What Teachers Can Look Forward To

Days can be long, especially during the winter months when there days off seem nonexistent. For many of us, the days are cold and nights are long. This won’t last for long because before we know it, it will be spring and kids will be playing outside after dinner. But for now, it can be tough.

Students are restless because they’ve been indoors, state testing is on the horizon and you’re still waiting to be observed by your administrator. This is the time of the year where you sometimes feel like you just want to crawl into a hole and hibernate until summer—without having to do lesson plans of course.

The thing is, we know we must grind through. And you always do. It never ceases to amaze me how you are able to persevere through this season. Despite your students’ behavior. Despite catching the flu. Despite, despite, despite.

You always make it.

But at what cost?

Oftentimes your mental health pays the price because you feel like you are constantly in survival mode.

The days when your lesson isn’t coming together or that one student has plucked your last nerve or you just plain feel like crap. We all have them. But teachers you are always on and I know these days come around more often than you’d like to admit.

While I can’t help with your lesson or calm your student or help you feel better physically, I do have something that can help you make it through the tough days without losing it. It doesn’t cost a thing and you have everything you need with you at this very moment.

Let me explain.

You remember when you were a kid and you were able to magically take yourself to far off lands? Maybe you were a Star Wars fan and you imagined yourself fighting alongside Luke Skywalker. Or maybe you loved Harry Potter so you pretended you were Hermione and you were able to cast spells on people. Regardless of whoever you imagined yourself to be, you had the ability to take yourself away from wherever you were just by using your imagination.

Guess what?

You still can.

When you’re having a rough day, in a bad way or just want to get away (hey that rhymed) just try the following:

Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to When You Get Home

It doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive or involve anyone else. Maybe you can’t wait to watch the latest episode of Vikings while eating a bag of chips. Or you could excited about the workout you are going to get in. The one you have been putting off for days. Today is the day you take that pilates class, run that mile or lift some weights. Maybe it’s a beautiful day and you want to just put on your sweatpants and take your dog for a long, peaceful walk.

Whatever you do, each morning when you wake up, give yourself at least one thing to look forward to when you get home. Of course, you might have schoolwork to do. Yes, you have to cook dinner or maybe you work a 2nd job. Regardless, give yourself one thing that is yours.

So when your day starts dragging or that student starts whining or your lesson starts bombing, just remember—in a few hours it will be your time. And nobody can touch that. It is amazing what a little positive visualization can do to your current state. It’s magical.

Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to This Weekend

Okay, maybe you need more. In that case, begin to plan something fun for the weekend. You have Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. Most likely you have some type of obligation or event that will take up a portion of your time. But the rest of the weekend? Is yours.

Plan to hangout with friends. Nothing elaborate. Maybe you order pizza, drink wine and watch your favorite John Hughes movies (did I just age myself?). Or maybe you and your significant other plan a date that you’ve been putting off for a while. It could be dinner and a movie or it could just be picking up take-out and watching whatever is on Netflix.

Some of you may be introverted, like me. You love the company of your loved ones but you recharge best when you are alone. The thought of the morning lying in bed, reading books and taking two naps may sound like Heaven.

Whatever you do, give yourself something to look forward to this weekend. Trust me, and you know this, there will be times this week when you will need to remind yourself that better times lie ahead. This is not a knock on your students, your school or your administration. This is simply real life.

Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to This Summer

Here is where you can really go crazy. Plan big. Go wild. I know it’s only January and with only a few days off between now and the end of the school year, it’s easy to get in a rut. Here’s how you are going to pull yourself out.

Start to plan the best summer ever.

You have several months this summer and what you do with it is up to you. No administrators telling you what to do (I’m one and I get it), no students giving you grief and no lesson plans to write or papers to grade. I know, I know. Some of you teach summer school. But it’s different and it’s usually only part of the summer and half a day.

So, get thinking about how to make your summer awesome! You only have a finite number of summers left. Take advantage of this one and plan it, dream about it and most of all—look forward to it.

Try to balance fun with relaxation. Excitement with calm. Friends and family with alone-time. Travel with staycations. This is the one that is going to get you through the testing season. That time of the year that just plain s… I’m trying to keep this clean.

Just remember.

You got this!

Teachers, what you what you do is incredibly difficult and it seems it is getting more difficult with each day and each new law that is passed. Many of which are not taking your physical and mental well-being into consideration. I’m just being honest.

