I’m going to ask for a little bit of grace on not following my typical format for my fall teacher outfit post this week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were filled with non-stop self-growth, reflection, and learning for both my students, colleagues, and I. I’m debating ordering a pair of combat boots and wearing them every day next week haha
Instead of talking about the outfit details and how to dress the featured piece up or down, I’m going to share the lesson I learned each day. Reflecting as a teacher can be really challenging at times. I think a lot of that comes from wanting to do right by all or the majority of our students and there are so many obstacles in allowing us to do that. When we reflect, it’s easy not to accept responsibility for certain things because of all the curriculum we have to get through, the policies we have to follow, the growth our students are expected to make, and all the school initiatives we must adhere to. It’s easy to say “that’s not my responsibility, I’m stressed, I have too much to deal with, & I don’t have time!” when thinking about the challenging obstacles throughout the week.
After one of the hardest days of my career, I realized me and everyone around me made multiple mistakes, all in the name of doing what was best for the student. While that day put a lot of stress and anxiety of a lot of adults at my school and I can’t speak for what they did the next day, I chose to reflect on my actions and make changes that started Thursday. Instead of ending my week stressed and upset, I ended it exhausted but excited for Monday. I chose not to beat myself up about the actions and I chose not to become angry with all the adults around me. I chose to reflect and think about the obstacle as a lesson learned and instead of blame others, I chose to change my practice and focus on what I can control… which is only me.
Lesson learned: Kids who often get in-trouble really view themselves as bad. I asked all my fifth graders to write one word that describes the way people see them. 10 students, 8 with behavior or social-emotional goals, 2 without. 8 out of my 10 students wrote either “bad” “dangerous” or “stupid” and my other 2 wrote “good.” These are fifth graders. They think that they are bad. BAD? To me, bad kids don’t exist, only bad choices. I explained that to them and a couple explained to me that they know I don’t think they are bad but it’s the other teachers. I felt angry at a lot of the adults in my building because I know no teacher wants to make kids feel like they are bad, but when kids are constantly being redirected and getting introuble for the same thing over and over again, it’s easy for them to think that. Instead of letting my anger enable me or talking with the adults, I chose to focus on the kids. We are working towards changing the describing word.
TUESDAY D E T A I L S
Lesson Learned: Angry kids in the hall just want someone to care and it’s okay to not know what type of care they need, but it’s not okay to get angry back. I took a special education IDEA day on Tuesday to get caught up on an insane amount of paperwork I have this next week and while I was hiding in our school psychologist office, I heard a lot of disruption from above the stares. There are a lot of general education students at my school who are having a difficult time regulating their emotions. I walked up the stairs and encountered multiple incredibly angry children. Throughout the year, I will smile or say hello to these kiddos every time I pass them. When I walked up stairs I was instantly yelled at, told I was hated, and to “go away you stupid teacher.” I have control and a couple choices: 1) Get angry: you can not talk to me like that. I’m getting the principal. 2) Ignore and walk away. 3) Calming share I care and try to talk to them 4) Calming share I care, stay and give space.
I chose #4. I explained I saw he was upset and I didn’t want him to be upset all by himself, so I was going to sit on the floor and if he wanted to come talk with me, I would wait. He continued to scream awful thing at me for about 5 minutes and I noticed he was wearing basketball shoes. In the middle of the screams I asked him if he liked basketball, to which he stopped telling me how awful I was and said yes. I started asking him questions about basketball and you could see his anger decrease. Eventually we got to a place where I could walk him to my classroom because he has a relationship with one of my colleagues and go back to my IDEA day. The way we show students we care look different for everyone and this strategy I used probably won’t work the next time, but it reminded me that all kids, no matter their rage and their words, truly just want someone to take time for them. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this student walked by my classroom and said hello and asked if we could spend more time together. If I would have gotten angry when he was telling me how much he hates me and I suck… I would have been another adult in his life that isn’t giving him the care he needs.
Lesson Learned: My job is not to build up adults, it’s to build up children. Should there be a balance? Yes. Should I be coaching adults in working with tier 3 students? Yes. But my job is to support children first. I realized that I make a lot of my decisions as a balance between adult integrity and child integrity, but often times the child integrity and self-work is being jeopardized… or their voice isn’t being heard. I cared too much about what my colleagues thought about me and my decisions. I wouldn’t speak up in fear of people disagreeing with me and experiencing a situation that happened last year. I was scared. In being scared, I wasn’t advocating for my students to the extent that they needed and continue to need. I will no longer be making decisions to please adults, but only making decisions to help my students grow. If that means I face conflict or disagreements, I’m ready to take it on and speak my truth because I refuse to be another adult in any child’s life that isn’t brave enough to do what’s right for them. It’s going to be hard but I’m ready.
Lesson Learned: Kids are flexible when you explain the why. I had to cancel most of my groups for a morning of problem solving and I was worried about the message it would send to them. I decided to be honest and explain that I needed to problem solve in order to help teachers and kids know how their actions effect one-in-other. Usually I would have just said, “I have meetings and I will make it up to you.” but I decided to be honest and it worked. There was no anger, no push-back, they showed me understanding. Fifth graders who have a diagnosis of EBD showed me understanding with a major change in their schedule… Honesty really is the best policy.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes you just gotta dance and trade in the emotions for fun. After this week, which I didn’t provide a ton of detail in and only focused on one major lesson. I was fried, they could feel the tension around the school, and again… I had a choice. Either push my lesson plans or let go and just dance. We danced. We played tag and I took my shoes off and I was it the whole time. I dragged my school psychologist into it. We talked about perceptions of others and how we are viewed, and we threw fruit snacks up in the air and caught them in our mouths. We still got a lot of academic work done, but after a long week for all of us, we ended it wishing there was more time in the day. I didn’t allow my emotions, my tiredness, my stress, and my type-a teaching personality get the best of me. I noticed where I was at and where I wanted them to be on a Friday and just went for it. It’s okay to ditch your plans, ditch the stress, and ditch the routine every once in a while. I would have rather proven how fast I was then proven how much of an emotional mess I was 🙂
Being a teacher is freaken hard. But being a student and a child is even harder. They are counting on us every single day to show up in a good place and value them… all of them. If there are days where we are so emotional and exhausted… against your admin, your personal goals, the policies, or the curriculum, just ditch it. If you’re too emotional to teach, that is okay. Don’t let your emotions be another reason why they are bad. Let your high emotions be a reason they love you and love being at school.
You have that control.
I would love to hear what lessons you learned this week 🙂 Post in the comments below!