The beginning of the school year is a stressful time of year for teachers. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, and for many, dealing with less than ideal situations can make it easy to succumb to negativity. Maybe your class this year is bigger than you expected (30 kindergartners? Who wouldn’t be stressed?) Maybe a new teammate’s proving unwilling to collaborate. Perhaps a new administrator has decided to make changes, and you aren’t on board. No matter the challenges you face, your attitude, rather than your ability, will determine the type of year you will have.
You may have heard the term ‘growth mindset’ and understood the different ways it is important for your students. Search Pinterest for this buzz word, and you’ll find thousands of ideas for encouraging a growth mindset in the classroom. As teachers, we can’t give what we don’t have. We must develop a growth mindset ourselves if we are to help our students develop a growth mindset in themselves.
Here a few small changes you can implement.
Surround Yourself with Positive; This Includes You!
You can’t force your coworkers or students to be positive, but when you have the choice, choose to surround yourself with positive people. Try to spread positivity and don’t engage in negative chatter. Decorate your classroom with positive quotes and sayings to keep yourself upbeat. Avoid self-talk such as: ‘I can’t’ ‘I’m not good at….’ ‘I am not a good teacher’ ‘It’s too hard.’ These phrases become self-fulfilling. Instead, change your thinking to: ‘I can’ ‘I am working on….’ ‘This is hard, but I can learn from it.’
Focus on What You Can Control
You can’t control the number of students in your class, but you can make the best of how you group them and allow them to learn from each other. When you have a student with a difficult home life, you can’t control how supportive their parents are or change their situation, but you can make your classroom a soft place for them to fall. You can’t control a student’s motivation and drive, but you can try to inspire them to want to do their best. There is a lot out of our control as teachers, and it can be easy to get frustrated with all of those things. Instead, focus on your part, then do it well.
When troubles come your way, sitting and stewing is the worst thing you can do. Think of a way to take action. Maybe you will find a solution to your problem by jumping in and trying to solve it. And maybe not. Some problems aren’t solvable, but by taking action (even if that action is just going for a walk, calling up a good friend, or doing something else to take care of yourself), you will reduce anxiety and stress.
Plan on success. Plan on changing lives, connecting with kids, and making a difference. Expect others to remember you for things that seem small to you but are life-changing to your students. Teaching is a hard profession, but it is amazingly rewarding. You will succeed, you will help kids love learning, and you will teach them new things.
It’s true that you can and should expect success. The fact is though that despite your very best efforts not all kids will make it to grade level. Some will still struggle. Occasionally some parents will be unhappy; some children will be too. You can’t please everyone, but take those failures and learn from them. Do you best, try all you can, and learn from the failures that inevitably arise.
Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of being a teacher, and surely one of the most dreaded, is when administrators come in to observe your class. Being observed is nerve wracking. Teachers worry that their job is on the line; in some schools with merit pay, their salary is. Try your best to take feedback and look at it as neutrally as possible. Feedback is given to help you grow. We put so much of our hearts and souls into our teaching that it stings when we receive criticism. Still, taking that sting in stride, and using that feedback to better yourself will make you both happier and a better teacher.
Teaching is hard, but it is well worth it. You can grow as an educator and improve your weak areas. You can use your strengths and learn from your failures. A positive attitude and tenacity in the face of a challenge will not to only make you happier but will rub off on your students, and you may even pass down your growth mindset to them in the process.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.