Well friends.... 23 years is A LONG TIME to be doing something...even if it is something you LOVE doing...even if it is something you know in your heart of hearts you were meant to do...even if it is something that makes you feel proud, knowing you have touched so many lives over the years. It is A LONG TIME!
Recently, while being observed in my classroom, I was asked,"How do you do it? How do you keep coming back day after day, year after year, with a smile on your face, and as exhausted as you are by the end of each day, you make it work...how?" I thought this through as I drove home on autopilot that day and fell into my favorite chair like a zombie...that was a good question. How do I do it? How do I stay positive when so many teachers around me are rapidly running out of steam? What is the difference? I can't speak for anyone else, but I do know when it comes to my experiences as an educator, the things that have kept me sane, happy, and, well, coming back for more, are the FIVE MUST HAVES.
Having high expectations for your students is a non-negotiable. If you set your students up from day one to believe that they can do any task you put in front of them...guess what...they will do everything in their power to try to prove you right! Nothing drives me crazier that watching students be "underestimated". If you tell them they cannot do something...of course they aren't going to be able to, and of course they are going to need your help for every little task, and of course you are going to want to pull your hair out by the end of the day!
It amazes me time and time again when I observe teachers who demand the utmost respect from their students at all times...yet give their students no respect in return. These are the same teachers who cannot understand why they have to work so hard on classroom management issues. Well...look at it this way...when you go to a restaurant and the waiter or waitress provides horrible service all evening long, does it make you want to leave a huge tip or walk out without even paying your bill? A little respect toward each student goes a long way...and really, isn't that just normal behavior? They may be little, but they are still a part of the society within our classroom walls.
Ok, this one to me is an absolute NO BRAINER!!!! (But then again I have been told many times, "I knew you were here before I even saw you, because I heard your laugh!") It is no coincidence that the words humor and happy both start with H...They are practically the same word! Regular life is SO serious... it is hard, and it is at times overwhelming. Allowing humor into your classroom rituals and routines provides breathing room in the day for you and your students! It relaxes your environment enough so that students can feel comfortable to be themselves and to realize that learning can be fun.
I learned very early on in my career that one of the biggest favors I can do for my students it to have an open mind. One size does not fit all. One strategy does not fit all. One approach does not fit all. Just because I learned to read using the Open Court Phonics System ("leaky tire, leaky tire, s,s,s") does not mean that is the ONLY way to teach kid to read, and just because kids loved doing coloring pages when I was a kid does not mean they love to do them now! Listen to your students. How do they learn best? What do they like to do? What shows do they watch? What music do they listen to?Adjust your teaching and your environment to their ways of doing things. It makes a WORLD of difference!
If you are unable to open your heart to the needs and the situations facing your students then it may seriously be time to consider a different profession. Teaching is hard work, and it is getting harder by the minute. But what is not on any teaching application is the question "Are you willing to open your heart?" More and more children today are coming to school carrying baggage that is heavy, heartbreaking and often times downright horrible. To run a successful classroom, you need to constantly be ready to accept situations with an open heart. Why didn't the homework come back? Why is that student acting out? Why doesn't he have a coat? Why is he dirty? Why is she falling asleep in class? Don't immediately get angry and blame or punish the child. Listen with an open heart and then help the child through their situation. You may be the only sounding board they have. Remember...not every kid you teach is growing up in the same environment that you did.
What do you think? I would love to hear from you! What are your Must Have Qualities?