I teach in a school that has more than it’s share of challenges. Low morale is just one of them. About a year ago I started blogging with this post. It was a raw and honest account of a low point in my teaching career. The problems some of my students faced were heartbreaking to say the least.I had to chuckle when Joel said, “As I read your stuff, I just imagine you being someone who wakes up each morning with a smile on your face. I’d like to see how that plays out in reality a little bit more.”He’s right about one thing, I do write about the positive stuff and rarely complain about my job on my blog. I quickly realized that blogging about the good going on in my mediocre (but rising) school helped me to see the good. The more I focused on the moments that mattered, the more they added up and the better I felt.So, how do I stay motivated and in love with my job?Here is a random list of strategies and thoughts.
- I made the decision that no matter what I just won’t give up. Period.
- I remind myself that each day is new and so is each school year. We are lucky to get a “do over” each school year. Last year was really rough; this year is so much better. It helps to keep it all in perspective.
- Sometimes when a student really gets on my nerves, I try to imagine them as an animal. Dogs work best for me because I am such a dog lover. Start thinking of the students as wiggly pups and it’s easier to be patient with them. I wish this worked as well with administrators and parents.
- I pray for my school, my students and my own teaching.
- When the going gets rough, the tough read aloud. Plan B is almost always a good read-aloud. It’s good medicine for everyone.
- I have read and heard a lot about avoiding the teacher’s lounge. I don’t agree with this as a general rule. True, there is always some negative talk, but there is also some good networking going on. Getting to know the veteran teachers has really been rewarding. That said, I do take breaks now and again and eat in my classroom with a nice CD playing.
- I make time for fun and I take pictures to remember it. There is so much scripted and mandated curriculum. Yes, it is all so important and it all has to get done, but the fun stuff is important too. Nobody has ever said, “My favorite part of school was the Language Arts Workbook.”
- On the drive home I visualize a book closing. Just as one can read about terrible things, close the book and continue their lives, I imagine that the troubles of my students are in a book that is closed. I can take it off the shelf and read it whenever I want, but I don’t have to. It’s OK to let the book sit on the shelf unopened overnight.
- Around my room I have positive messages posted. Not only do the kids read these, but I do too. I also have a Medusa posted over my door to ward off evil. We learned about it at the Getty Center. It’s an inside joke with the kids. Inside jokes are good.
- I spend some time with my former students. They help after school with bulletin boards and we chat. I imagine it’s a lot like having grandchildren. I get to see the fruits of my teaching, but after an hour or so, they leave. Seeing the students grow from year to year really is a joy.
There you have it some real ways I deal with the sometimes harsh realities of teaching in the inner city.