Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Attitude is Everything

Ahh mid-March.  A week or two before spring break.  It is so close, yet so far away.

The kids are squirrely.  My patience level is a negative 10.  Every year around this time I always question why I'm a teacher.  But I always come back from the fog, remembering why I love what I do.

Regardless of how tough of a time you might be having, there are two things to ALWAYS remember.

1. Students will remember how you treated them before they remember what you taught them.
Think back to teachers you had in middle school or high school.  Think of one you particularly liked.  Now think about everything you remember about him or her.  Chances are, a majority of your memories are linked to the teacher's attitude and demeanor, not the topics you learned in that class.

This is something we all must keep in mind.  At this time of year, it is so easy to snap at students.  Just the other day, a student who habitually just sits in my class, once again did not start on the warm-up I put on the board.  My immediate reaction was to scold him.  Looking back, I felt terrible for it.  There's nothing wrong with redirecting troubled students, but it's all in HOW you do it.  Do you respect your students (even if they don't deserve it)?  Do you treat them with compassion?

I have a student who, right when I came back from maternity leave, was really falling behind.  He was rarely handing in work and his test grades were D's at best.  Day after day he wouldn't turn in his work.  Day after day, I'd internally roll my eyes, all while sternly asking him, "where is your homework this time?"  A few weeks into it all, at the end of a day he was absent, all teachers got an e-mail from his mom.  "He was just diagnosed with depression.  Last night, he told a friend he was going to kill himself."  My heart just sank.  There I was, shedding every ounce of my frustration on him, hoping he'd finally turn it around, and he was just battling to make it through each day.  (I must report that he is doing MUCH better after getting some help) 

Moral of the story?  Students may frustrate the crap out of you.  But you never know what their life is like outside of your classroom.  So treat each student how you would like to be treated.  Be patient.  Be compassionate.  Be kind.

2. Tomorrow is a new day.
Have you ever taught a lesson that just sucked?  Of course you have.  We all have.  Especially now, when there are only a few months to go, it's so easy to give up.  It's so easy to not take that extra mile because you don't have much time to go anyway.

No matter how bad something goes today, you can ALWAYS start fresh tomorrow.  Continuing down the road of suckiness after a few bad lessons is like quitting your diet because you skipped a workout or had a piece of cake.  Everyone has their setbacks.  But it's no reason to not give it 110% every day.  Don't wait for the opportunity to start fresh to come to you. Make it happen. 

If your kids just are not getting something you've been working on for weeks, take a break from it.  Take a day off and do a fun cultural activity.  Then come back to the topic refreshed.  Try a new approach.  You can't use the same notes/methodology/examples and expect the same results.  But start fresh.  Act as if your students are learning it for the first time again.  But don't use any approaches you have used before.  Simply start over.

As we get through "Farch" (February-March) just remember, June WILL come.  Our students WILL learn.  Things WILL improve.  Attitude is everything.  Chin-up and just remember why we do what we do.