the attention without working for it, get ready for negative behaviors that disrupt your class. It may be less often, but it will still happen.
No, you can’t base your connection with them on behavior (but praising the positive is still very, very important).
You have got to build a relationship with these students (and arguably all students) based on them being human people that deserve respect for who they are more than what they’ve done.
Let me be clear, I am not saying that we ignore behavior! No. Consequences for negative behaviors and praise for positive is also a needed aspect of humanity that will help children grow into better adults. Behavior is important! However, there is something that these students need that they aren’t getting much of…connection with adults based on who they are and not what they do. This type of attention will help them slowly learn to think through choices and pay attention, eventually, more to their behavior.
Connection in the most important attention that these students need.
All students need this type of attention. Most students get this type of attention at home, school, or elsewhere. A lot of times our most difficult students do not. They need it and don’t know it, and they are not getting it. They get attention (and control) the only way they know how…and sometimes this is unfortunately at the expense of your class time.
You know the need, so now how about a strategy for trying to meet it?
We have so much on our plates as teachers, how are we going to find time for individual students (that probably drive us up a wall most days)?
Little of the time should come during class time.
We all know those moments in the day we can use. Elementary teachers can build a minute or two into transition time (have the other students transition while you take a moment to talk to the one student). Middle School and High School teachers can use hallway transition times (or other times that can be built into class time…like the small transitions in class). Also, giving these students class jobs go a long way, too, and gives you time to talk.
How do you build the relationships during these little moments?
That is where the strategy I mentioned that is not my idea comes in…
The 2 x 10 Strategy
No, I am not suggesting that you use a large piece of lumber to help the student behave better! It is a strategy of using little moments with difficult students to help connect with them and give them that connection they need.
The 2 x 10 Strategy is something that was discussed by several teachers in the Encouraging Teachers Facebook group (this group only excepts new members a couple of times of year, but there are other groups like this on Facebook, as well). It was further explained by Angela Watson through a blog post that I highly recommend that you read for more details and discussion on this.
Simply put, the idea is that you talk to the student for two minutes a day for at least ten consecutive days in a row and let them talk about whatever they want for the whole time (with little input back from you…it is their time).
Too easy to be true?
Maybe…but think about it. It is likely that these students almost never get this kind of attention and conversation from adult in their lives (or anyone else). We crave this. This is why we have friends. This is why we spend time with family. This is a part of the reason we need a planning period…to connect with other people. It makes sense to think that students crave this, too, even if they don’t know it or how to vocalize it….so they get attention they way they know how…and we have already discussed that cycle!
This conversations are a way to cut the attention-seeking behavior short and help you build a lasting connection and rapport with students who may be wrecking class time from time-to-time, and instead they become one of your greatest allies in class.
I say it is worth a shot.
It is early in the year and there probably haven’t been major disruptions from these students yet. Why not give this strategy a try? What do you have to lose? This is your chance to try something different by teaching smaller to help all of your students succeed in your class. That is what you signed up to do, isn’t? This is your year to do it better than ever!
You really do make a difference and are an amazing teacher! I do believe that this will be the best year ever for you. Be awesome…and you are because you can’t help it! Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!
If your students could make you an infographic note of your influence and the difference that you make, I think it would look a lot like this.
I hope that you realize how much you mean to your students, even though they can’t tell you yet. You may never know your true effect, but you are changing lives and futures. Keep fighting. Keep going. Keep teaching!
You are so so awesome! Please remember that you are today. When the going gets tough, awesome is still awesome…and you are awesome! Keep on teaching, you amazing Teacher! Oh, and share this with another teacher that you think could use this message today. Pass on the encouragement!
PS…I am working on a better format of the picture. This is the best I could do this morning because of scanner issues. Sorry!
I know that we all struggle through the tough patches of working in a somewhat thankless career. More than that, we are often scrutinized and demeaned by people who just don’t understand what we do. That can be hard, but we take it in stride and keep pressing on, even if no one notices. That is what makes us awesome. That is what makes you awesome!
I have put words to the unspoken thanks of students in the past, but I thought this morning I might give words to the unspoken thanks to someone else. I know this letter will probably never happen, but I am sure that there are those out there who definitely feel this way. So here is a letter to us from the world at-large.
Know that it is all true, even if we seldom hear it. Read it, smile, and know you are awesome. Share it with other teachers and lets get this Encouragement Revolution kicked into high gear today!
