A Teacher’s 5 Tips on How to Survive the Toughest Days

In the teacher trenches we have all had those days where our students test our patience, find ways to push all of our buttons (including that big red one labeled DO NOT PUSH HERE), and speak at a volume that leaves us with that fabulous end of day migraine. It is in those days that we most need to remember why we continue to love and educate our little angels. These students need us, above all of the government and administrative intervention that we have had to endure over the last couple of years, we should look into those little eyes and remember we are here for them! At the start of this year I wrote down my 5 tips to loving my students, even through the most difficult of days, to refer to and keep my mind focused on their education and how much they truly need me at my best!

1. It’s OK to laugh at yourself and WITH your students
If we take ourselves too seriously as teachers our students will never see the fun in education. I personally find myself hilarious (sometimes that may be a singular view) and when I laugh at myself it allows my students to feel comfortable doing the same. This translates when they make a mistake during a lesson, or discussion, they are able to see that it is ok and realize that there is something to learn from each mistake we make. They will more readily participate and be actively aware of their learning process. Also, when we are having a tough day with our students I find it always helpful to take a quick break and be a little silly. Just this morning we played a game called “I Spy”. We stood in a circle and I said “I Spy my students playing air guitar” to which we all (yes I chose to join them) proceeded to rock out like Van Halen in their hay-day.

2. Give them even more love when you feel like screaming
Many years we have those few students who are pushing us to our very limit in terms of patience and sanity. Those students are often the ones who need the most love! I have encountered students who one second can be kicking and screaming about how much they hate school (thanks a lot kid) and after a simple hug will say how much they love school and me as a teacher. When you feel like you’re about to lose your mind, rip out your hair, or throw your own fit take a breath and ask your little angel if they need a hug. Even if it is you who seems to need the hug more, this can help solve a ton of your problems!

3. Be Honest!
If you’re having a bad day, or you’re not feeling very well be honest with your class. Most of the time those little sponges will soak up the fact that you are not feeling too hot and feed off of it. If you’d like them to show you some mercy tell them what’s going on. When the students feel connected to you and how you’re feeling they, a lot of the time, feel obligated to at least try to make you feel better. Even if it is just a silly little note that says “I love you Ms. Stern” it can brighten your day just a bit. Also, being honest with yourself should be priority number one! When a lesson is not going well don’t push yourself and your students through it. Take a step back and think, “Is there anything I can do to rectify this situation right now?” and if your answer is no, given that you have a student throwing a fit, another who will not stop shouting out answers, and about 5 more who are building castles out of their math manipulatives, then think honestly about what is best for your students learning. If it’s not working then it’s just not working. Think about it later and find a solution to revisit the content at a later date! Which brings me to number 4 on my list!

4. Remember, there is ALWAYS tomorrow
All too often teachers feel pressure to get through a certain amount of lessons in a day, or week. With the transfer of power over to the all mighty COMMON CORE it seems that we are now expected to hit every standard, meet every objective, and reach every goal that the CCSS has set fourth for us. Truth is the common core is a great guideline for what we do in our classrooms, but as any teacher will tell you every classroom in America has a drastically different dynamic and demographic of students. I do my best to get through the lessons expected of me daily. I meet with my team and we work through what we anticipate will be a solid plan for the following week. I believe my colleagues would be the first to tell you that that train more than likely ends up way off track from day to day. We do our best to get to the lessons we feel fit the needs of our students and we remember that if it doesn’t get done today – there is always tomorrow!

5. Always remind yourself why you got into teaching in the first place
I know why I became a teacher. I have to remind myself almost daily why I chose a profession that doesn’t pay very well, is not at all glamorous (not nearly as glamorous as I feel inside), and is often times painful (re: the migraines I spoke about earlier). I became a teacher because I remember how it felt when that one teacher changed my mind about education. I was not a very good student, all throughout high school I struggled with the idea of the looming real world. Until one teacher proved to me that my education was, in fact, worth something. I remember finally feeling excited about the possibilities, and all of the opportunities that were out there waiting for me. I remind myself of that feeling and hope that my students feel excited by the possibilities and opportunities that they have in front of them. We teach children from all types of socioeconomic backgrounds, but if we can prove to them that their education is priceless, as my teacher did for me, well then this job will have been worth it all.

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