Just remember this week when you begin to feel stressed, tired and frustrated—take yourself to another place. Think about your evening, your weekend and your summer. It won’t make your problems go away, but it will take you to a better place.

Good luck!

 

“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

Author unknown

 

 

*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

 

 

 

 

You Didn’t Know You Messed Up. Now What?

“I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”

Bob Seger

 

I first heard these lyrics as a result of needle on vinyl. In high school and even as a young adult, I thought I got them. I was convinced I understood what Seger was saying. Each time I heard those 11 words, I would bob my head along with the beat. Or at least I’d try to. Sometimes in life, there are truths we wish we never knew. Because they hurt. And because once we learn about them, they hurt even more.

But now? As I am approaching 50, I’m not as confident as I once was. You see, I want to know now what I didn’t know then. I want to get better. I want to make amends. I want to move forward. And I bet you do too.  You don’t want to hide from your mistakes or wish that you didn’t know about them. No, you want to face them head-on. Like a grown up.

Unlike what Bob Seger sang his ‘70s rock hit, you want to know now what you didn’t know then. You want to own your mistakes even though you may have had no idea you were making them at the time. That’s not easy to do.

But each one of us can.

How did we move forward? What did can we do that allows us to get back up?

First, we own their mistakes. This is difficult because the mistakes we often make are unintentional.

So what?

Just because they weren’t intentional doesn’t mean they weren’t hurtful. Think about it. When someone hurts you, does it sting any less knowing it was done unintentionally. Sometimes. But not often. In fact, we often think to ourselves, well, they should have known— how could they not have known?

Former Navy Seal and highly decorated war hero Jocko Willink said it best, “Let go of your delicate pride.” Yeah, you messed up. Now what? Well, since you are reading this book, I am assuming you care about righting your wrong. And this book is about ownership and moving forward once we fall—here we go.

In my opinion, the first step is the most difficult because it requires you to admit you messed up. And the mistake you made wasn’t even your fault. Well, guess what? Nobody cares. What they do care about is what you do next. People will sometimes forgive you for doing the wrong thing. But once you have, they rarely forgive you if you respond by doing nothing,

Bite the bullet.

Eat your frog. Own it.

You’re human.

You’re busy.

You’re going miss stuff.

Acknowledge that and move on. You can do it. Know you are not alone and that people are forgiving. And remember the most important person that must forgive you is you.

Take that first step.

 

*This short piece was taken from a modified portion of my book, My Bad: 24 Educators Who Messed Up, Fessed Up & Grew. If you enjoyed reading this and are interested in taking a look at the book just clock HERE.

Knocking Down Blocks

Anyone that follows my blog knows that I am fascinated with the way in which my children interact with and interpret the world. I truly believe that they have much more to teach me than I have to teach them.

The difficulty lies in the fact that the lessons they have to teach me are not always readily apparent. Usually though, if I stop and allow myself time and space to reflect, I am able to come away with something.

I’ll never forget the day that I was experiencing a moment that was meant to teach me something, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what. Actually, I experience quite a few of these moments. My son and I were playing with blocks. We would stack them as high as we could. And then each time, without fail, he would take extreme pleasure in knocking them over.

But why?

Why does he spend the time building them up if he is just going to knock them over each time?

Think Jon think!

And then it hit me!

HE DOES IT BECAUSE IT’S FUN!

Why does there need to be any other reason than that?

There doesn’t!

 

“There are times when I think I’m doing things on principle, but mostly I just do what feels good. But that’s a principle, too.”

Brian Andreas

 

We spend the majority of our time reading and writing about how to increase student learning. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Or is there?

Have we become so focused on teaching them that we have forgotten that they have much to teach us?

I hate to admit it, but I have.

We spend our days and nights trying to figure out how to help our students become better readers and writers, mathematicians and creators, innovators and artists.

But why?

I believe it is because we want them to have a good life and we want them to be able to help others do the same. In short, we want them to be happy. The problem is that there is no standardized test that measures whether or not we have done this successfully.

So what?

We don’t need a test to tell us whether someone is happy. And yet we in education often fall back on the phrase

“If you can’t measure it, then you can’t improve it.”

And it’s not as if we ignore happiness, but it can fade into the background if we are not careful.

Silly sometimes becomes a bad word.

Daydreaming is often discouraged.

Messes are seen as problems.

