As teachers, we are looked at as a pretty put together, type-A, organized group. In fact, if you take a look at Pinterest you would think that we are some kind of superhero breed armed with our hot glue guns, chevron borders, and hand sanitizer. I am here to say this. Stop it. Right now. Stop pretending.
Ask yourself this, are you happy as a teacher? Are you happy pretending to have it all together with your perfect classroom and your perfect students? Oh wait, you say those things aren’t perfect? Don’t worry, mine have never been either, and honestly, all of my happiest teaching moments are nowhere near picture perfect!
Go Ahead, Drop the Ball, But Just a Little
There has been this movement towards Pinterest perfect classrooms, and it is life-sucking. I mean, when we spend our free time looking at what amazing things others are doing we can’t help but feel a little off when we turn back to our own classrooms with faded butcher paper on the bulletin boards and the carpet unraveling in our reading nook. I am telling you it is okay to stop pretending.
Here’s the thing though, we don’t have to have it all together to be happy teachers. We can stop pretending. We also don’t need to have it all together to be amazing teachers that make each day meaningful for our students, because we are real people.
As real people, we have feelings and emotions. Never have I been a sing-songy optimist that views the world through rose-colored glasses. Nor am I a pessimist that sees the worst in every situation. I like to consider myself a realist. When things are going well I am the first to celebrate by breaking out in my own little happy dance, but when things are not so good I am honest with myself and others. I don’t dwell though. I move on with my life and strive to make it better.
No one out there is perfect, nor do we need to be. Our students and everyone else in our lives need to know that mistakes are made and it is how we handle those mistakes that make us who we are.
So don’t feel bad that you haven’t changed your bulletin board since Thanksgiving and you are now on Spring Break. Instead, focus your energy on what counts, your students. They deserve everything you have, not that pile of “to file” papers sitting on the corner of your desk. Priorities are everything in life, and certainly important when it comes to teaching. Without priorities, you are staring burnout right in the face.
Happy Teachers Are Vulnerable
If we had it all together there would be no teachable moments or impromptu tangents that lead to the best lessons in the classroom, and in life. This is a vital reason to stop pretending.
Don’t be afraid to show your students, and coworkers who you are. This does not mean that you dump all of your trials and tribulations on them every moment of every day, but be real. Students will really respect you for it.
One day my fifth year of teaching I was having the morning from you know where. I was running late, had spilled coffee all over myself in the car, and then proceeded to spill the rest of my coffee all over the day’s first activity. One of my rough and tumble boys came over, picked up the laminated pieces and dried them one by one. He looked at me and said, “I got this Ms. R., why don’t you see if there is more coffee somewhere.”
He had no idea how much I needed that at the moment, but it was a day saver for sure. That nine-year-old student gave me permission to let go just a tiny bit, and while I wasn’t going to take his word for it and go on a quest for coffee I certainly regained my composure and was able to carry on with the day.
Our students need to know that things don’t always go as planned so that they can see how we respond with kindness and fortitude. I would argue that this is one of the most important things we can teach our students. A true life lesson.
A big part of being vulnerable and admitting that we don’t have our lives completely together is saying no to commitments that are detrimental to our own well being. For more on that, check out this post on How to Say No.
Recognize when your plate is full and stop taking on more. The school isn’t going to fall apart if you aren’t on every single committee, and that stack of papers to be graded will be there tomorrow after you have had a chance to take care of yourself.
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