November 29, 2011

Being my Best Self

Or, "Why nobody likes a tired, stressed, crabby teacher"

I am EXHAUSTED tonight.  And, for the second night in a row, I'm skipping my workout.  But I'm okay with that.  Yesterday I just wasn't up to it after a rotten day at school (the only cure for which was Mad Men and falling asleep on the couch at 8:30...), and today I think I just need a mental health night after another long (but thankfully not rotten) day.  Oh, and my IT band is HELLA TIGHT again--sweet.  Sometimes I think skipping a run makes it tighter, but I'm hoping a night of foam rolling and icing will help!
It seems like I have a consistent trend of having just plain sucky Mondays at school.  Yesterday was one of those, "And WHY am I a teacher again??" kind of days...the kind of day when I pause and think, "Is there any possible way that I can keep doing this job for the next 30 years?"  Thankfully I don't have those days very often anymore.  You guys, I love teaching.  I love my students.  But the pressure is ridiculous.  I feel more this year than I ever have before that if my kids don't make their projected growth targets, it will be 100% my fault.  It's just a lot to handle sometimes.  Add a nutty group of kids on top of that pressure and it's easy to lose sight of what really matters (and lose my patience...).  I should probably have taken a deep breath and read this sign that I have hanging by my desk a few times...
Adapted from Quantum Learning
Today was MUCH better.  Before the bell rang I committed to giving the day ENERGY.  I forced myself to let go of the stress and worries and frustrations and gave it all I had.  The difference in my kids in comparison to the day before was ridiculous--in an awesome way.  See, when things are breaking down in the classroom it's easy to blame it on those crazy kids, but some times it helps so much to look at your own actions and think, "What can I be doing differently?"  The thing is, when I let the stress GET TO ME, I forget to enjoy teaching.  When I don't enjoy teaching, my kiddos don't enjoy learning.  And of course when my kiddos aren't enjoying learning, they check out.  Give up.  Quit.  And inevitably find one million and one ways to derail my lesson.  This is no good for anyone.
Maybe I need this sign hanging by my desk too!
But when I bring energy to my teaching?  It's amazing what they can get excited about.  A few of the kiddos were even talking about how interesting our nonfiction guided reading books about women's suffrage were.  *love*  Really, there's no question that it's worth it.  So, here it is:

Consider this my personal commitment to being my best self every day at school until break (and beyond...).  My students deserve it.  They are worth it.  That means that no matter how stressed and tired I am, I WILL be bringing a high level of energy to every single lesson--even the boring ones on fractions. :)  WHO'S WITH ME??

After a successful day teaching, at 3:00 I found myself staring at....A PROJECT.  I don't know about you, but I'll be in the middle of a task that actually needs to be completed when suddenly I have an overwhelming urge to clean out my closet, rearrange my furniture, or alphabetize my files...(go ahead and mock.  I embraced this psycho part of my personality LONG ago!)  This happens CONSTANTLY in my classroom!  I've reorganized my cabinets and rearranged the furniture more times in the past 3 years than some teachers do in their whole careers.  (Usually when I have stacks of grading or lessons to plan!)  Anyways, I digress.  Last year I shared the simple system I used to keep desk clutter at a minimum...
This worked GREAT for me last year, but to tell you the truth, this year it's done nothing but collect dust.  Well, let me clarify that--I still dumped papers in the "to file" and "to grade" bins, but never emptied them.  "To copy" papers were being stored in piles on my desk.  Why?  No clue.  Consequently the "file" bin help math handouts and random literacy sheets from September that still needed to be filed.  On a high from my high-energy day, I decided to tackle this project.  Of course it evolved to a total reorganization and inevitably a big old mess in the process...
But hallelujah everything is in its place now.  I can rest peacefully tonight. :)  Don't know why I didn't think to take an after picture!  After that project, spending far too long stressing over the formatting on a math test, and stopping at the library to pick up picture books for a literacy lesson, thoughts of running were far long gone, having been taken over by two clear thoughts: GET FOOD and GET OUT OF HEELS asap.  

Sooo after that rambly post, I'm off to eat my effortless dinner, curl up on the couch, and enjoy some mindless Glee.  Oh, and there might be some peppermint ice cream in my near future... (That is, of course, before I start digging into my leg with my foam roller... :)  

Teachers: How do you keep a positive attitude and a smile on your face despite the incredible stress and pressure of the job?

Who's with me on my commitment to being my best self and bringing ENERGY to the classroom??


  1. The teachers I work with help me keep a smile on my face although truthfully it can be because we vent together and that helps. Then we can smile.