We start to discourage these things in our attempt to help our children become College and Career Ready. And so we witness fewer messes, we see less daydreaming and we discourage silliness. Or like Peter Pan, we forget how to fly.

 

Why can’t you fly now, mother?
Because I am grown up, dearest. When people grow up they forget the way.
Why do they forget the way?
Because they are no longer gay and innocent and heartless. It is only the gay and innocent and heartless who can fly.

J.M Barrie

 

But Peter Pan was able to relearn what he had forgotten and I believe we can too. The problem is we are losing all of our best teachers.

Children

All children are born with wings, and yet we insist on clipping them because we believe we know better.

Do we really?

When was the last time you were as happy as a three-year old?

Most likely it was when you were with a three-year old who has not yet had their wings clipped.

I’ll never forget the day my son asked me if he could do something messy. I’ll be honest I can’t remember exactly what he wanted to do. But here was the exchange:

“Is it okay if I do it?”

“It will make a mess.”

“But if I do it, it will make me laugh.”

I remember this exchange for two reasons. First, I recorded it in my phone because I felt the moment was so poignant. And second, I didn’t let him do whatever it was he was hoping to do because I was worried about the mess he would make. And yet I felt it was important enough to record in my phone.

Shame on me!

I’m sure it would have been fun.

I’m sure he would have let me join in.

And I’m sure it would have been a start in helping me to regain my wings.

So start today.

Be silly!

Encourage daydreams!

Make messes!

And above all else,

Knock down some blocks!

I promise you’ll be glad you did!

See you in the clouds!

As I travel on this journey called Life, I continue to learn from the mistakes I make along the way. That’s okay. I’m doing the best I can. And that’s good enough for me.

 

The sooner we start sharing our imperfections with the people we serve and the people we love, the sooner they will stop expecting to be perfect.

 

Click the link below to listen to some big mistakes made by some amazing educators.

MY BAD   

 

*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

I Can See the Net

Teachers are tired, they’re stressed, and they’re frustrated. Much has changed since I last taught over ten years ago. But nothing has changed more than the amount of violence and aggression that teachers encounter daily. Hardly a day passes without news of some teacher somewhere being attacked by a child. It has become, in my opinion, a national crisis. Folks are leaving the profession in record numbers. And finding someone qualified to take their place has become almost impossible.

Reading the stories, hearing their cries and knowing the physical and emotional pain that teachers experience is troubling to say the least. There is much to say and much to write about this topic. Citing case after case of teachers’ stories does help to shed light on the issue of violence in our schools. But I want to take a different angle. While I don’t have any answers at the moment for decreasing the violence and abuse teachers endure, I do think I can help.

I have spent the past four years delving into and learning about the power of vulnerability. Over 100 amazing individuals have trusted me with their stories of pain and regret and for that I am forever grateful. Along the way I have learned much. More than anything, I have learned how powerful and transformative vulnerability can be.

I wasn’t always as vulnerable as I am today. It took some risk taking. It took listening. And it took a serendipitous event to convince me that being embracing vulnerability is a way to ease the pain that I often felt. Don’t get me wrong. Vulnerability is not a cure-all, but it has changed my life for the better in more ways than I can count.

And yet, in today’s tumultuous environment, I understand why many teachers are hesitant if not skeptical of displaying vulnerability. You see, many educators spend their days in fight or flight mode—literally. They must keep their guard up at all times or else risk being attacked physically and/or emotionally.

If this is the case, which I am certain it is for many educators around the country, how-why would they possibly think it is safe to be vulnerable? To be vulnerable, one must let down their defenses. But in doing so doesn’t the teacher risk being injured?

Yes.

Now I am speaking more of the emotional turmoil that many teachers experience on a daily basis. Being vulnerable is hard. Being vulnerable is risky. Being vulnerable is scary. And yet, I think it has the power and the potential to ease some of the pain that teachers are feeling. I think it has the potential to lessen some of the guilt that teachers pile on themselves. And most importantly, I think being vulnerable has the potential to change lives.

It changed mine.

And while, as I mentioned previously, I have not taught for over ten years. I have certainly been through the fire and back. Let me tell you, I can not imagine what my physical and mental state would be today if I had not learned and embraced the power of vulnerability.

Believe me, I get it. Being vulnerable is probably the last thing some of you want to think about right now. You just want to get home and rest. You want to feel better again. You want to enjoy teaching.

