Dress Code: A Happy Heart

There are many things they don’t teach you in your teacher preparation program (or many educational programs for that matter) about what the actual day to day experience and possible obstacles are in the profession. During my graduate program I never learned how to: run a parent-teacher conference, manage paraeducators or teaching assistance, collaborate with colleagues who strong & differing opinions, create a resource room schedule, and navigate your contract… just to name a few… Thankfully I had been placed at the same school for my entire graduate program and had slowly navigated these systems. At the end of my student teaching, I was informed an additional special education teacher would be added… and that I was placed there. It felt too good to be true, but I was excited to take on my first year of teaching. 


Fast forward to one year later in the middle of September, two weeks after school had started. I was co-teaching sixth grade block with my teacher bff, was working on getting my class of boys with emotional-behavioral disorders ready for high school, and I was informed that I was being involuntarily transferred. Wait what? Did I do something? I had never heard the term “involuntary transfer” in my entire life… talk about the beginning of an emotional rollercoaster. 

I was transferred due to declining enrollment within Special Education and I was lowest in seniority on my team. This school was the only place I had ever interned and taught– my colleagues were apart of my family and my students meant the world to me. I was informed that there were only high school positions available and needed to make a choice. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the next couple of weeks to follow, but I learned so much about unions, our contracts, and educational policy… I am a huge advocate of teacher preparation programs adding this information to the coursework.

In the middle of my fight, a blogger has posted a picture of the five-minute journal. I googled it and found a copy on amazon. I impulsively clicked “1-click buy” on amazon and ordered my self a copy. I had no idea what I had just purchased. At this point, I felt like my teaching career could be over and I needed to find a way to stop self-destructing. I literally looked like Marge Simpson and my eyes were chronically blue and bagged from the constant flow of tears. On any normal day, I am an incredibly positive person… yet all that positivity had been overthrown by anger, uncertainty, heartbreak, and my students reactions when I had to tell them the news.

It was two days before my last day when my five-minute journal arrived and let me tell you, the journal made the transition a whole lot easier. I felt like I had lost all control of my life and needed to take charge. I opened my journal and read the dedication: to lifelong learners and doers. You’re changing the world everyday. Sold.

Next page: “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it” -Ronald Dahl
The Five Minute Journal is not a magic pill. Although, there is certainty some magic at work here.” I like the sound of this… I continued to read the various sections: how it works, basic principles, and the explanation of the routines.

Every morning you start your day with reading a positive quote or accepting a weekly challenge. First, you focus on what you’re grateful for and write those three things down. Then, you focus on creating a better day and choose three things within the power of your control, that you can do to make the day great. The last step is a daily affirmation, which was incredibly awkward at first, but builds an understanding of the person you want to be. Each section has credible research backing up the importance.

Every evening, you reflect and write down three amazing things that happened during the day and one thing that could have made today even better. Some days the amazing things were easy to find because they were so meaningful and other days I was searching really hard for a little spark of amazing somewhere within the day just to write it down… but let me tell you, I slowly felt my mindset shifting and transforming back into the positive person I was before, as I was constantly writing down all the things I have to be grateful for.

For the first couple of weeks, I continued my day with racing thoughts of, “Ugh… x y & z… why…” or “Great… another day of—” I was forced to roll over to my nightstand, open my journal, and dig deep into my gratitude, my hopes, and what I could control to write down the positive. Started noticing that throughout the day, I was telling myself “remember this to write down as something that made today amazing…” There’s so much power in finding the positive in a negative situation.

Teaching is hard, life is hard… we can’t reach a student we are trying everything to do, we have to sit through a meeting that should have been sent out in an e-mail, we had a bad evaluation, out of control students, not feeling supported, angry phone calls from parents, computer crashes, colleagues not following through, coffee splatters on our new shirt, leaving your lunch at home, ridiculous traffic on the way to work just to find out it was all caused because a scooby doo van was pulled over on the side of the road and everyone slowed down just to look at it…

I ended up falling in love with my elementary school and honestly can’t imagine what my career would be without ever knowing my admin, my colleagues, and my students. The school year was incredibly challenging but it reinforces my belief that everything happens for a reason… I never would have left my previous school if I wasn’t forced to and I needed my elementary students just as much as they needed me. 

There was an on-going challenge that I was faced with on a daily basis at my new school and negatively impacted my mindset throughout the summer– I almost walked away. After another aggravating phone call, I went into my nightstand and picked up my five-minute journal… The situation had me feeling similar to my involuntary transfer… No closure and no control. It had been months since I had written in my journal and I recommitted myself to the process. Within a week, I was already feeling more in control and happier.

Every day there are a million things that can go wrong– but things going “wrong” is all about our mindset. The beginning of the school year is exhausting, rewarding, frustrating, and relieving… If you are finding yourself focusing your energy on the negative aspects of your day instead of all the reason you have to be grateful for, start the five-minute journal. I wish I would have pulled my journal out sooner. It’s by no way a miracle or a “magic pill”, but it helps you see what’s important each day and recognize all the tiny wonderful moments that pass on through without our busy minds stopping to think, “I am lucky… I am loved… I am valued…”

It’s my belief that a happy heart is the most important teacher (and human) wardrobe essential. Without a happy heart, it’s hard to be a happy teacher, and if you aren’t a happy teacher… the students will sense it and realllllly make it seem like hitting every red light was the best part of your day. To be the best we can be, we have to take care of ourselves first & foremost.

I’m going to be using the five-minute journal every day– without stopping once things calm down like I did last time. I want to be able to look back and this year and count all the beautiful little things that happened and really generalize my ability to always find the brightness in the day. I’ve got lots of tiny humans counting on me. I’ve got this!

To add this empower strategy to your wardrobe click here —> The Five-Minute Journal

The five-minute journal has really helped me– what different strategies do you do to keep a happy heart during challenging times?

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P.S this is absolutely in no way sponsored. It’s just me wanting to share with everyone a strategy that has really helped me overcome some big obstacles… and really let go of all the small little ones 🙂

Ashley Boston

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