I was helping out in my colleague’s 7th grade LA class today and she was sick. She was there, but super stuffy and drawn. Instead of begging for mercy (which I can tell you NEVER works!), she just took everything down to her level. She spoke softly and slowly, waited for kids to settle down and listen. Honesty, I didn’t think it would work. It’s a rowdy class. But it worked amazingly! The kids listened. They met her. They were more engaged than I’ve ever seen them. After class I said to her “Wow! That was quite a lesson for me. I’m always over-efforting to get their attention, and look what you did by being quite and mellow.” I feel so grateful for the chance to learn from this lady!
Did you get in teaching to help kids and make a difference in the world? Are you finding it difficult to stay the course? Unrealistic state standards and testing, budget cuts, large class sizes, and an all-time low in respect for teachers are constantly putting the squeeze on our minds and spirits. How do we stay positive and make difference for our kids, despite all of these obstacles?
I believe the key is in clearly knowing and developing our Big Why. What brought us to education? Why are we drawn to work with kids? It’s easy to forget this over time, and especially on difficult days. However, if we bring more awareness to it, and cultivate it each day, we begin to establish the foundation for a sustainable career and an inspiring classroom.
I taught at a community music school in Seattle from 2001-2008, and during that time I came across Parker Palmer’s book, The Courage to Teach. He deeply inspired me to hear about the inner life of a teacher. I had been drawn to teaching and working with young people for years, and Parker’s book helped me articulate WHY I was a teacher, and what kind of teacher I hoped to become.
I’ve come to realize that my Big Why is to connect with students and colleagues, and help them see how great they are! The primary way this shows up is in “good finding.” I actively find the good in people every day. I take the time to notice and care about the small and large ways people shine. I point it out, I celebrate it; I do a dance for it. This gives me energy and it lifts my spirits.
But here’s the thing… it took some real digging for me to figure this out. What turns us on and sustains us isn’t always easy to find because it comes so naturally that we tend to miss it. Here are a couple more great resources to help you find your Big Why.
An excellent place to start is to create a personal mission statement. There’s a great tool online for doing this. Try it at www.franklincovey.com/msb. Another wonderful resource is a book called The Teacher’s Gift by Bruce Anderson. This book helps you define your core gift as a teacher, and has a wonderful dialogue section where teachers share how they use their gifts in their classrooms.
Teaching is really important and it’s also really hard. We need to stick together and I hope these tools inspire you as much as they’ve inspired me!
This blog was originally published by The Center for Courage and Renewal. They are amazing, check them out!