While I don’t have an answer for the conditions under which you work, I do have an idea or two about how you can take care of you. And it begins by being vulnerable.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my ideas and suggestions on how and where you can begin. I understand I am asking you to take a leap. But trust me, I can see the net and it’s closer than you may think.

 


*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

Take Care of You

Educators, by nature, are programmed to take care of others. It is what we do. And we do a darn good job of it.  We get up early, go to bed late and give up portions of our weekends and summers so that we can become better. So that we can better help our students, our teachers and our colleagues. This is fine, and this is good.

But who is taking care of us? 

Because from what I can tell, we don’t do a good job of taking care of ourselves. And that must change. If we continue to neglect ourselves, then we will no longer be able to take care of those we serve. Flight attendants remind us, “If you are traveling with a small child, please attend to yourself first, then the child.”

This mistake we often make is not an easy one to fix. And unfortunately, it usually takes something serious to wake us up and take notice. Each of the educators in this section reached a breaking point. But they were able to put themselves back together. And when we reach a breaking point—and we will or we have—we can put ourselves back together too.            

You may be wondering why I mentioned that we all reach breaking points. I mean this book is supposed to help with stuff like that, right?

I bring this up because I don’t want you to think that because you reach a breaking point, that there’s something wrong with you. There’s not. As I mentioned, we are all card-carrying members of the breaking-point club. But we can put ourselves back together.          

The thing we must do is admit we broke down. This is not always an easy thing to do. For some reason, we tend to wear busyness as a badge of honor. We are not allowed to be tired or take a day off. As an assistant principal who is responsible for securing substitutes, I often have staff apologize to me for having to leave school because they are sick, or they need to help care for a loved one who has taken ill. I have had people throw up and apologize to me for having to go home. 

Seriously?

Please, please, please.

Admit you are tired or sick or stressed or just plain ol’ ready to lose it. It’s okay. Others will not think you are weak or soft or unprofessional. And if someone does, well then, they’re not someone you should be worried about anyway.         

The second thing I have learned from others and much introspection is that educators feel guilty. Often. Any time not spent finding ways to help the people we serve tends to eat at us. Never mind that we work long hours. Never mind the fact that we often have little left for our family and friends because we have given everything at school. Never mind that we give up our Saturdays for Edcamps and our summers for professional development. We still feel guilty when we allow ourselves to stop just for a moment.              

We feel as if we are letting others down when we take time for ourselves. That somehow, we are selfish because the time we spent reading a book for fun or taking a nap could have been spent thinking of ways to improve our classroom, our school or our organization.         

But we’re not. 

Letting others down, that is. What I have found is that it’s quite the opposite. The people we serve and the people we love want us to take care of ourselves. They do. Yet, we still don’t take time for ourselves.

Do you want to know how much you should be doing? I’ve interviewed over 120 amazing educators, and they talk about time management or mismanagement often. And I have learned that I have no idea how much you should be doing. Only you know that. I’ll say that again, only you know how much you should be doing. Comparing your daily accomplishments to others is not productive. Maybe someone organized their classroom library by reading level, created three bulletin boards and crafted a bookshelf from a tree in their backyard. That’s great for them. But that’s not you. You do you.

The third thing I’ve learned is that it is okay to ask for help. In fact, I encourage it. We are not meant to tackle life by ourselves. But we often feel as if we must. We don’t want to burden anyone with our problems or our worries. Nonsense.

The people you spend your days with—your students, your friends and your colleagues want you to reach out. They are waiting to help. They know that you would do the same for them. Odds are, you have done the same for them. Imagine what would happen if we stopped thinking we had to be superhuman and started asking for and receiving help whenever we needed it. Education is already an isolating profession. Start reaching out to each other in times of need.

Don’t be seduced by the workaholics on social media. You can’t do it all, and you shouldn’t expect to.             

When you’ve had enough, and you’re tired, and you’re stressed, just admit it. Try not to allow yourself to feel guilty for taking time and taking care of yourself. I realize this is easier said than done. But remember, you don’t have to go it alone. 

Reach out.

And when you do, I promise one thing.

Someone will be there.

 

 

 

*This post was taken from a passage in my book My Bad: 24 Educators Who Messed Up, Fessed Up & Grew. If you enjoyed the post and are interested in taking a look at the book, just click HERE.

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