I hope you're not having one of THOSE days.
You know the kind of day I’m talking about – when you spill coffee on your new shirt as you’re driving to work, when your books fall into a puddle as you get out of your car, when you forget that they painted your classroom over the weekend and its full of paint fumes, and all of your dry erase markers are on their last legs and that brand new pack you are so excited to use is at home still on your kitchen table. One of those days. The unfortunate truth is we all have them, and when nonteaching troubles assault us on every side, it can have an effect on our teaching selves. We’re not like egg cartons. We can’t separate each area of our life into its own comfortable compartment and expect the other areas not to crack. So even when our students are not the source of our THOSE day, and even more so when they are (and let’s be honest, they can be), sometimes we need a little teacher refreshment. We need a breath of fresh air in the classroom. So whether you are having one of those days or not, here are some ideas for giving your teaching self a little boost, a little breath, and a little bliss.
4 Easy Ways to Refresh Your Teaching Self
Make Teaching Fun for You
It’s not unusual for teachers to think about the learning styles of their students, to consider individual and class personalities when planning lessons. You want your students to engage, to be interested. But sometimes we can do all the thinking about our students and none about ourselves. There is a reason to make sure class is fun for you, too. When you are enjoying what you are doing, it will come through in your teaching. Your energy and excitement will be contagious, and your students will feed off the fun you are having. So when you are making your next set of lesson plans, think about what would be fun for you to teach. If you like games, plan some. Are you interested in art or music? There are lots of great ways to base language lessons off of them. Are movies your thing? Plan a lesson around one of them. Take a little time to focus on you and you’ll get a boost of energy and attitude that will rub off on your students.
Focus on the Things You Can Control and Not the Outcome
You can write the greatest test review on the face of the earth, but you can’t control how well your students perform when the big day comes. You can plan the most exciting field trip for your language learners, but you can’t control if the busses arrive late or if they get stuck in traffic. In every area of our lives, there are things we can control and things we can’t. Sometimes we can get so focused on the things we can’t control, we spend all of our energy trying to make them different, and that just isn’t going to work. So rather than stressing about the text book you are required to use that you also happen to hate, think about what other materials you can bring into class to make your lessons the best they can be. Rather than putting everything you have into changing a certain student’s attitude, change your own. You can clear up your thinking a little bit by making two lists – things you can control and things you can’t control. Then focus your energy and attention on the can control list, changing those things to improve your teaching self and the other parts of yourself too. And do your best to let go of the things on your other list. You can’t change them anyway, so don’t throw away energy and emotion into those things.
Choose to Have a Positive Attitude, Even If You Have to Pretend
I can’t remember where I first heard this, but someone once told me if I was in a bad mood to smile and to keep smiling. For whatever reason I gave it a try, and I found that before too long I was still smiling, but this time I didn’t have to force myself to do it. It amazes me how much we can affect our own attitudes. We really can choose how we will let ourselves feel. And sometimes the first step to reaching the attitude you want to have is pretending to have it. In some ways that advice rubs me wrong. I work hard to be an authentic person, to be real, to let people see how I really am and not just the happy Facebook version of my life. But I think choosing my attitude isn’t lying to the people around me. It is simply putting more focus on the smaller part of how I feel at the moment. It’s very unlikely that at any point in time you can’t find something to be happy about, even on the most miserable of days. By giving that sliver your full attention and attitude, you can effectively push back the negative feelings so they occupy a smaller portion of how you are feeling. Before and after both feelings are still there, it’s just the percentage of your attitude they occupy that changes.
Another way to have a positive effect on your own attitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Take time at the end of each day to write down three things you are thankful for, and actually write them down. After a while, your focus will shift from the things that frustrate you to the things that bless you, and that attitude will have an effect on your overall life too, shifting your attention to the positive rather than the negative.
Let Other Sources Fill You Up
If you find yourself needing an attitude check in the classroom, you’re not the only teacher to have faced that problem. Believe me, you’re not alone. That’s why there are so many resources out there to give you a boost. When you need some refreshment, try doing an image search on “teacher meme”. You’re sure to find something that fits your mood, and likely you’ll get a good laugh as well. Read books like Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul to hear inspiring stories for other teachers who have been through the trenches. If you’re a fan of twitter, do a search on #thankateacher. You’ll see plenty of examples of how teachers have made a real difference in the lives of their students, and you’ll know that what you do every day makes a difference too. Another source of daily inspiration is the blog Dear Teacher Love Teacher. You can be assured that even when you can’t find anything inside yourself to change your attitude, you still have other sources you can turn to.
I hope you never have one of those days, but I know that’s an unrealistic wish.
We all do. Life ebbs and flows, and so does our attitude as teachers. Just know when your positivity is waning, you can still be encouraged and still have a good attitude in class with just a little effort.