Let me start by saying that my struggle is so real that I actually didn't even turn this blog post in on time. I think we all know that at this point in the school year we are all just trying to survive. The weather is turning nicer, standardized tests are around the corner, schedules get weird and wacky, and we all just want to be anywhere other than in our classrooms. When I look back at first semester I realize that I was working so hard at a lot of the wrong things. But now looking at 7 weeks left in the school year, I can say that this second semester has felt like the best and the least stressful that I've ever had. Listed below in no particular order are the things that I did differently to help me find peace; maybe they will help you too.
1. Talk to your students; it makes it easier to be patient with them.
I believe the most simple yet effective thing I did this semester was take five to ten minutes out of my class period and just have a normal conversation with my students. It all started when I stopped giving a bell-ringer. Yes for the first 10 minutes of class one day we talked about Teen Titans Go; and that conversation led to other conversations that day about Bad Girls Club and other really really bad reality TV shows. But looking back on that day, that conversation we had was the beginning of one of my most challenging classes actually becoming a class I enjoyed walking into my room.
2. Stop trying so hard, just be you.
I don’t mean stop caring about your kids or trying to do your job. I mean stop losing sleep over it (unless it’s on the line or something). Do what comes natural to you. While I realize teaching is about “performing” for your students, it’s also about being real with the kids. I can let my kids know if I’m feeling a little under the weather and apologize if I tanked a lesson so we have to try again. And because I’m being me and honest they cut me some slack. I have found that when my students offer me grace, it is much easier to offer them grace in return.
3. Find teacher friends who are helpful (and smarter than you) who will share with you.
This is my 4th year teaching ICP, yet every learning activity I’ve done this semester are brand new to me. I taught an entire unit predominantly through hands-on projects and the kids (most of them) loved it! Because I was willing to reach out to another teacher who is immensely more creative than I am (I’m talking about you Mr. Self), I had no lesson plans to write for 8 weeks and my students and I spent our time laughing and working together. I suggest you do the same, there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun with your classes.
*Spoiler: I wasn’t even clever enough to come up with the topic for this blog post, kudos to Mrs. Darnay*
4. Give the kids a chance and ask for their opinions.
This is one I still struggle with, not because it’s hard to ask but because the kids are not used to the question so sometimes I hear *crickets.* It all started with a Canvas module re-model. It all made sense to me, but it wasn’t working for them. So I asked them how to make it work, and the kids who wanted to were not shy about sharing their thoughts with me. Now I sometimes don’t even have to ask; those few kids who know I’m listening to them are not afraid to tell me how they’d like to do or see certain things. And I’m better because of it. I can anticipate some of their needs and I feel much more comfortable giving them options about assignments, deadlines, and how we cover our content. Loosen your grip on the reins and give them a little more responsibility.
Everyday isn’t perfect, but I can tell you that I’m at a place where even on the bad days I just roll with it and try to do better the next day. To all the teachers in the struggle right now, find your happy place and know that you are not alone.
Gabi Ingram (now Bradley) is in her 4th year of teaching, but her first year at Pike High School. She currently teaches ICP and Biology. Outside of the classroom she coaches soccer and enjoys CrossFit.