The floors are polished, the desks are clean, the pencils are sharpened, and the “Welcome Back!” banner is hung. As summer comes to a close, educators across the country have been working hard to get everything ready. It seems like just yesterday that you were limping to the finish line – buried in paperwork, out of gas, and saying goodbye with mixed emotions. Hopefully, you’re returning to your classroom with a sense of renewal for another brand new chapter.
You’ve assumed a huge responsibility to both our students and their parents who have entrusted their children to you. You’ve been tasked with one of the most vital jobs in our society, and your sphere of influence far exceeds the essential skills our children must be able to demonstrate for evaluative purposes. Your time, energy, and (sadly) your money are often spent on things that go far beyond lesson plans, report cards, and bulletin boards. You work tirelessly to meet the academic needs of diverse kids with different learning styles, interests, family structures, and developmental constraints. Your teaching role is often interrupted by that of nurse, social worker, nutritionist, counselor, cheerleader, and advocate…the list goes on.
You are not just a teacher; you are a managing director of our greatest resource: our children.
Many teachers will tell you that education can be challenging, exhausting, and, sometimes, thankless. Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran, there will be days that it feels like you’re trying to push a peanut up a mountain. And there will be days that you feel every effort goes unnoticed. But most teachers will admit that they’ve chosen one of the most rewarding professions on the planet. They teach because they know they are making a difference, one child at a time, one class at a time, and one day at a time. Most teachers wouldn’t do anything else. The key is discovering how to keep your passion and purpose alive without getting derailed by all the noise.
As you embark upon a brand new year, a whole new group of kids is eagerly anticipating your awesomeness! Here are 11 simple things to remember (that are so easy to forget) this year to keep your passion and purpose in focus.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Not every battle is worth fighting and you won’t win the all anyway. Stay focused on the big picture and the little people. Learn how to tune out the noise that just doesn’t matter.
- Never lose your sense of humor.
Don’t underestimate the power of humor. Laughter actually releases neurotransmitters (dopamine, oxytocin, etc.) that enhance cognitive function. Real learning doesn’t have to be serious. Laughter, smiles, fun, and serious learning can all coexist in the same classroom. And, some days, a little laughter could keep you from going crazy!
- School is a safe haven.
Far too many children fight grown-up battles that we can’t even imagine. Your classroom may be the safest place in their whole world. Make it a refuge from those things over which they have no control.
- One size does not fit all.
Not every teacher teaches the same way. Not ever child learns the same way. Each child that sits in your classroom has unique talents, gifts, strengths, and challenges. Don’t make them all fit into the same learning mold.
- We are all creative.
Creativity is just nurtured and demonstrated in different ways. Make it your mission to discover the creative genius hidden inside each and every child.
- Smiles are free.
Share them freely. Smile at your students every day and make the time to acknowledge the smiles you get in return. A simple smile doesn’t cost a thing, and it can change someone’s entire day.
- Be flexible.
No matter how much you prepare, there will be days that nothing seems to go according to plan. Take a breath, regroup, and find plan B. There is always plan B.
- Teach students, not subjects.
Standards guide our instruction, but some of the most important things you’ll teach your students have nothing to do with them. You have the opportunity to teach them about character, dignity, compassion, and responsibility from your modeling, and they will carry this learning with them throughout their lives. These are the things that cannot be measured on a bubble sheet.
- Be kind.
Kids will not remember every assignment, every fact, or every skill that you teach them. But, years from now, they will remember how you made them feel. They can look back and remember you as someone who championed for them or someone who put grades on their papers. The choice is yours.
- Remember why you chose to teach.
You have one of the most important jobs on the planet. When you feel overwhelmed by the long list of things to do or the seemingly insurmountable challenges, take a step back and remember why you are in that classroom. Let that be the inspiration that guides you through the tough days.
Some days you just need to stop, close your eyes, and breathe. Give yourself permission to quiet your mind and refocus your energy. Inhale, exhale, rinse and repeat.
As a small “welcome back” gift of appreciation, I’ve created a poster for you to download and print. Display it in your classroom, and share it with other teachers in your corner of the world to keep the passion alive! Let me be among the first to wish you the best year ever!
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Dr. Melissa Hughes is the founder and principal of The Andrick Group. Our mission is to engage, inspire, and educate people who are looking for ways to more effectively teach and learn. We deliver tailored, dynamic workshops to help organizations improve their work by learning about learning and thinking about thinking.