I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I know that New Year’s is NOT the middle of the school year. In fact, it’s a little weird, because as the new year begins, even though you make resolutions, it’s not always the time you think about what you can do differently in your classrooms. However, I offer a few words that might help you as you make it through the long winter, and beyond…
Collaborate– Seriously – you don’t need to do everything alone. Your colleagues have amazing ideas, too! Do your best to work with someone in your building on something cool. Some possibilities: science with math, English with social studies….one year, there was collaboration between science and English when science read The Hot Zone. Worked out nicely. I also hear that media center specialists really like to collaborate with teachers. Start out small – the ideas will only get bigger and brighter from there. Can anyone say, “shared workload”?
Celebrate – even the littlest successes can be celebrations in the middle of the doldrums and recovering-from-holiday-break-sleep-schedule-students will be thankful for small bursts of energy that give them a break. I used to have my students trained so that when I said, “can I get a HEY HEY?” they “raised the roof” with their hands. You can also do standing ovations, “Whoop!” breaks, whatever suits your fancy. It heightens interest and invites participation (don’t we all wish all of our curriculum was like that?). Even Ellen DeGeneres dances every day.
Cool Off – sometimes, kids are just being kids, and there’s always a reason for their punk-like behavior. That underdeveloped prefrontal cortex thing makes them especially vulnerable to poor judgement and disorganization. But here’s the deal- you are smarter than them: socially and intellectually. And that teacher who ticked you off in the duplicating center this morning? Not worth it. Take the high road and stay on the high road. Your energy is valuable.
Clear and Cleanse Out Guilt and Shame– Protect your energy from outside toxicity, but also from any hurtful or demeaning things you say to yourself. Most of us would never say things to a child that we have no trouble saying to ourselves. Be gentle with yourself and remember that you are doing your best, and the students are learning from you. You can always do more, but the extraordinary things you are doing are more than enough. Treat yourself with compassion and make mistakes. Speaking of compassion…
Compassion- There’s ALWAYS reason for treating all students with compassion – the kids you like, and the kids you…feel challenged by. Even teachers who are tough to deal with need a bit of TLC– even a small (anonymous?) “pep-talk” note in their box might remind them that they are valued. A teacher I really admire used to tell her students, “sometimes, I will be an ‘A’ teacher, and sometimes I will be a ‘C’ teacher, just like you’ll sometimes be ‘A’ students or ‘C’ students. That just makes us all human.” We are in the business, at least in part, of teaching people how to be human, are we not?
We are. Indeed. Happy New Year.
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