Every teacher will run into the wall at some point in their years of teaching— even the most passionate of us. One of the worst things that we can do is stay stuck in the place that causes you to not bring your best self to the classroom. When we stay stuck in a negative space, we are doing our students a disservice. If you are reading this and you are finding yourself less excited by your job than you once were, it might be beneficial to get to the heart of the problem. Consider these few questions:
What can I change about my current practice that would bring the excitement back to me and my classroom?
Hanging in my classroom, I have a quote by Maya Angelou that sits near my desk. It reads “If you don’t like something, changed it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude about it.” This is a quote that often point out to my students when they are complaining about one thing or another. This is a quote that I expect them to live by. If it is something that I expect of my students, then I should expect of myself. For me, I needed to go back to teaching what I really love. For other people, this may mean a switch of a grade level or introducing an exciting new project to the year. During my final year of teaching math, I was teaching a dry curriculum and was being asked to do things that went against my values and vision for education. One of the greatest things that I did was make a list of things that are within my control and the things that are not. Maybe you want to bring more of your personal passions into the classroom. If you enjoy a certain hobby, how might you incorporate some of into your classroom? Small changes in your classroom structure can go a long way to bringing the joy back to the classroom.
If I can’t change my current teaching assignment, what are the things that I need to do in order to change my attitude towards my work?
We’ve all been there before. Whether it is in the classroom or in our personal lives, there are things in this world that we have no control over. We might be teaching a non-preferred subject or grade-level. It may be that the curriculum that you are forced to use is dry and boring. Start focusing on the things that you love about your job or the things that aren’t so bad about the curriculum that you are using. Something that I found to be helpful was reflecting at the end of each day on the positive things that were happening. This generally involved me creating a list of things that made me happy throughout the day. This usually took about 5 minutes each day and the changes were remarkable. It is a simple trick to shifting our focus from the things that are bothering us to things that make us happy. We are actively retraining the brain to notice the positive in each day. This is a great strategy to improve not only your professional life, but your personal life as well.
What can I change in my personal life that would make me feel refreshed and energized to take on my work?
There are many things that can cause a drain outside of the school day. We know that what happens in our personal lives inevitably impacts the work that we do as teachers. The question that we should all be asking ourselves is: What can I do in my life so that I can feel refreshed, energized and ready to take on the world? For me, the major drain was how I was spending my time. Time is a valuable resource that we all feel that we might have too little of. In doing some thinking about what was ultimately causing a drain in my personal life, I found that I was spending so much time helping other people and that I had left no time for myself. Putting my life back into balance was very helpful in allowing me to bring back the energy that I needed to be an effective teacher. What are the things that you can change?
Life is a complex and very rarely works the way that we plan. In order bring our best selves to the classroom, it is important that we check in with ourselves from time to time. There are far too many teachers who are currently in the classroom who remain in a place of burn-out. We owe it not only to our students but to also ourselves do the ‘me work’ and reflect so that we can be the best version of ourselves— in the classroom and in our daily lives.
A personal note:
After teaching math for 5 years, I’m stepping out of the math content area and moving back to my first love— science. The move was one that I had been thinking about for quite a few years, but until recently I had no reason to move. I was enjoying the freedom and flexibility to make math a class that students actually wanted to go to— a class that they loved. When the flexibility was taken away and I was stuck teaching to a test, I knew it was time to make a move.