We know we have the best job on earth: reaching and inspiring the minds and hearts of today’s youth, shaping the future with each young mind we educate. Yet, we all have days when we feel the tremendous pressure of our profession.
We shoulder a great deal of weight in terms of increased accountability and educational policy—and that’s in addition to the daily stresses of classroom life. We teach, inspire, create, grade, manage, and diffuse. We interact with our students, their parents, our fellow teachers, our department heads, and our administrators, constantly educating, supporting, explaining, and performing.
No two days in the classroom are ever the same. Some days we feel as though we are stretched to the breaking point. Perhaps we spilled our coffee on the morning drive, the fire alarm unexpectedly clanged at the start of first period, we forgot about the assembly scheduled during our planned exam, our instructional mojo was thrown off by a startling classroom observation, or we had to break up a student fight.
How can we maintain an upbeat attitude? How can we rekindle our passion when our morale is on the decline?
All of us are effective classroom teachers who have found ways to maintain resiliency in the face of political and classroom adversity. We have found ways to continue to love our job in the face of surmounting obstacles. The following tips have helped each of us as we continue to navigate today’s educational terrain with a positive spirit and a sense of accomplishment.
Find Positive People
There’s nothing worse than walking into the school break room hoping for a brief reprieve from a long day of teaching, grading, e-mailing, and paperwork, only to be greeted by the sarcastic undertones of negative conversation.
Sure, we all need to vent pent-up frustrations at one time or another, but it’s easy to get caught up in the negative energy of people who tend to see the glass as half empty. One way to boost or maintain our morale is to surround ourselves with positive people. So we make an effort to spend time with those who find the silver lining in life’s challenges. We seek out those who truly love their job.
In accentuating the positive within professional conversation, we strive to maintain a hold on our own positive morale. Perhaps in this way, we can boost the esteem of others.
Have a Happy Folder
It’s no secret that a simple "thank you" can brighten an otherwise bleak day. As teachers, we genuinely care about our students. That’s why we spend so much time and energy ensuring that every lesson is engaging and every child achieves. We refuse to allow our students to settle for less than their absolute best.
In the same vein, we refuse to allow ourselves to give up or settle for less than our best. For this reason, it’s a wonderful feeling to know our time and energy do not go unnoticed.
We have all received tokens of love and appreciation from students over the years. Sometimes, it’s a simple "thank you" whispered at the end of class. Other times, it takes the shape of a hand-written
note or card. To maintain our spirits and to remember that we are appreciated no matter what may come our way on any given day, we have found ways to maintain and treasure such tokens of love.
Some of us keep a drawer of artifacts – gifts, cards, and letters from parents and students. Others maintain a Happy Folder or scrapbook of letters and mementos that we can open any time we need to remember those moments of appreciation. It’s a wonderful source of inspiration and hope as we look back on the words of gratitude our students and their parents expressed over the years.
Excitement and engagement in the classroom can be contagious for teachers and students alike. Just as students hate classes that follow the same strict, boring format day after day, it can get tiresome and tedious when we find ourselves settling into a routine that discourages creativity.
As teachers, we love to be inspired almost as much as we hope to inspire others. Generating new, unique ideas for the classroom is a great way to feel rejuvenated and re-connect with our passion. Finding a way to let our creative juices flow helps us to find positivity in our lives.
Some of us use online resources such as Pinterest, Snapfish, and Shutterfly as wonderful sources of inspiration. Crafting and sharing creative lessons, activities, classroom décor, and management strategies reminds us just how much fun and engaging classroom teaching can be.
Connect with Professional Organizations
When things get tough, it’s comforting to know we’re not alone. One way we boost our morale is by connecting with those we meet in professional organizations, clubs, and committees. In joining these organizations, we join a group of like-minded individuals who are passionate about their craft and have great ideas for engaging lessons.
Several of us turn to our colleagues and friends we’ve met through these organizations for support, ideas, and validation. Being a part of a professional organization also affords us opportunities to attend and present at conferences and to read and contribute to professional publications.
Maintain the Passion
Even the most successful, effective educators can succumb to the stresses that come along with the profession. It’s a hard job, and staying positive is how we have not only survived, but thrived.
Each of us entered the teaching profession for different reasons, but one thing that has kept us here is our unyielding passion for our students, classroom, and education. It’s important that we find ways to maintain our resiliency and overall morale if we hope to remain in the classroom for years to come.
Brooke B. Eisenbach is an English instructor with the Florida Virtual School.firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer M. Denmon teaches English at Boca Ciega High School in Pinellas County, Florida. email@example.com
Taylor W. Sampson is an English teacher with the Florida Virtual School. firstname.lastname@example.org
Theresa Rice is a reading teacher at Tomlin Middle School in Plant City, Florida email@example.com
Camille A. Daley is an ESE teacher at Tomlin Middle School
in Plant City, Florida. firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in AMLE Magazine, August 2013.