3 Suggestions to Help Teachers Start the New Year
In our local school district, the first day of school is this Monday. The first day of school is always hectic. Frightened, confused students and parents all show up at once and everyone has more questions than answers. It would be easy for teachers to get overwhelmed on that first day. You meet so many different students who have so many different needs and are on so many different levels intellectually, emotionally, and developmentally, that you wonder, “How in the world am I supposed to be able to connect to all of these kids at once?” Soon the behavior problems begin to appear and you struggle with the best ways to guide students who don’t want your guidance. They need limits, but push those limits constantly. And then there are the parents who should be in your corner, but seem to work against you at every turn. You work after hours and weekends with little or no break-time during the day. Unfortunately, current trends in our state laws seem to make this difficult job even more difficult. You deal with all of this for a salary that is not close to what you deserve. Educators have a tough job, without question. I admire and respect people who continue to show up for work day in and day out even though it is a hard and sometimes thankless task.
When it gets tough, let me challenge you to think of three things:
1) Remember when you were a student. It wasn’t really that long ago was it? Now you walk the halls with the assurance and confidence that comes with adulthood and a title by your name. But you can remember how big and scary those halls looked when you were a kid. You remember the constant fear that you might do something or say something that would make the other kids laugh at you. You really wanted the other kids to like you, but you were quite sure yet if you liked yourself that much. You remember that you wanted attention, but at the same time, you just wanted to fit in. That’s a pretty hard balance to keep! Remember how you saw the world differently than you do now? Part of that was due to a lack of experience, and part of it was due the simple biological fact that your brain was not yet fully developed. Younger students are trying to figure what is real, and older students are trying to figure out who is real! You can relate to your students more effectively if you can remember what it was like when you a student yourself.
2) Celebrate your victories! I’m not talking about getting the equipment you wanted, or the schedule you fought for, or more money for supplies, etc. Those are not your real victories. Why not? Because those are not the reasons you became a teacher. Your victories are much more subtle, yet immensely more meaningful. Many teachers never notice them, which is a shame. When your student finally understands the simple fundamental point that you’ve been stressing for weeks, you have just won a victory! When your student asks a question that lets you know the student is actually thinking, you have just won a victory! When your student has the opportunity to know what it means to accomplish something worthwhile, you have just won a victory! You get the idea. Look in the right places for the real classroom victories – and celebrate every single one of them!
3) Never lose you muse! I have to admit, I am probably exaggerating the use of the word, “muse,” but what I am saying is, “Never forget what inspired you to become a teacher.” Why did you choose such a difficult profession? It wasn’t the money. It wasn’t the fame. It wasn’t because everyone would love you. What motivated you to become an educator in spite of the challenges? I bet I can guess. I might be off, but for most educators who read this, I bet I can tell you how you were motivated to enter into a life of education. My guess is that somewhere along the way there was a teacher who connected with you. Maybe it was no big deal at the time, but looking back, there is one or two teachers who come to mind. They opened a new world to you, or at least they found a way to shed some light on the world around you. Their influence affected you and now you want to have that influence on others. Don’t get discouraged with things like schedules, regulations, work hours, and bus duty. Those are not the things that define you because they are not what brought you here. Focus on why you teach! You teach because someone reached you by teaching! Soon you will face a classroom of students ready to be taught. Here is your opportunity! This is what you’re about. They may never thank you, and you may never realize it, but you are about to impact someone’s life! It’s what you were made to do. Somewhere down the line, a few years from now, some of those students will look back and realize that you inspired them. Perhaps they will go on to inspire others, and your influence will outreach your own life!
The first day of school can be overwhelming at times. You will meet kids with ADD, HDD, OCD, ODD, and a couple who seem to be DOA. It will challenging and scary. You may even feel the urge to cry a little, but hang in there. You’ve got this. On the last day of school, you will feel the urge to cry a little again, because you have built relationships with those little monsters and you love them and hate to see them go! Until that last day of school gets here, remember what it was like to be a student, celebrate your victories, and NEVER lose your muse!