Have you lost that joy you felt when you first started teaching? If Mondays have started inspiring fear and dread in you, chances are good that you are making one of these 4 shocking mistakes.
Signs That You Are Losing That Joy
I knew something was wrong when I started to feel a disconnect between myself and my students. I had always been that teacher who found something to love in each and every student. The annoying teacher in the lounge who would listen to a complaint from a co-worker about a child and then exclaim, “Oh, but I love him!” Years after having taught them, I could still recall all those little details about them and the moments we had together. Every student I taught became a part of me.
And then, one day, I was standing in front of my class looking at the sea of faces, and I realized that while I could tell you things I liked about each of them, I just didn’t feel that connection.
It seemed sudden at the time, but the truth was that it had been building for a while. There had been signs that I had brushed off, telling myself that these things were normal, that everyone feels this way after they have been working the same job for years. I had started feeling apprehensive around 4 pm every Sunday. I had stopped feeling excited before my lessons. I had begun to get pulled into the negative talk that often pervades the teacher’s lounge. But I didn’t realize anything was wrong until that day.
If you are starting to notice some of these signs in your life, it is time to do a personal survey to see if you are making any of these 4 shocking mistakes that might be killing your happiness.
Mistake #1: You’re Succumbing to the Negative Talk
We all have those days where we need to vent to someone. However, it is easy to get into a cycle of complaining, which tends to devolve into seeing things through a negative lens. And you do not even need to be the one complaining for it to have an effect on you; just listening to these rants can start to invade our thoughts and color our perception.
How to Fix It
The first step is to force yourself to look for the positive. Think about the classic parent meeting approach: two positives, the negative, and another positive. If you need to vent, do it, but start and end with the positives. Once you put this into practice, it quickly becomes natural. You can also use this to keep things positive when others are getting out their frustrations.
The second step is to stop venting without seeking a solution. The people you are venting to are your fellow professionals; they either have been there before or are there now. Put that thinking power and experience together and seek a solution.
Mistake #2: You’re Too Caught Up in What Other Teachers Are Doing
This is where our naturally competitive side comes out to play. We see a teacher who seems to be connecting with the students better and start to question what it is that we are doing wrong. Or, on the flip side, we see a teacher doing something we would never consider doing and we just cannot stop ourselves from commenting on it. We get too caught up in the idea that there is a “right” and a “wrong” for everything, and we fight to be on the “right” side of things.
How to Fix It
First, understand that you should care about what other teachers are doing. Your fellow teachers can be an incredible inspiration and are a resource you should not neglect. Not to mention that with the push towards cross-curricular instruction, making your classroom a bubble is no longer a feasible option.
The problem here is not curiosity; the problem here is competition. The key to fixing this is to pull yourself out of the race. If you are genuinely concerned that you are doing something wrong, reach out for help. However, in most cases you will discover that you are doing things differently, not incorrectly. And as for those doing things “wrong,” unless you are an administrator or teacher leader willing to voice your concerns in a constructive way, it is best that you just let it go.
Mistake #3: Your Lessons Are Too Repetitive
Part of the joy of teaching is that you get to craft your lessons so that they are interesting and invigorating for both you and your students. But a trap teachers commonly fall into is reusing their plans year after year. If it worked year one, it should still work in year five—it isn’t as if the kids have changed that much. We all have been told to work smarter, not harder, and recycling plans certainly takes a load off.
But while the lesson is new to the latest generation of kids, it isn’t to you. As you get bored, you lose that passion that drives your happiness as an educator.
How to Fix It
This one is an easy fix: stop recycling your plans. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to throw them out, especially if they have been highly successful. Instead, try to modify them so that you get to try something new without losing what worked the first (or second, or third) time around. Get on Pinterest and look for ways you can change things up while still getting the same result. Another great tip is to re-write the plans in different language; this process can help you think of ideas you didn’t come up with the first time around.
Mistake #4: You Don’t Have a Growth Mindset
Individuals who have a growth mindset love to take on challenges and aren’t afraid of failing. This is in contrast to those with a fixed mindset who prefer to remain within their comfort zone and see failure as a sign of lacking intelligence. In many ways, this mistake is intimately connected with mistake #3; they both have to do with sticking to what you know and have done before.
How to Fix It
Put yourself out there and try something new. You can do this by collaborating with your fellow teachers, seeking out professional development opportunities, reading articles and books about educational theory and practice, and then putting the new ideas you take away into action. You can start out small with a goal to try something new once a month, and then build up to a greater frequency; you will quickly see a difference in yourself and your students.
Make the Change
If you are making any of these mistakes, do not hesitate to fix them. The changes needed to remedy the situation are simple and the results more than worth it. Correct these mistakes and reclaim your passion for teaching. Why should you spend another Sunday dreading the day to come?
Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives. (2014, January 29). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/