On multiple occasions I’ve been asked by coworkers if I’m always this happy about teaching.
…let me let you in on a little secret – only 99% of the time. Yes, even perpetually excited teachers like myself who can (and do!) talk on and on and on about how great the job is – even we sometimes have days where we feel tired, and where we feel run down. As willingly as I admit that I think our job is incredibly rewarding, I’ll also admit that it can be trying at times.
So, in these moments, when I do feel this way, what do I do to get through?
Simple. I remind myself – every teacher has a choice.
Say for example your students are wiggling around on the carpet while you’re attempting a lesson.
a) Get upset with them. Tell them to they need to sit still, over and over again, because you said so.
OR you can:
b) Remind yourself that developmentally young students aren’t even meant to sit still for long periods of time. Maybe your lesson’s gone overtime and you need to change gears. Maybe you should ditch the whole thing and revisit later. Maybe you’re not reaching the diverse learning styles in the room. Maybe it’s no fun. Maybe you need to get up and dance. Maybe it’s time to continue this lesson outside. Maybe this lesson is better suited for hands-on, play based learning in a smaller group. Or maybe you’re just caught up in this outdated, and frankly, pointless idea that students need to be perfectly obedient. Your message may in fact be getting across –yes, through the fidgets and all - and battling a little wiggle here and there isn’t even necessary and actually just sidetracking what you’re trying to do.
The point is, why get hung up on the students’ behaviour when really what needs to be reflected on is your own delivery. It’s so easy for teachers to fall into the trap of thinking that our jobs are all about telling students what not to do (Don’t run! Don’t move! Don’t shout!), but I’d argue that rather than focus on their behaviours, we should attempt to focus on what we CAN control: our own teaching. It’s about structuring our teaching in a way that appeals to them and therefore weeds out the “problematic behaviours” that may materialize from a bored or unstimulated student. Now, don’t get me wrong – students need to be respectful – they shouldn’t be flat out ignoring anyone in their learning community. But do I care if they aren’t perfectly still and quiet on the carpet? No. They’re kids. They shouldn’t be perfectly still and quiet, so why try to make them? I decided long ago not to be a teacher who fights the fact that children are by nature wiggly. They just are. Honestly, I don’t think it matters. Fight the wiggles, and you’ll basically be fighting all the time. Not the sort of classroom atmosphere I go for.
So to any teacher out there who may be pulling out their hair over that one student who just won’t sit still on the carpet: remember, you have a choice. You can spend your days sounding like a broken record, repeating over and over again that said child needs to stop. Or you yourself can stop. Stop and reflect.
Every teacher has a choice.