No matter how high your Bachelor of Education GPA, no matter how many years you dreamed of a career in the classroom, you’ll have times of moaning, “Why did I ever become a teacher?!” Students do get restless and uncooperative. Days do happen when you see no sign of your work accomplishing anything worthwhile.
If it happens occasionally and passes quickly, discouragement is nothing to worry about. But if it sets up long-term housekeeping, it’s going to cause you and your students plenty of problems. Know how to head off “down days” before they become a way of life.
- Watch your expectations.
Even if you minored in child psychology, the fact remains that students are unique individuals and don’t always respond according to the manual. Don’t fight it. Observe all your kids and learn what motivates them; and accept that you may still get an occasional hard case who is determined not to learn, period. For which there’s no cause to blame yourself.
However, if faculty gossip has already labeled an incoming student as “impossible,” beware of negative expectations lest you perpetuate a self-fulfilling prophecy. Make a point of expecting the best from everyone.
- Stay out of the comparison game.
Don’t ever blast a student’s self-esteem with such comments as, “Why can’t you understand this like everyone else?” And don’t compare yourself to other teachers who seem to be more popular or more effective. Everyone—including you—is an individual meant to be valued for individual abilities.
- Count your blessings.
When you feel “down” on yourself or on teaching in general, avoid nourishing that feeling into a long-term toxic habit; forget the “poor me, no one appreciates all the effort I put in” self-talk. And definitely don’t help spread the negativity virus by joining fellow teachers in a gripe session. Instead, make a list of everything you like about teaching: a “thank you” from a student, a social media post expressing support for all teachers, the opportunities you find to learn new things.
- Be honest about your own imperfections.
No, you don’t have to (and won’t be able to) convince the kids you’re infallible. If anything, they’ll respect you more for being big enough to admit a mistake.
And if you have real problems dealing with some teaching issue, don’t be afraid to ask for a trusted friend’s advice, or even to get professional counseling. A problem ignored just gets worse; a problem quickly diagnosed is a problem quickly remedied.
- Think long-term.
Hopefully, you went into education not in hopes of regularly experiencing instant gratification, but because you wanted to help generate long-term success in young lives. Let that perspective sustain you when you feel beset on all sides by unappreciative students, complaining parents, and regulatory red tape. And teach your students the value of long-term thinking as well: share stories on what today’s successful adults were doing at your students’ age, and initiate class discussions on how today’s lessons are steps toward “when I grow up” careers. Kids get discouraged, too: set them an example of overpowering discouragement with optimism and hope!
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!