I remember a particular year of teaching quite vividly, and not for the right reasons. As teachers, we don’t discuss often enough the years we struggle. Or, the years that bring us heartache, and yes, the years we question our decision to become an educator. It can be a hard truth, but some classes are just better than others. Once we have a few years under our belt, we begin to understand that not every set of students, not every classroom, and not every coworker is going to be what we imagined. What I have learned is this: I am in control of my emotions. It is solely my responsibility if I choose to smile at students, give positive feedback, or simply, enjoy my day. Now, this can be easier said than done, but it is possible!
The hardest year I ever had teaching began wonderfully. I even recall telling my mom that this was going to be my best class ever. Little did I know the heartache that was ahead. I had just finished a school year from heaven. Honestly, I can’t think of one unhappy moment. Happiness was everywhere, and it seemed to just permeate the atmosphere. I went into the next year of teaching thinking it would be identical to the previous one. However, a couple months into the school year I realized that wasn’t going to happen. This shock just about knocked me off my feet, and made me question my decision to be a teacher.
I had students who told me they hated me. I had students run out of my classroom screaming profanities at the top of their lungs (both at me and other classmates). This particular class did not respect my personal space, or the space of their classmates. Students were fighting, stealing, hitting, bullying, and lying. I had the support of my principal and other teachers on my team (thank goodness!), but that was about it. This class was out of control, and to be honest I won’t even divulge the worst of it on such a public platform, so just imagine your most horrible class, and times it by ten. By January I was crying every day after school and wanted to give up, but I’m not a quitter so I continued on. Also, like all teachers, I still LOVED my students. Let me make that clear: I loved them with all my heart. In fact, I went to their soccer games, I supported them during the school musical, I played with them at recess, and I got to know them on a personal level. I was invested in these kids and wasn’t going to walk away. Yes, I would have labeled the majority of them as, “Hard kids,” but they were MY kids.
I feel like I am a pretty happy person. My number one classroom rule is always, “Stay positive.” But this particular year I was struggling. Was it the mixture of student personalities? Was it changes in my personal life? Probably both. Whatever the case, I learned that it was up to me to be happy. It wasn’t up to my students to make me happy, or my coworkers, or anybody else. Being happy was my job. So what if this year was a little tough? I needed to roll with it, continue to love my students, and move on. I needed to CHOOSE to be happy. Once I realized this, the days got a little more bearable. That year was not perfect. I shed a lot of tears, learned that I could be a tough teacher, and that I didn’t need to be loved by every student and parent, just respected. I learned I needed to choose to be the happy teacher, NO MATTER WHAT. If there is any class I still think about, it is that one. I wonder where they all ended up. I hope they reached their dreams. I hope they made good choices and got good grades. I wonder if they plan to go to college. When I think about these kids, I pray they have found what they are looking for in life. I hope I adequately showed them that happiness is not who we are, but how we choose to react to the world around us.
How can you choose to be a happy teacher?
#1 Remember the reasons why you love teaching. Some days you may forget why you like it, but those days will pass and a lovely moment will remind you why you were born to teach.
#2 Focus on the good. Hold tight to any positive moment you come across each day. Even if it is as simple as all your students sitting in their chairs at the same time. Sometimes that is all we get!
#3 Throw positive reinforcement around like confetti. People like to hear good things about themselves. Our students aren’t any different.
#4 Leave school at school. This is a hard one. Sometimes, school shouldn’t come home, and you should relax instead.
#5 Remind yourself that you are important, your students need you (whether they admit it or not), and you get at least 180 days a year to make a difference.
So you may have that “Hard class,” this year, or interesting coworker, or unbearable committee assignemnt. Just remember, you can choose to be the happy teacher, no matter what!
You’ve got this teachers. #choosetobethehappyteacher