As schools across the country approach the end of the year, teachers can start to lose steam. Many are even questioning whether they will be staying in the profession. I like to call this the “Grass is Greener Syndrome”. We think that things will be better at another school, or in a different industry, but the reality is we love education. We love our jobs. We just need to be reminded.
The good news is there are scientifically proven methods that allow us to stop day dreaming about a far-off, non-existent land where nothing goes wrong, and moves us toward being mindful and focused on the good that is happening right under our noses.
Here are three tangible, simple, daily habits that will help you do this. All you need is 5 minutes and a notebook.
Focus On What Went Well
If you had to break down your day into a ratio of things that went well to things that went poorly, what would that breakdown look like? 80-20? 90-10? Then why do you we focus on the 10% of our day that was unpleasant versus the 90 that was fine?
Positive psychologist Dr. Robert Emmons has done decades of research on the benefits of gratitude. He found it has the power to heal, re-energize, transform, and enhance your overall well-being. Gratitude is inversely related to depression. So, take time every day to write 3 things that went well in your classroom or 3 things you are grateful for. This might be something as simple as a brand new box of printer paper, or new dry erase markers.
See the Good in Your Students
Our students are more than their bad behavior. Quite frankly, even when a teacher perceives a class to be falling apart before their eyes, the class is actually doing alright. Short of a handful of students that can be challenging, what are the rest of your kids doing? Are they trying to get an assignment accomplished? Are they collaborating with one another? Write that down. Notice it. Give them specific praise.
If every day you wrote down one thing one student did to make your day, your mood will improve. If you take it a step further and share that specific praise, your relationship with your students will improve. This is also important for two reasons. One, it reminds that are students are just like us: multi-faceted. Two, research shows that a 5:1 positivity ratio is good for all relationships, so you might as well make it a habit. Visit the Gottman Institute to learn more about the “Magic Relationship Ratio.”
Commit to Small, Daily Improvements and Reflection
If we mess up, we have to keep moving forward without the luxury of pausing our work, perhaps, and walking over to someone’s office for feedback or guidance. Therefore, we have to commit to small changes we can make daily that will eventually amount to great, noticeable, long-term results. Every day, write down one thing you will do better the next school day. Maybe it is remembering to set a timer on the board for your students to keep track of their work pace. Perhaps you want to make one positive phone call home for a student whose parent you haven't met yet. Just commit to one, small, easy to-do.
Ultimately, you just want to take a moment every single day to be reflective. Find the good in yourself and in your students and focus on the things that are within your control to change.
My challenge to you is to take the gratitude challenge in the last 9 weeks of school. Now, more than ever, this is important to finish the year strong. You can purchase a pre-populated journal that prompts you to take the three aforementioned steps: 9 Weeks of Gratitude for the Reflective Teacher. Or, you can find printable versions online in my Members Only Freebies section. Really, if you have a notebook and a pen, you can do this every single day for free. The most important thing is to just start.
Carla Rivera-Cruz (CRC) is an educator and entrepreneur committed to helping like-minded educators reach their fullest potentials.