If someone asked you why you teach, what would be your reply? When I was in my early years of teaching, I would meet new people and they would casually ask, ‘So what do you do?’. I would reply, ‘I’m a teacher. I was incredibly proud of my achievements and I would state, ‘I’m a secondary teacher of physical education’. The response was always the same, ‘That must be hard, no way would I want to be a teacher in a secondary school’. I got my answer down to a tee, ‘No, me neither, but I was just a horrid teenager, so it’s God’s punishment to send me back as revenge for my teachers’. I always got a good hearty laugh. If they asked me why I chose to teach, my response would be ‘teaching chose me’.
But every time people asked me this thought-provoking question, I could feel why I chose to remain a teacher, but I could never verbalise the why. That was until I read ‘Finding Your Why’ by Simon Sinek. I really could dive deep into my why and having a personal ‘Why’ can make all the difference during those few weeks of report writing in term 2 when you start researching other jobs out of teaching. After that tough class on a Friday period 5 or that boring late meeting having a strong ‘Why’ to keep coming back to will keep you strong and sane. I can tell you if you are in teaching because of the paycheck or the holidays, you are in the wrong job.
Yes, we all work for a wage and I am the first to smile at having 13 weeks off compared to my husband’s 21 days. Simon Sinek also has a TED talk and a great website to give you a great start to finding your ‘Why’. When you have your ‘Why’ pinned, it up for you to see every day next to your desk. My ‘Why’ has changed over the years, but this is my ‘Why’. I want to change lives by upskilling teachers with the tools they need to make classrooms everywhere safe, calm, learning environments where all students can grow and develop to their full potential. My ‘Why’ has a deeper meaning for me. My own personal experience of the total opposite motivates me every day.
The power of positive affirmations.
Next, I recommend working on your positive affirmations regarding your abilities as a teacher and your classroom management. If you have a tough class, keep your internal dialogue positive tell yourself, ‘OK, that didn’t go to plan, but this will be a great learning opportunity. Firstly, I will journal that lesson and then go and ask my colleague to have a coaching conversation to mediate my thinking’. Sometimes this is tricky, especially on a Friday afternoon when all you are feeling is the emotional pinch and the pub is calling.
A great tool for getting feedback is filming your lesson. Choose that tough class and set up a Go Pro or a Swivel camera. Many schools have such equipment nowadays. If not, use an iPad or phone to film the class. Ensure you follow the school and department’s policies on filming students first. Watching yourself on camera the first time is cringe-worthy, but it can be great feedback. Your facial expressions and voice projection are essential when improving our CMS.
Really listen to how you respond to the behaviours in the class, write down the words you say and compare them to the advice given in the online course. Having footage is good because you don’t have to rely on your own memory of events. That might not be all that accurate, especially if you were in an emotional pinch.
Keeping the internal dialogue positive will stop the negativity creeping in. It’s too easy to get into a negative spiral of doom and gloom. Yes, some days are hard. Yes, it feels like you have tried everything some days with little improvement. Sometimes improvement in some student’s behaviour is very slow. It’s hard to see, but it is there. Just like that weight loss, you starve yourself for a week and feel the same, but the scales tell you a different story. Sometimes!
When you have a bad day, have a rant and get it off your chest but always bring it back to ‘It’s not about me, it’s about them’, do not take it personally. Then think ‘Now what am I going to do between now and my next lesson to make things better?’ and ‘What can I try next time?’. In a nutshell, keep it positive, learn from it and move on. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. But it’s not easy, you worked your ass off to become a teacher, and you’re going to continue working your ass off to be the best teacher you can be. Oh yes, you are!
Read more on emotional intelligence and how it can improve your teaching.