August 27, 2018

5 Tips for Keeping Your Passion for Teaching

Keeping passion for the profession you are in is a key in order to be successful in that profession.  Any person who is passionate about his or her career will work with a mission, feel compelled to make a difference, and have peace in knowing they are in the right place.  So how do you keep that passion for teaching?  How do you stay positive in what can be a very negative culture?  Below are my five tips for doing just that.

1.  Do You

Do you take sheer joy in decorating every inch of your Pinterest-worthy classroom?  That's great!  Do you focus more on curriculum and throw your room together at the last minute?  That's great, too!  Comparison is the thief of joy, and as teachers, we need to just STOP IT already.  While you have co-workers, a principal, and work for a school system, you ultimately are the boss of what happens inside the four walls of your classroom.  So whether you stand on your classroom stage and lead incredibly creative chants while your insanely coordinated students bop along with the beat, or you teach using cooperative learning, it doesn't matter.  Your students will respond to what you're teaching them if you are being authentic and REAL.  In the age of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, we can literally see inside the walls of classrooms, and this can stir up insecurities and even jealousy.  Our thoughts immediately go to: "That would take forever to do," "I could never do that," "I don't have enough money or classroom budget to buy that kind of stuff," "I'm not as engaging as that teacher."  The list goes on, and on, and on.  Please remember, the rules of social media apply to teaching, too.  What you see on social media is one blip in time, one perfectly-staged picture, etc.  There is no need to be jealous or insecure because we perceive another teacher has more than we have.  Be happy for them and realize you're on your own journey, and you don't have to compare your journey to theirs.  Find your strengths, learn more about a teaching topic that intrigues you, try, fail, and then try again.  Your students will respond better to a real teacher versus a teacher who is trying to be someone he or she is not.

2.  Be Open to Change

It's the beginning of the year in-service, and your principal lists off the five new initiatives you will be tackling as a school this year.  He promises they all fit together and won't be that much extra work.  Stop right here.  At this moment in time, you have two choices.  The first choice is you can roll your eyes, put your head down, think about how much unnecessary work this is going to be.  The second choice is choosing to be open by accepting that a school must continuously improve.  Because you know what?  Just like a person who is on a weight loss journey is either losing or gaining weight, a school is either improving or getting worse.  The only thing you can count on as a teacher is that there will be continuous change.  Being open to change and staying positive about the potential impacts new initiatives could have on your teaching and students is one of the biggest things you can do to keep your passion as a teacher.  In my first few years of teaching, I had the pleasure of working with a teacher named Loretta.  Loretta was at the end of her teaching career.  Each time a new initiative got rolled out, she put a smile on her face, stayed positive, and jumped in.  We often think new teachers are open to change, and "older" teachers are not.  I think this is absolutely NOT true.  I have seen brand-new teachers completely closed to new initiatives and teachers years from retirement embrace new things, learn, and continue to improve.  It's all about individual mindset, and the choice is yours alone.

3.  Students First

Look at the names on your class roster for this school year, learn their stories, read their IEP's, have conversations with them, observe them, imagine how you're going to impact their story this year and beyond.  Don't think about how your students should be, how your class was 10 years ago, or the students you wish were in front of you.  Embrace the unique students that walk through your classroom doors this year.  Don't ever let anything else about your job come before them.  There is so much outside noise that goes along with the job of teaching.  By outside noise, I mean anything you do as a teacher that doesn't directly impact students.  We can let outside noise drag us down or we can let students be our ultimate focus and use it to lift us up.

4.  Postive Co-Worker Relationships

Let's just throw out the elephant in the room.  A school can be the ultimate place of gossip.  And I'm not talking about gossip from the students, I'm talking about gossip from the staff.  If you want to burn out as a teacher, then surround yourself with co-workers who gossip about anything and everything.  I can guarantee to you, it won't take long before you dread going to work, have a negative perception of the students in your classroom, and think teaching is an impossible profession.  This tip does not come from a place of judgement.  I have been there.  Oh boy, have I been there.  That is why I am telling you, find your people.  Find the co-worker who is positive, works toward solutions, advocates for students, and cares about people.  Stay close to those people, learn from them, and be that person for someone else.  This right here, can change your entire mindset.

5.  Prioritize

I'm going to say something right now that may make to-do list makers out there shed a tear.  Your to-do list will never be done.  You will never get to the point as a teacher where you will get all of the pretty little items crossed off and then get to take a mental chill break.  Accept that you will always have a to-do list and you will never reach the bottom of it.  Know how to prioritize what needs to be done, give yourself small wins, and be okay with leaving some items for another day.  If you find yourself working an obscene amount of hours as a teacher, it might be because you are trying to reach the end of the to-do list when you don't have to.  Share with a trusted co-worker what you are doing, and have that co-worker give you honest feedback about where you could cut back and what are the most important things you need to spend your time on.  Make sure what you spend your time on and give the most effort to will have a direct impact on students.  I recently listened to Amy Porterfield's podcast episode, "Why You Aren't Taking Action with Brooke Castillo" on a topic completely unrelated to teaching.  However, Brooke Castillo stated, "Don't be afraid to do B- work."  As a bit of a self-proclaimed perfectionist, this was a hard piece of advice for me to swallow.  Her point though was: some things just need to get done.  We have to be efficient with our time, and sometimes if we are too worried about being perfect, we don't do something at all or let one task absolutely consume us.

So as you dig into this school year, think about how you can be yourself, adapt to change, keep students first, find positive teaching besties, and prioritize your to-do list.  I know these five tips can bring a world of change to keeping a positive mindset and keeping that passion for teaching.  Let me know below what you think of these tips and what tips you have for teachers to help keep their passion for teaching alive.


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