He led with the standard opening, "Tell us about yourself." When I shared that I am in my third decade in education and more on fire than ever, he said, "That's an anomaly. Tell us how you've lasted and stayed passionate."
Of course, I answered, but his question got me thinking, "How have I really lasted and enjoyed what I do? How can I help others have the same passion?"
Like most educators, I've had seasons where I wanted to exit education. Seasons where I thought my class or job couldn't get any harder. And it did. At those moments, I've dialed into some fundamental principles that keep me aflame.
Since this year is my thirty-third year in education, I'm sharing thirty-three surefire ways to enjoy teaching more. Let's celebrate!
33 Things I've Learned in 33 Years of Education to Enjoy Teaching/Leading More
Faith- Each day. I pray for strength and guidance. Each day I listen to upbeat, inspiring music on my commute to work. It sets the tone for my day. Currently, I blast this faith-filled, positive playlist.
Love kids- Love is spelled: T I M E. Build relationships with all kids. Love means you work through conflicts and restore all relationships. Listen to ALL kids.
Believe in ALL kids.
Have non-educator friends- It's so healthy to have friends to share different interests with and engage in conversations not centered around school. I love what I do, but I love it less when I eat, sleep, and breathe it.
Invest in good, supportive shoes- One of my mentors from the early days told me to wear quality, supportive shoes AND switch my shoes daily. Let's face it, standing on concrete floors daily all day takes a toll on your feet, body, and joints. Her wisdom is true. Not wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row prevents foot fatigue. My shoes are an investment. I spend more than most because I can't accomplish much when my feet and body hurt. Start now, no matter your age, and invest in quality shoes.
Approach your day with wonder instead of dread. Find wonder in what you do. When you love the process, you'll love what it produces.
Continue to grow- Often, new teachers leave because of demands piled upon demands and behavior challenges. I've always sought answers to what frustrates me in teaching. I go to as many professional development opportunities every year as possible. Throughout my career, I continue to learn, grow, and keep up with the skills needed for the current time. Todd Whitaker, an education guru, and leader, stated, "Give teachers support and skills. When they have those two things, they are less likely to exit education. My book, Be Their Warrior provides both plus encouragement.
Read wide- Dave Burgess, New York Times best-selling author of Teach Like a Pirate, hit the nail on the head, "I believe the best books to read about teaching are rarely in the education section. I always have three or four books on my nightstand, a book in my car, one in my school bag, and several more on my phone. I consider it one of the most important parts of my job to constantly expose myself to the high quality thinking of other people."
Switch up education roles- Switch grade levels. Find a new position in education. When you do, you have new challenges to conquer, which ignites passion & purpose instead of staying stuck & stagnant. Try something new.
Know your purpose at the job - Find meaning in what you do & cling to it.
Be intentional with your time.
Establish boundaries- and live by them.
Be S T R O N G- Prepare your mind, body, and soul. Stay strong. Prepare your heart to see & hear the unfathomable. Be a warrior for kids and your needs instead of a worrier.
S- Stop and remember your why- This is the catalyst to keep you going when you feel you're drowning. Revisit your why daily. Put up pictures to remind you. I chant my why in the school parking lot before I enter the building.
Your why is like a mission statement; it defines & refines your daily actions. It provides purpose.
16. T- Take Time To Thank- Practice the Daily Trio: Write down or speak out loud three things in
which you're grateful for. It's hard to be stressed and thankful at the same time.
17. R- Rest & revive. Get more sleep. Do relaxing activities. I devote one day a week to never leave
my house. I even did it when my children were growing up & I still plan for it. Staying home brings
rest and revives me. Do something you enjoy that refuels you. Purposefully plan for it even if
if it requires a babysitter.
18. O- Omit negative. Stay positive. Stop complaining. Be a culture builder instead of a culture
buster. Focus on positive outcomes through love, service, and care. Celebrate: daily, weekly, and
monthly. What we think about, talk about, and celebrate manifests more of the same. Please
keep it positive. It won't eliminate negativity around you, but you don't have to participate. Don't
waste your energy on gossip and rehearsing past mistakes. Instead of dwelling on difficulties and
listening to worrisome thoughts, talk to yourself with encouraging words. Negative thoughts
lead to a negative life. Positive thoughts manifest positive actions & reactions.
19. N- Never give up. Never give up on yourself or your kids. Enjoy the ride. Every day is a new day.
You get to rebound daily. Get back up when you fall. Mistakes and setbacks don't define you but
refine you. I have a mantra in my class: Mistakes are for learning. You have one
life to live. Enjoy it, make the most of it, and never give up.
20. G- Go deeper- Going deeper is getting out of your comfort zone with personal and professional
development. It's about growth. Going deeper is developing solid roots that keep you
grounded when storms come. Learning new things is exciting and fuels your flame. Learning new
things give you tools to meet all kids' needs and strategies to navigate & improve your craft.
Teaching is an art. Going deeper refines your artistry to a masterpiece.
21. Be your own cheerleader- Be a self-starter and motivate yourself to do the right thing for kids
22. Have fun
23. Engage mentors for every season of life. I had a newbie teacher mentor, a reading coach who
mentored me to teach reading with excellence, etc.
24. Remember, the pendulum always swings & comes back. My mentor during my student
teaching from over three decades ago gave me this advice: "Trends will come and go. Stay true to
your students. Always do what's best for kids." Methods and strategies change, but principles
are unwavering. Best practices are best practices no matter what new tool or trend you use.
Loving kids will always be in style.
Best practices are best practices no matter what new tool or trend you use.
25. Love kids. (I know I listed this at the top. It's important enough to list twice.)
26. Be mindful
27. Develop a buddy system. Find a fellow teacher who will cover you so you can regularly use the
restroom without guilt. You can use the tap in/tap out system together to avoid burn out &
28. Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Help others & get help from others.
29. Be kind. Smile. Be kind to everyone who crosses your path.
30. Reflect- Reflect on your personal life and habits. Reflect on your practice. Reflect daily to refine.
Refinement is fire keeping your passion and purpose aflame. Leaders are reflective. Reflection
then needs to lead to action to create positive change.
31. Attend to your health. Hydrate & eat energy-giving food.- When I don't drink my 64 ounces
of water a day, my energy wanes. I need energy for vitality & vigor. I eat (most of the time)
energy-giving whole foods. Processed foods are poison to my body. Why would I purposefully fill
my tank with poison? Fill up on nutritious, life-giving food.
32. Don't chase success. Decide to make a difference, and success comes. It's the by-product of
loving, serving, and caring for others.
33. Be you.
My educational journey has been a wild ride, but I feel like I'm just getting started. I have a new mission: to inspire and encourage you to keep running the race and making a difference for ALL kids, and help overworked educators consciously connect with all learners, develop a powerful mindset, & go from depleted to delighted through my STRONG program.
You make a difference!
Learn more about being STRONG & how to cultivate life-changing relationships with families and students in my new book. I share personal student stories and strategies for cultivating culture and community rooted in relationships. It's centered around amplifying all students' potential and unshakeable relationships that raise student achievement. Click here or the image to go to Amazon. 😃
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