Sunday, 24 September 2017

Twenty-Five Years In and What I've Learned

Last fall, I received my 15th year pin from my current workplace.  Before that, I worked in educational contracts, taught continuing education to English language learners, supply taught, taught art classes, ran a small business selling painted furniture and name plaques while raising my children.  I wasn't the teacher who landed a job right away.  Some were luckier.  Timing was on their side and so was who they knew. I didn't let that stop me.  I went looking for work. It didn't come to me.

I decided to leave contractual teaching for two years to start a small business.  I sold hand painted furniture,wall plaques and taught people how to paint.  The work was hard but I loved every minute of it.  Why?  I had a group of ladies who would come out to paint, drink tea, eat muffins and gabble just like the our grandmothers did before us.  I knew that this balance was best for my young family.  It freed up time for play time at the local community centre, playdates with friends from school and appointments.

Then, opportunity happened.  I was at my children's school and they needed a teacher.  I started working part-time and eventually moved to full-time.  Being a teacher has had its ups and downs.  But I have learned something from being in education for 25 years.

1) Be good to yourself.  It's easy to burnout.  I can honestly say I did once.  It was one of the lowest points of my career.  I took on too much and I didn't know how to get out of it.  I was taking care of an ill parent, dealing with a volatile student, running way too many clubs and staying in at recess to help students who were struggling. I've learned to do things that I love and to build them into my day.  It could be as simple as a walk at lunch, going to the staffroom to eat a lunch, reading a book, getting pampered or making time for a quiet dinner.

2) Remove toxic people from your life.  If you're a generally trusting person, then they will come to you.  I promise you they will.  I'm not saying not to trust but to be cautious.  Recognize the signs.  These people are often surrounded by drama, always need to be right, play the victim, hold grudges and are negative about anything and everything.  I've learned to acknowledge how they feel but I won't get wrapped up in their negative energy.  I did that one too many times and learned the hard way that it isn't worth it.

3) Stay current.  Keep yourself informed.  There are wonderful professional development opportunities out there and some are free.  Look for like-minded colleagues who want to explore current pedagogical practices.  Often, they're right in your building.  Some districts have virtual learning series that are free.  Ask about them.  As well, read.  Ask your administrator or librarian if he or she has come across any good resource manuals for current educational practices.

4) Think of Parents as Partners.  If you start to see parents as a negative force in your life, then you've set yourself up for a very difficult year.  You may not agree with every parent but they are responsible for their child and so are you. Learn to listen.  I often call parents the first week of school to welcome them and to ask how their son or daughter's week went.  Believe me, I have been met with gratitude.  Why?  It shows you care if you reach out.  We are after all working to educate and nurture little humans.

5)  Expect the Unexpected.  Have you ever been excited about a lesson only to find out it flopped?  It happens.  The fire drill goes off, someone barfs right in the middle of the classroom, the phone rings, there's someone outside your classroom causing a raucous, the internet isn't working.....  It happens.  So expect the unexpected and roll with it.  Don't fret.  There's always tomorrow.  Plus, if you're teaching through Inquiry then nothing is expected.  The students steer the boat and their learning might just surprise you.

These are a few things I've learned.  I'm still learning.  Are you?

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