Friday, February 28, 2014

Smiling and Education

When I started my career, it was very clear to me why I wanted to be a teacher. I really enjoyed showing people how to complete things, and loved to see the joy on their faces when they "got it" or when they completed a goal, whether that goal was a shop project, an essay 'finally', or just a concept that they had been having difficulty with. Above all else, I am a social person and truly found that getting to know the kids and seeing them everyday was the BEST part of my job.
You probably think I am leading up to saying something like, "it is not like that for me anymore". But you would be wrong. It IS like that for me, every day. Obviously it goes without saying that if it weren't for the kids, I wouldn't have a job. But it also should go without saying that it is the kids that can help make or break a teacher (in part). I have been fortunate enough to have been in 3 great schools and feel like I have seen some ups and downs but for the most part I can say that I still love the work I do. 

Things start to get a bit irritating when I start to think or focus on the more difficult parts of my job, and that being the curriculum and some of the mandates that have come down on teachers lately. I am not saying kids are perfect 100% of the time, by far they are not, but that should be an expected understanding when you are a teacher. They have bad days (or weeks!), and so do I. It is being a problem-solver and knowing when to pick your battles that helps to work through those times. Back to my concern of mandates and teacher expectations, I foresee many teachers jumping ship into different career paths, and sooner than they should if they are new teachers, because of what is happening in the teaching profession. The unrealistic expectations being placed on teachers some days is really overwhelming for someone like me who has been teaching for 7 years, let alone a brand new teacher who has a new curriculum that doesn't have resources yet! How can you teach from a curriculum with no textbooks, or resources besides a list of 50 websites to sift through? Who has time for that? I sure don't! I can only imagine a new teacher who has just finished university, ready to take on the task at hand and feeling very incompetent because of the lack of support and/or resources to teach from. I sound like I am being harsh but I'm scared. I am worried and scared for my colleagues and myself. I am worried and scared for the kids we are teaching. What would happen if we said no? Of course most of us would never dream of doing that, but the question is there - what
if? I can be a "debbie downer" (wah wah) and I know others can too, but I'm trying to say that how that can make you feel, isn't healthy. There can be a better way if you try. You can be scared, it is allowed. It is all in how you deal with that fear or anxiety or frustration, that is all your choice. And I'm telling you to choose happiness. 

Let me stay positive, because the last 6 months of my life has taught me a few things. What I've learned is that you need to take situations and change in stride. It can be the single most difficult thing when that change is unexpected, painful, annoying, challenging, confusing, frustrating or sad, but IF you don't take it all in stride, IF you don't choose to fight every battle, IF you choose to let it make your mood swing deeply one way or the other, you WILL sink. And sinking can be hard to deal with. The range of emotions that change brings in one's life is astounding, and when you're faced with daily issues in your work, it compounds on you often and easily transfers those bad emotions into the other aspects of your life such as your family, friends, recreation/hobbies and to your soul. Don't let it be you.
I will say something in closing that I'm sure you teachers can understand, and those of you that aren't teachers would probably be able to relate to in some fashion:
I am making a choice, daily, to come to school and be the best I can for the kids I see. I am making a choice to smile, to try and keep those kids smiling, and to encourage happiness in my classroom. I will not let "the man" get me down, although I will admit I have bad days like anyone about what's happening around me in education. I live for these kids in my job. I truly love seeing them and enjoy having conversations with them; they are like my own kids, or my own family. In a small school the culture is everything, and if I let things sink in too deep, I will drown. And you know what? You know who I am taking with me? Everyone who is in my life and everyone I see in a day, including those kids. Sounds like a lot of pressure; to keep everyone else from sinking. It really isn't when you think about it; do you care? If you do, you will keep smiling for yourself, and for your circle. I think I will teach a little longer this way.... 

"Start every day off with a smile, and get it over with" - W.C. Fields