All around me I have seen negativity building that gives the impression that this school year cannot be saved. It is doomed with no hope left. But hope is not lost, and not all that is gold will glitter. I can recognize that we all have bad days and days where we are tired, but it is how we react to those days that will make the biggest difference. It will determine if we make strides in our professional selves, and if our students will grow along with us. If we stint our own growth and positivity, how can we possibly expect our students not to do the same?
What we need to do now is instill positivity back into our classrooms so that we avoid burnout. That positivity has to start with you, the teacher!
Here are five things I have been doing that have made a world of difference for me at work AND at home. They have helped me build positivity and keep it, as well as allowed me to stay focused on the task in front of me – to educate kids to the best of my ability.
1. Be proud to be a teacher.
Teaching is not an easy profession. But the work we do is shaping the future of our communities, and that is such an important opportunity! Take pride in helping students grow in their confidence and abilities. Take pride in the fact that you are the world to some of these kids, a constant presence, and someone who believes in them. Not all of our students need us, but many do – they just won’t tell you that. If you take pride in the fact that you get to care and nurture children, then you start building a positive and strong platform to stand on.
2. Focus on what you can control – your attitude.
I have no bearing on the weather, what happened the day before, the fact that Jimbo refused to work or that Carol slept in the corner no matter how many times I tried to wake her up. But I do have control over my attitude. If I go to work in a pissy mood, that is the first message that I send to my students – “Don’t talk to me, I’m not in the mood today.” No kid wants to be affronted by that in the morning (or the afternoon). I don’t want to be affronted by that in the morning when I am the one feeling that way!
So I stopped. I realized that there are few things I have control over and the attitude in which I get up in the morning and get ready to go to work is one of a short list. Even when I am tired, I still think of the things yet to come and approach them with positivity. Simply changing my attitude before I even get to work helps the whole day shift to meet it.
3. Build a positive community of people around you.
According to Oxford Languages, community means “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” My husband always tells me that we reflect the five closest people we choose to surround ourselves with. So why shouldn’t we try to surround ourselves with positive, focused, goal-driven people? If you can build a community of people around you that share in your desire to be a better teacher than yesterday and who also want to approach their life with positivity, it is much easier to hold on to the feelings of joy and pride you are working so hard to maintain. This community can be small, takes time, and is often trial and error, but it is possible with patience.
For me, my husband was the start to my community. He was my sounding board for the ideas, frustrations, and the reflections on both good and bad days. But my talk with him was growing more and more negative. That began to affect our home life. I was coming home in a bad mood because of something that happened at work, and I was sulking all evening instead of enjoying the company of my family. By switching my mindset to a more positive one I was coming home happier and was able to enjoy my evenings.
Positivity is infectious.
4. Find something positive in EVERY day.
This one might seem like a cliche, but it is too easy to let the class period that is chaotic and talkative, or that one kid who pushed a little too far, ruin your whole day. Odds are good that your entire day wasn’t bad. What did go right? Which student(s) did make progress?
In my classes, my students do a lot of reading. Sometimes the highlight of my day is watching them interact with books, or see that they are starting a new book. Sometimes I notice that a kid who was struggling all year is now writing in complete sentences and his thoughts are finally visible on the page. That is a celebration!
My lessons can flop, meetings can be frustrating, grading can get overwhelming, but there is something good in every day if you are willing to see it.
5. Never stop growing.
Don’t get complacent and think that all your lessons are perfect the way they are, that you are perfect at your job. None of us are. Even the most renowned teachers who write books about teaching and present to teachers across the country never stop trying to grow.
This helps reinvigorate our day to day and a feeling of growth can feed positivity. Instead of seeing your lesson as a complete failure, or a complete success, instead ask what you could do differently next time. How could you make it better? Write these notes down for next year and keep them in a safe place.
Growth comes in a lot of ways for me. I like to read, do research, discuss ideas with my teaching friends, check out PD books for strategies that sound useful, and try, try, try. I often mix up the way I approach a lesson from period to period because I feel like it can be done better with a different group of kids. (Sometimes this is chaotic in itself, but I can control it.)
The most important thing I have done for myself this year is to approach each day with positivity. It has changed my work relationships, how I see my students, how I handle frustrating situations, and how I come home at the end of the day. I don’t want to carry around the stress that comes with a negative attitude and I don’t want to take it home to my family, either.
It isn’t too late to have a great year, but it starts with you. What can you do on Monday morning to reinvigorate your life?