Teaching is unlike any other career. The community expects certain standards of teachers; however, often they are not always respected as professionals. Some teachers feel like they are always being questioned about their expertise. Others feel immense pressure when their pay is linked to test scores. Teachers work long hours, and the career can sometimes feel exhausting.
Despite this, most teachers express pure love for their jobs. For today’s post, we wanted to share some of the ways we practice positivity (or share positivity with our students). Over the years, we’ve learned that focusing on the positive is wonderful for our sustainability and happiness. We invite you to share your approaches or ideas for remaining positive, too.
CONFIDENCE & JOY
Each year I pick one word that I am going to focus on professionally (in August) and another personally (in January), and I work very hard on reminding myself of these words. Part of what affected me negatively professionally was always questioning myself, so I focused on confidence professionally. At home, I question myself a lot also but there it is more about how others are being affected, so I chose to focus on joy personally. By having these two words at the forefront of my mind, I am making sure that I am focusing on my happiness all the time.
“It’s going to be okay.”
I have begun repeating this often at work. Sometimes things can seem so devastating and stressful, and we know that stress affects the brain in a negative way, so I have tried to become even more of the cheerleader around my stressed-out colleagues. I remind them, “It’s going to be okay.” Because, you know what? It is. Hopefully this little reminder can help them remove the stress fog and remember that for real it’ll be okay.
Do what you love.
If you are not happy in your current position or your current school and you are past the honeymoon stage (which can be tough), then change. Change is scary (trust me, I know! I’ve been at the same school my whole career), but it is also what will make your life more fulfilled and happier (although at the same school, I’ve taught 6 different things, am the reading coach, and sponsored 4 different clubs). Talk to your administration. Be truthful with them. Ask for help if you need it. Be honest. Move schools if you need to. But remember, you have to be happy at work to be happy in life.
Surround yourself with positivity.
Yes, even at lunch try to focus on the positive. I know that it is the time to vent about the rude kid or the teacher who keeps holding kids into other classes, but this venting session can also lead to a focus only on that negative energy. I know we need to vent and we need a break, but is this negative energy in the middle of the day actually helping or is it hurting? Just ask yourself that.
Schedule YOU time.
Yes, put it in your calendar on your phone with an alarm and a reminder. Get a pedicure, go on a staycation, go on a date, go to happy hour, read in bed… whatever you want to do. But schedule it and make it a priority. And yes, that means not bringing grading home on the weekends! You are important–remember that!
Keep your empathy for students
This and the next one are things I’ve really started to realize since I’ve gotten past 10 years in the classroom: Being a teacher is so much more enjoyable when we listen to our students, when we remind ourselves that they are kids and humans, and when we remember the difference between tough and mean.
Let your students know you are human
We’ve all heard, “Oh, you don’t just sleep here, miss?!?!” But it doesn’t have to be that way. Students should know we are human: I let them know when there is stuff going on in my life that may affect my attitude or interactions with them; I talk about my family, hobbies, life, etc.; and I listen to them when they talk about theirs. This small difference can really help with respect as well. Since my students know me and feel respected by me, they respect me. And we all know respect equals a much easier time in the classroom!
And don’t sweat the small stuff!
Switch the Content
Whenever I feel a lull in my teaching or career, I switch it up. If I am not learning right along with the students, then I am not happy. I love to explore new topics and new ideas with students, and I am constantly seeking their input about what they’d like to learn.
Connect with Colleagues
My colleagues invigorate me. I am a part of multiple teaching social media groups, and I love going to conferences. Each time I attend the NCTE conference and ALAN Workshop, it feels like a shot in my arm. I am jittery with excitement because of the new ideas that I’ve learned.
I try to regularly read the latest articles within the journals of my field, and I pop onto popular teaching websites regularly to try to get new ideas. Every year, I try to improve my practice and hone my philosophies, and I love reading the writing of those in my field.
I love doing research in my classroom. This always gives me a strong sense of purpose. Studying my students (or others’ students) teaches me so much about teaching. This makes me feel fulfilled as I work to improve myself.
Pursue Other Passions
I’ll admit that this often means immersing myself in the newest YA books, but sometimes I take time to paint or pursue a passion that is outside of my job. I try to avoid feeling guilty that I am not doing work for my job 24 hours a day. If left alone, I’d probably spend every waking hour planning and grading.
What are your coping strategies for staying happy and positive while teaching?
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