Choose To Be the Happy Teacher


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


Choose to be the happy teacher. Teach yourself, and your students to be positive.

15 Responses

  1. Thank you for this reminder. I have THAT CLASS this year. In fact, it sounds very much like the one you described. I’m feeling very anxious about returning in January. I need to remember that, despite the fact that I feel like I have run into an invisible wall and cry nearly every day, I can be happy..

  2. It happened to me 3 years ago in a new school
    but worst of all was not having the support of the principal, plus the head of studies seemed to be enjoying watching me struggling every day!!!! (And I m not a young or inexperienced teacher) That s why I decided not to give up all through the entire course!!
    Worst experience whatsoever !!!! Fled from that school! Now I m well pleased where I work !

  3. Thank you for this reminder! A few years ago I had THAT CLASS. I have taught over 20 years and it was only October when the tail wagged the dog. I really had to rethink my how i ran the class. Now I have taken what went right and wrong from that year and refuse to let it get me down. I will share this with my co teachers. Thank you for keeping it real. From one teacher to another.

  4. Thank you, thank you! I often read blogs and everyone seems to have the perfect class. I have taught 21 years. Prior to teaching 5th grade I taught special ed so I have had all kinds of kids, but 2 years ago I had a group that honestly hated each other. It was a traumatizing year. But like you, I prayed God would show me how to love them. I can't say their behavior towards each other ever improved, but they knew I cared for and loved them.

  5. This is great! Thanks for sharing so honestly what it is like to have a tough class, but still stay positive! The kids are watching and we can model for them how to hold our heads up and be happy! The 5 tips at the end are very helpful!

  6. I needed this. Funny how God steers our paths in the direction we should go. My struggles have not been with kids this year, but sadly my co-workers. I am surrounded by people who bring our profession down, who complain about everything…the principal, the kids, the parents & who do little teaching in their classrooms. I've found myself being 'sucked in' to this hostile environment & sadly, I've been no better as I too have started complaining & spending less time with my kids. When we are surrounded by negative energy, it is then that we must be the positive for our kids. These little kids see so much negativity daily and some never hear that they are loved. I do love my little kids dearly & I've always referred to them as 'my kids' because they are. Thank you for being brave enough to write such a personal story. You have given me the little shot in the arm to get through the rest of the year, and perhaps by my choosing to be a happy teacher others will see that & positive change can begin. Lord knows we need to start somewhere. As teachers we can be so overwhelmed with the demands of parents, administrators, our co-workers, our many 'hats' that we must where daily…but we can't forget the reason we BECAME teachers…it's the little people who look up at us every morning..God's precious gift..the children. God Bless!

  7. I am currently in my final semester of school before student teaching. I was a substitute teacher for almost a decade. I have seen teachers who are happy on a DAILY BASIS and I've seen teachers who really should consider early retirement because they are miserable and so are their students! My goal is to NEVER be the teacher on campus that others refer to as the "mean" or "grumpy" one, or the one that needs to consider "early retirement" or "change of profession!" Your words are very encouraging and uplifting! Thank you so much! We must always remember, even on the bad days, that our students ARE – OUR STUDENTS! 🙂

  8. What a wonderful post! "As teachers, we don't discuss often enough the years we struggle." This is so true! We complain, we grumble and we carry on. Sharing our experiences of "hard" years can help us focus on the good things and deal better with the hard times. Thanks for writing about it!

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