What Turning 40 Has Taught Me (and How it Relates to Teaching)So, I recently turned 4 tens. That's teacher speak for "the big 4-0." Now that I'm older, I'm feeling wiser. So, I thought I'd impart some of my old wisdom on you.
I'll be the first to admit that turning 40 doesn't automatically make you wiser. I still have the sense of humor of a 12 year old and I love Hello Kitty. I hate balancing my checkbook, and I'd much rather watch TV than hold a philosophical conversation about anything philosophical.
But, turning 40 has helped me realize that in my lifetime I have evolved and grown over time to become the person that I am today. I've learned to have the confidence to say what I have to say, to keep it real, and trust my gut. I've come to embrace the fact that I am different and I do things differently. I know when to shake things off and just get stuff done. I've come to terms with the notion that there is no shame in admitting when I'm wrong, asking for help when I need it, and generally just being a real person with real emotions. And, if you think about it, these are all qualities that relate to our daily life in the classroom. That is, these qualities go hand in hand with teaching. This post addresses a few of these qualities, and I hope that my thoughts resonate with you.
The following is purely a reflection of my thoughts and opinions, and yep, I can be a bit sarcastic and witty at times. OK, sassy. But, I hope you'll read anyway as my goal here is to remind you of how awesome you are and motivate you to continue to be the amazing teacher that you are.
Say What You Gotta Say
I once had a principal who told the staff that I was a quiet person (he didn't know me on a personal level, so he didn't realize just how inaccurate this statement was). But, he went on to say that if you asked me a question, you'd get an honest answer. He wasn't wrong about that. If you have something to say, say it. You are a professional, don't undervalue your opinions, views, or intelligence. Doing so doesn't make you a rogue teacher who refuses to be a part of the team. It means you're a teacher who is brave enough to speak his/her mind. As Todd Parr's book says, it's OK to be different. Don't be afraid to share your thoughts and ideas.
But, when you're at meetings, having conversations, etc. say what you feel needs to be said. Back it up with evidence, experiences, and so on. And, don't apologize for how you feel because someone makes you feel silly for sharing your thoughts. When other people devalue your opinion, that is a reflection of them, not you.
It's OK to be Negative Sometimes
Yep, you heard me. It's called keeping it real. No, I won't smile when you add one more duty or assignment to my plate. I'll do it, but I won't smile and thank you for it. And, I won't pretend that I'm over the moon when I find yet another new student slip in my box (thirty minutes before the bell rings) and I'm literally running out of floor space in my ridiculously undersized classroom. In a nutshell, I won't pretend everything is hunky dory when it isn't. That's just weird, and unnatural.
My point is, you can't be positive all the time. In fact, I don't trust anyone who is. Keep it real, friends.
It's OK to have a bad day, to be tired, or to be upset about something. You are human, own it. Just because you're having an off day doesn't mean you are any less of a teacher. It doesn't mean that you will be an awful teacher that day. Nor does it mean that you will treat other people poorly that day. It just means that you're owning your feelings at that moment. We're human. It's OK (and natural) to have feelings.
Just remember to be the professional that you are. Put on your big girl (or boy) pants and do what you do best: teach like a boss, support your students, and make their time at school as positive as you can. Place those emotions where they need to go and be the teacher that your kids need you to be. You know you already do. You're awesome like that.
Teach Like a Boss
Let's take a moment to expand upon that comment above. Let's just make one thing clear. You ARE a teacher boss. Don't believe me? Check out this list.
You might be a teacher boss if:
- You work your tail off to make sure that your students have the best learning experiences possible, given whatever situation/environment you are in.
- You don't always stick to the plan. When you see a teachable moment, you seize the opportunity.
- You do your job despite all the odds and naysayers (and in your heart of hearts you truly believe that what you do matters - and it totally does, by the way).
- You hustle all day long and you're darn good at it.
- You deal with constant interruptions, snafus, and other untimely annoyances, but you still get the job done (done well, I might add).
- You shake it off and get it done. Whatever "it" is, you push on knowing that you don't have time to let "it" bring you down. You have a class of kids depending on you!
We have an important job. There is too much at stake to allow everyone and everything else to get in the way of our main objective. So, close that classroom door and teach on. Give your students what you know they need. Get creative and use the system to your advantage. Do whatever it takes to teach those kids. Because, that's what a teacher boss does.
Don't use flexible seating? Don't have one to one iPads? Don't use interactive notebooks or implement regular STEM experiences? I could go on here. Well, take a deep breath. It's OK!
I (literally) don't have room for large tables, stools, or balls in my classroom, so my students have to deal with sitting in actual chairs. I don't have iPads. As in, I do not have any at all. And while STEM intrigues me, and I really, really want to learn more about it, I don't technically know what it is or how it is intended to be implemented in the classroom since I've never received any formal training on the topic. And, guess what? It doesn't make me any less of a teacher knowing that some of the things I see in other classrooms aren't taking place in my own. Nor do I feel bad that they aren't taking place in my classroom.
Please know that I don't judge those who use these things in their classrooms, nor do I devalue them. They are merely examples to prove a point. And, STEM is totally on my "Things to Research" list for the summer.
What I'm saying is, it's OK if you don't jump on every bandwagon or trend that you see. It's OK that you don't have the same resources that others might have. It's OK if your teaching style is different than the teacher next door. And, it's OK if you don't always know about the latest and greatest because most likely you are giving your students a myriad of meaningful learning experiences every single day. In your students' eyes you are an amazing teacher who makes learning fun and memorable. So, keep it up!
The bottom line is, teaching is hard. It's multifaceted, messy, and complicated. So, remember that it's OK to experience less than pleasant emotions, and it's OK to speak your mind. Keep it real, but be the boss that you are and teach your heart out.
I hope my old person wisdom resonated with you today. ;) Now, go be awesome.
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