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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Teaching Mantras

Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

Nobody has every said that life is fair, but it seems that in teaching, many people lose their way lamenting this fact. We are the lucky ones. We work in meaningful ways. We get automatic and lovely feedback on our efforts. We sing songs, paint pictures and enjoy a good fable now and then. True: we may have too many papers to grade, too many students to teach, and a heater that isn't working properly or a window that won't open. But it is all good!

When in doubt, just take the next small step.

Yesterday I was talking to a veteran teacher who was "tired" and unwilling to try out the latest math program. In fact, she was paralyzed by self doubt. Not understanding it, she decided not to try it. We need to embrace our doubts. Name them. Give life to them in order to see them for what they really are. Then we need to work with them. Taking the next "small step" is a way to respect our doubts and still move forward beyond them.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

I need this mantra: daily. Education is not about "life or death". My students can fail an exam and the sky won't fall. The quadratic formula is not life changing, even for me, who loves it. Homework not completed does not mean the student is destined for failure in life. Lighten up. Play a game. Forgive an assignment. Go outside on a sunny day. Don't do this every day (you'd shortchange education by that), but do on occasions.

Over-prepare, then go with the flow.

This allows the above to happen. Nothing is worse to always be "catching up".

However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

This is a lesson for professional longevity. We never arrive. We are always journeying. Our teaching companions move on. Our best students graduate. Our most favorite teaching unit becomes obsolete. We need to see this as an intrinsic "good". No fight the current. No lamenting the situation. And above all, if all seems good, remember that it won't always be so. That makes the inevitable change palatable. You will be a far stronger teacher in adversity.

If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

Remember that. Daily.

The best is yet to come.

If we always live in the past, we miss the beauty. We shrivel up and fade away. Refuse to do this. It is good now and will be better later. Make it better.

No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

No more "manic Mondays". Each day is a gift. Dress your best! Even if you aren't sure, answer "Great!" when asked how your weekend went. Be excited outwardly and the excitement will seep inward. Complaining only leads to more complaining.

Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

Bottom line : others should be so lucky to be teaching such wonderful kids in such wonderfully inventive times. It isn't always easy, but it is always interesting and meaningful. It is all a gift. Remember that.

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