So many people have said to me that 2016 was by far one of the most challenging years to date, myself included. As the end of 2016 drew near, I naturally found myself reflecting on all that I had endured and accomplished. Having completed my honours degree, coming to terms with the loss of my beloved grandmother and ending the year off happily engaged to the man of my dreams…2016 definitely had it’s fair share of ups and downs.
Professionally, I have climbed a mountain and can honestly say that this year has been the most enlightening, challenging yet joyous one of my teaching career. Knowing that I am fulfilling my vocation and am safely where God has placed me has sparked a fire and passion within my soul that I can feel has propelled me to be better, to strive for better and to better the learning experience of every child in my class. I have found happiness within the four walls of my classroom and have chosen to remain happy by continuing to put into practice some healthy habits I have picked up along the way, many of which have I come to learn over time and others of which I hope to become better at. As with any experience in life, reflection is key because unless you know where and how to improve, you are destined to keep experiencing the same frustrations year after year. Been there, done that, and it is exhausting and passion deflating. I may not be a perfect teacher, but at this point in my life, I am definitely a HAPPY one.
1. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF – FIND A BALANCE
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
Over time, I have come to realize that the happier I made myself outside of the classroom, the happier I became inside of the classroom. Instead of spending every waking moment of my life marking, prepping, doing admin etc (much like every day of my first, second, third and even fourth year of teaching) I began making time for myself in the smallest and simplest of ways – going to gym classes, meeting friends, cooking myself supper and making sure I have enough for lunch the next day, quiet times and reading the word, not skipping Sunday evening church services with my friends, visiting my parents during the week etc. My life became wholesome and I started to feed my soul. In doing so, I found that I didn’t mind doing all the marking and prepping as much and simply became smarter with my time. In order to make time for other aspects of my life, I needed to learn to utilize my time better and complete tasks in manageable chunks as opposed to obsessing over long periods of time. Along with this, I had to also come to accept that because I was no longer pouring all my time and energy into my teaching I wasn’t and still am not any less dedicated to my job. In fact, the happier and healthier outside of school I became, the more calm, focused and present I became in the classroom.
2. LEARN TO SAY NO
This is one habit I have yet to master as I am very much a people pleaser and it is not in my nature to easily say no but I know that there are times in my life, both personally and professionally when you just need to. As teachers, we tend to put our hand in far too many cookie jars because we feel it is what our job requires us to do. The danger in doing that is that you can very quickly go from enthusiastic and passionate to exhausted and deflated. Rather than spreading yourself too thin, try do do less things and focus on doing those well. In the end, teaching shouldn’t be about the quantity of things you do but rather the quality of the things you do.
3. DON’T STOP LEARNING
As with any profession, you can never know enough. You can always do more, be better, do better. Teaching is one such profession, the minute you feel you are not growing and not feeling fulfilled, take the plunge and move on to another challenge.Personally, 2017 will see me starting a whole new challenge as I begin my journey towards my Masters in Education, and I owe it all to the drastic move I made over a year ago. The decision to leave mainstream education and enter into remedial left me both challenged and amazed. There are so many different ways of doing things, methodologies, technologies to enhance and support ability, ideas for classroom management…be dynamic in your approach to teaching. Remain interested and keep it interesting for your yourself and your learners. I have come to learn that one of the greatest resources available to us as teachers is each other. Share ideas, share knowledge, collaborate and initiate.
4. NO TO NEGATIVITY
There are bound to be days where you just need to off load and let off some steam…we’ve all been there but be weary of becoming that grumpy, whinny and negative teacher, the one most tend to avoid when walking into the staff room. At the same time, avoid engaging in negative banter and energy within the school environment. You have control of how you choose to invest your energy, why do it negatively? Surround yourself with positivity and you will exude positivity…it’s infectious.
5. DON’T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY
You are only one person and you are not perfect. You have a role to play and a purpose to fulfill, do so with confidence and vigour. Embrace every moment in your classroom, the good and the bad. Learn from your mistakes and laugh along with your learners. You are human, don’t be afraid to let your guard down and allow your children to witness that you are not in fact an all together, emotionless robot. Delight in their joy, laugh together, build relationships and engage. The more you work with other human beings, the more human you should allow yourself to be.