You are awesome. You are amazing. You are making a difference, even if it is only in the background where very few see it. You are making the future, and the world thanks you! I thank you! Thank you, Teacher! Keep on teaching!
PS…I know I keep talking about it, but I am so excited about these posters and how they can motivate students (intrinsically) to keep moving and pressing on! The Motivational ABCs Poster/Word Wall are available in the Dear Teacher/Love Teacher TeachersPayTeachers Store…check it out, if you haven’t had the chance! The image in this post is one of the printable posters in the set. Oh, and the posters are on a deep discount sale this week! You have $2 to motivate students, don’t you? 🙂
This week was full of some heavy posts…inspiring and encouraging, but still heavy. I thought I might make today a lighter day and celebrate some of what we love about teaching! And because my post have been longer this week, I am going to have you do more watching than reading. 🙂
Our job is difficult. We try to use innovative methods and strategies, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem like the kids are getting it. Sometimes it feels like this…you may or may not remember this Saturday Night Live sketch from the 90’s. If you have seen it, watch it again and enjoy. If you haven’t seen it, watch it for the first time and laugh your socks off! It is hilarious, but it is amazing how it actually feels this way sometimes! The only difference is that in real life you don’t give up…you don’t give up because you are AWESOME! 🙂
Now, unfortunately, the world at-large thinks that it is really always like this and that we are just flying by the seat of our pants. But we don’t. We plan. We fight. We do all that we need to do to make the biggest impact we can on students. It is hard work, and we don’t get paid enough to do it. That doesn’t matter to us, in the big picture, though because we know we do this for more than money. Sometimes it is hard to get other people to understand why, though. Here is another video you may or may not have seen; but you most likely have heard the dinner party story before. Taylor Mahi does an awesome job of telling the story and showing the passion of why we do what we do. Have a watch.
To round out this all out, I want to go back to the first video. That was a comical look at what we do, but I want you to see a teacher’s perspective, someone like us, on what we do day to day…and why we love it. I found this while I was looking for the Taylor Mahi video. This is another one by him, and I really think it sums it all up nicely.
You are so awesome. What you do is hard. It takes time, it takes heart, it takes grit. You are good at it. You are making a difference. You are a miracle worker, and you are amazing! Never give up and never surrender to stress that we swim in. Keep going and keep teaching, Teacher!
Wait…before you go. I want to give a weekend homework assignment. Homework over the weekend? Yes, home work over the weekend! I want you to go through and find three of your favorite posts here at Dear Teacher/Love Teacher and share them with someone (or a lot of someones). Share on Edmodo, Facebook, Twitter, email, or how ever else you can. Then come back here and tell us all the response. Encouragement is hard to find in our job sometimes, so when we find it we need to share it!
Thank you, Awesome Teacher! You are the best!
PS…Oh, and for those of you who use Edmodo, I have started an Edmodo Group for the daily updates. This way I will be able to make the “Edmodo blasts” in the Communities few and far between…I don’t know that everyone “loves” them. 🙂
A little warning. I am a little stuck on the idea of hope right now. Hope is the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is that knowledge that things can and will get better. Hope is the life perserver holding you up as you are tossed around by the waves of life. We need hope. Hope for now. Hope for the future. And hope that the past will not weigh us down for ever. We absolutely need hope. And so do our students.
Hope lets students know that they can do what ever you expect that they can do. Hope helps students learn when all they can think about is the video games that they want to play at home. Hope is the key to unlocking their future no matter what environment they are growing up. Hope is vital to our students. As teachers, it is one of our most important jobs to be hope dispensers.
For this reason, most of us are hopeless. We are hopeless believers in our students. We are hopelessly looking to the future in which our students are succeeding. We are hopelessly dependent on what we know is true…our students CAN learn, CAN succeed, and CAN acheive. We are hopeless because we are constantly pouring hope into our students.
Teacher, keep on hoping. Keep on immersing your students in the hopes that you have for them. Keeping on being the light at the end of their tunnel. Keep on being hopelessly hopeful.
You are on the right track, friend. You are making a difference! You are rewriting the scripts for your student’s future. You are making things better! Keep going. Even when it does not look like it, you are providing what your kids need…hope.
You are awesome! Keep on teaching, teacher. Be hopelessly hopeful today. Make your students wonder what is wrong with you. 🙂