  2. I had one of those days today. I normally would WANT a run to calm me down, but had so many errands to run after an already crummy day with hormonal 5th graders, that I put my flannels on instead! :) The pressure is immense! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I try to keep two groups of people in my mind in order to stay positive and give it my best everyday. The first are my fellow teachers, at my school and everywhere else, who battle the same battles as I do on a daily basis. It helps to know we all go through the same (or similar) experiences regardless of what levels or where we teach. This is why I love reading blogs such as this one. :)

    The second group are my good students--the ones who want to be there, who want to learn, and who bring a good attitude to class.

    Right there with you in solidarity, Amy!

  4. Not sure if this applies to you, but whenever my IT band starts having issues, it's usually because I'm not properly stretching out and taking care of my hips. I went to a physical therapist who recommended deep tissue massage for immediate relief but also hot yoga to keep the hips more pliable. Just something to consider.

  5. this post is amazing! it really is so crazy to me how our attitude can impact not only our own day but the day and attitudes of others as well. i always love reading your posts about your experiences as a teacher. i can only imagine how much patience it takes but i can tell that you are having such a positive impact and put your full heart into your work!

  6. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I have been struggling lately with the whole "Why am I teaching" thing. Sometimes I don't know if I can do it much longer and I have even said I don't know if I can handle being in the classroom anymore. I know I don't mean it, but after a long frustrating day it's easier to say I don't want to do it anymore then to figure out a way to make it better. I know that when I'm upbeat and positive about whatever I'm teaching, my kids are the same and enjoy it more, but when I'm dreading the subject -- they end up hating it, too. And of course that's when all the huge behaviors show up. I copied your pictures and favorited this post. I'm going to have to come read this often and remind myself that I'm making a difference in these kids lives. Pressure or no pressure -- I LOVE my job 99.9% of the time.

    Thanks for this -- and sorry for the book. : )

  7. One of my colleagues asked me, right before Thanksgiving, if I felt as overwhelmed as her. I honestly answered "yes" and she said "well dang Sunny I can NEVER tell because you are SO positive all the time".

    I didn't used to be. I let things get me down and then I was not a good person to be around. I ended up leaving the job I had because I hated teaching, hated myself, hated my life and just plain hated the day-to-day stress of my job. But really...since I stepped away from that, learned to say NO, put myself and my family first ALWAYS, it's much easier to keep things in perspective. Do I get tired? Of course! Do I get overwhelmed and stressed out? YES!

    But every day is a new one. I give that same thing to my students -- I am not going to Lord over them if they did something really irresponsible the day before. We're going to turn it into a teachable moment and move on.

    Over the summer I read Awakened and it really helped me to focus on being positive. I think it is a choice. It isn't to say I never have bad days or wonder why the hell I became a teacher...but I let it go. Most of the stuff that stresses me out, I have no control over so I pray about it and let it go. And it helps SO.MUCH.

  8. Amy-

    Are you sure I didn't pay you to write that post for me????? All I can say is, "What a year and group of kids I have!!!" This is what I am calling my "year of frustration". :) Out of 49 students I have 11 that have failed a grade at some point-1 of those is actually supposed to be in the 9th grade! I teach 6th! I teach reading and language arts, and yesterday I sent home 21 D/F letters!! OMG!! This has been going on all year-kids not doing homework, not reading, not studying, not.... AND I got a new student today! In the middle of class! Fun fun! :)

    So-what do I do to stay positive? Well, I haven't been, but am thinking about taking up drinking! Are you in?? :)

    I have GOT to stop being so negative all the time about this group I have this year, but I feel like I'm in a rut and can't dig myself out!! The only thing that is keeping me sane right now is meandering through the bloggy world!!! All of ya'll cheer me up!

    I am going to make a commitment with you to stay upbeat and energized from now until Christmas break! To give it my all! 110%! Then I'll regroup again over the break. Here's to you, girl!

    Oh, yeah-are we kin? Because I have rearranged my room around a million times this year-I have done that for the 8 years I've taught! AND-I always do things like this when I have something more important to do-like grading papers, lesson plans, etc. :)


  9. You're an amazing teacher and person!! Just keep swimming, just keep swimming ;)

  10. A few weeks ago the pressures at school were more than I could handle. With common core breathing down my neck the question "Can I keep doing this for years to come" arrives in my mind daily.

    I was FORCED to put a sign in front of my desk that says "Today I am here for the KIDS".

    I have had to stop worrying, stressing, panicking about having the perfect lesson plans, being the perfect teacher and learning everything I can about common core. I've put more of my focus on THE KIDS.; loving kids for who they are, finding the good in them, being there for them and celebrating them.

    My stress was certainly absorbed by them so I had to change. And thank God it's working.


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