By Teachers, For Teachers
Have a bad day? Feeling blue for some reason? It’ll be OK. It comes with the territory and we all experience the downsides of the profession. Don’t worry, though. I’ve had plenty of encouraging words and teacher strategies shared with me from my great mentors and colleagues. And now I pass them on to you for that day when you just might need some encouragement.
“The Students Were So Bored Today”
Students are unpredictable. What invigorates them one day will feel stale the next. Often, unfortunately, we can be the facilitators of their boredom. But we have to remember that while students “having fun” and “being engaged” is a great plus to their day, that’s not what they ultimately came for. They came to learn, not to be entertained. So instead of dwelling on how interested they were in any given material, reassure yourself on the importance and quality of the material. If what you did with them was important, then it was worth it, regardless of their seeming boredom.
“He/She Just Doesn’t Respect Me”
While some students readily respect you and your position, others demand that you earn their respect through your teacher strategies. And they don’t make it easy to come by. Remember that as students are trying to figure out math equations and English essays, they’re also trying to figure out who they are. While you cannot necessarily control how much a given student respects you, you can control how much you respect yourself. As long as you don’t lose that, then you’re going to be OK. Make sure that you retain your confidence, and remain a consistent force of kindness and resilience. This benefits you and sets a great example for your students in the long run.
“I Don’t Feel Like I’m Doing It Right”
Yup – it’s extremely common to feel this way. But don’t sweat it. The fact that you’re even acknowledging this goes a long way toward future success. It shows that you have in your mind a certain standard of excellence you wish you were achieving. On the one hand, you’re aware that you have areas you can improve in; on the other hand, your standard is probably pretty high, which means that what you’re doing right now is definitely not as bad as you may think it is. So still commit to improve, but feel encouraged that you ARE in fact benefitting your students with what you’re already doing.
“This Class isn’t Like Last Year’s”
There was just something about last year’s class that clicked with you, right? Those kids all seemed to have that “special something” that you miss. We’ve all been teaching long enough to recognize that feeling, and it’s OK to feel it. But it’s not OK to linger on that feeling and to dwell on any disdain you may have for this year’s crop of students. This year’s students deserve your full love and attention. Plus, as the year goes on, you’ll begin to notice that this year’s group – though different from others – has their own uniquely charming qualities as well.
“I’m Not as Good a Teacher as _______”
When we’re surrounded by talented colleagues, it’s difficult to feel like we’re as good as them and their teacher strategies. It’s especially difficult when other students brag about their fantastic teacher; or if your current students pine over the days of so-and-so’s class. But then again, you didn’t get into the field of teaching so that you could teach like someone else, did you? The trick to being an effective teacher is to be yourself. You teach like you. Use other colleagues as supports for your own improvement. But adapt their strengths to suit your own methods; don’t try to be someone you’re not. You’d be cheating your students out of a great person.
“I’m Absent from Class, Again”
Hey, newsflash: in the long run, missing a few days never hurt anyone. Many teachers feel guilty for being out sick, attending a conference, or taking care of something personal during the school year. But wipe that guilty look off your face – you’re doing nothing wrong! As long as you’re following your school’s agreed-upon accommodations for you to miss class, then there’s nothing to get hung up about. Students might miss you, but they easily get over such things. In the long run, it’s OK to prioritizing your needs. Ultimately, doing so has a positive effect on students.
“But I worked so hard on this lesson”
Not everything works out the way it’s supposed to. Perhaps you spent hours coming up with your dynamite lesson plans, studying articles and materials that you thought would really impact your students, and feeling proud that this was an idea that you came up with … and then it flopped. Whatever it was supposed to do, it didn’t happen. The students were bored, they didn’t learn anything, nothing worked, and your moment of greatest triumph turned into a disaster. You know what, though? This is common. You know what else? The students typically do not remember the disaster lessons. They do, however, tend to remember the good stuff. If you talk to students who have graduated, they more likely say, “Remember that time we did (insert something fun) in (insert teacher’s name) class?” If anything, use your experience to help you try just as hard on the next lesson – you never know what will work until you take a shot!
Although there are plenty of reasons for having a “bad day” in education, there are also plenty of reasons to have a good day, too. And in the long run, those good days outweigh the bad. So feel encouraged, and get back out there tomorrow to continue making a positive impact on your students!
Who is someone who encouraged you? Share their name and good deeds with the world in our comments below, so we can all feel encouraged to get through those inevitable down days moments of the year!
Jordan Catapano is an English teacher at Conant High School in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also sits as the District Leader for the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.