You’re almost there.
And whether you’re counting the days left to make a difference or you’re counting the days to the beach (no judgment here either way), I am quite certain of one thing. This is the time of the year when you are exhausted and you are busy.
From graduation ceremonies to end of the year state testing. It seems like every evening you have some sort of celebration, recognition or competition. This is not a complaint. It’s just what teachers come to expect this time of year.
When you do finally have a free minute to stop and reflect. Your thoughts often head down a dangerous path. A path littered with regrets and shouldas and couldas. Believe me I’ve been there and even though that I am writing this piece, I still frequent this road from time to time.
What am I talking about?
I am referring to the insidious thoughts we have this time of year about what we didn’t accomplish. Nevermind the fact that we touched many lives and worked our butt off this year. For some reason, I think it is a combination of exhaustion and self-doubt. It is during these last few weeks that we look in the rear-view mirror. And while they’re not emblazoned on the glass, the words events may appear worse than they really were, could easily be found there if only there were enough room.
During these last few weeks we are driving at such a quick pace and there is so much going on that we don’t have time to question or even reflect upon what we see. We just accept it.
But we’ve got to stop.
I’ve got to stop. I think back to when this school year began. I had a binder that was tabbed and organized. I created a schedule that I was going to follow. And I told myself that I was going to make more positive phone calls home.
Well, I stopped using the binder after a few weeks. I stuck with the schedule for a month and, if I’m being honest, most of the phone calls I made home were not good ones. So, does this mean that I had a bad year? Not at all. And I must work hard to remind myself of this because it is too easy to believe what I see in my rear-view mirror.
In order to combat this rear-view mirror fatigue, I have come up with a 3-part plan that will help you feel better about your school year and have you excited about the fall. That is after you have a relaxing and much-deserved summer break.
1. Where did you start and where are you now?
It’s too easy this time of year to think about where you wanted to be or where you hoped you’d be. Cut that out! Where were you when the school year began? And I don’t just mean test scores and proficiency levels. Did you help some students feel better about themselves? Acquire the confidence that will propel them into next year? Were you able to reach that student that you never thought you would? Are you and that one difficult parent on the same page now?
Well then guess what? You had a good year. You don’t need to wait for the test scores to come back and you don’t need your end of the year evaluation to let you know that you accomplished a lot this year. Are both of those things important? Of course, they are. But they are just a piece of your puzzle. So, allow yourself to feel good about how far you’ve come.
2. Make a list of the positive events that took place
Each day, during my 30-minute drive home, my mind finds a way of reminding me of the two or three things that didn’t go well. Or, at least, didn’t go as planned. Like when you lose a tooth and your tongue can’t stop going back to the place where that tooth used to be. You try not to, but it happens anyway.
And to be honest, like your tongue searching for the missing tooth, I don’t think I have a strategy that will prevent you from dwelling on what went wrong during your day. Or, what went wrong this past year. I’m sorry, it’s just how our brains are hardwired.
But, I have an ally that will help us outnumber the negative thoughts. And, I am 100% certain that it is effective because it has worked for me. In other words, I have conducted a scientific study with a sample size of one. If that’s not enough to convince you, I don’t know what is.
Make a list of all your accomplishments this year. Your happy moments. The stuff you tweeted our or shared on Facebook or had to tell a friend just because they reminded you why you do what you do. I guarantee you that this list will be exponentially longer than your regret list.
3. Make a Plan for Next Year
I know. I know. How can you possibly think about next year when you’re still just trying to make it to the end of this year? But I’ve got an idea. A dream if you will. If you could have your best year ever next year, what would it look like? Picture it in your mind. Jot down ideas on a napkin or a scrap piece of paper if you want. Then put it away for a couple of weeks. A month even.
First, this will put you in a positive mindset. Just thinking about how awesome next year could be. Now, we both know that you won’t accomplish everything on this dream list. That’s okay. It’s fun and it gets your creative juices flowing.
Next, it gives you something to look forward to when you return to school in August. Instead of lamenting the fact that you didn’t accomplish everything you set out to do … who does?… you can think about all the cool things you want to do next school year. Of course, you won’t accomplish them all. But what if you accomplish a few. That’d be pretty cool.
Okay, Mr. Positive. When during these last few weeks between little league games, graduations and celebrations am I supposed to find time to begin your three-step positivity plan? I mean tell me how you expect me to magically find this time.
I’ve already thought of three possibilities.
And before I begin, just remember that neither of these steps needs to be recorded on paper. All three can be done in your head. Of course, if you want to write them down, you can. But you don’t have to. So, back off and don’t unfollow me or block me just yet. Hear me out.
- On Your Drive Home – I am guessing that unless you are homeschooling your child or you have a cot set up in your class, you have, at the very least, a five-minute commute. So, instead of listening to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper croon Shallow for the bazillionth time, turn your radio off and allow yourself some time to reflect. It will be time well spent. And don’t worry, I am quite certain that Shallow will be back on within the hour.
- In the Shower– there have been many hit songs written or conceived in the shower. You’re relaxed, you’re free and you are often uninhibited. You don’t need a note pad. Or, you can get really creative and take notes on the glass. Just make sure you come back to it before it dries.
- While You’re Dropping a Deuce– yeah, I went there. Those of us with young children know that this is one of the few times and places that we can find a couple minutes of peace and quiet. I would suggest turning on the fan to block out or mask any distractions or unintentional flatulence that might distract you.
I know I have thrown a lot at you, but I think it’s that important. You have worked too damn hard this year to allow a few negative thoughts to creep in the back the door when you are not looking. Of course, it is natural to look back at the year you had and put it up for review. It’s we do and it’s how we’re wired.
I simply want you to do so a little differently this year. Looking in the rear-view mirror shouldn’t be painful and it shouldn’t be avoided. It should be a time to celebrate and it should show us where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.
Let me know how it goes. Because I know how hard you work and I don’t want you to spend these last few weeks thinking about shouldas and couldas.
Have a great summer!
You’ve earned it!