One summer, not so long ago, I seriously considered a career change. Well, seriously is too strong a word, but I did actively interview outside of public education.
No follow through on a job transition, obviously, but it did provide valuable insight. You could call it a moment of clarity, or, more candidly, the perfect kick in the rear. That temporary step back from education gave me a chance to evaluate what I truly loved about teaching.
As any educator knows, time with students is the best part of the school day. I look forward to creating social connections, nurturing “aha” moments, and learning just as much as teaching. But those things don’t just happen on their own. They require other parts of the job like planning, meetings, and assessments. Plus, effective education demands an active pursuit of improvement. In a word? Care. Teachers need to care.
Strangely, weighing other job avenues shined a spotlight on the exciting things I could be doing in the classroom. But I knew I cared. It wasn’t really teaching that I wanted to leave. It was my angle on teaching. I didn’t need a change in position. I needed a change in disposition.
Ever since, I benefit from a few specifics: 1) perspective, 2) purpose, and 3) positivity. They flow into each other, and back again, and allow me to maintain care and excitement for each school day.
Perspective – the state of existing before the eye; one’s ideas and attitude.
Upon reflection, I saw that I was indeed useful in my role as a health educator. I have a place in the community and the world at large. Yet, in some ways, the parts of the school day I so cherish are side effects of teaching. They’re outside the normal spectrum of educational objectives. The stuff I like about teaching isn’t the stuff found in lesson plans, test scores, or final grades.
Question: How can I create social connections?
Answer: Take care of curricular details, but focus on the big picture: student interaction. Put the most care into conversation and feedback. Don’t just talk; listen.
Purpose – the reason something exists; an aim, intention, or goal.
Purpose is that place where passion and impact connect. It’s where values, talent, and vision all align. I realized that I was pretty good at hidden objectives– the fun stuff that arrives from analogies and other tricks within a lesson, unit, or quarter. I was able to sneak competence through entertainment. I could prompt higher level thinking through curiosity. It is my continued purpose to challenge myself just as I challenge students.
Question: How can I nurture “aha” moments?
Answer: Search for the fun amidst the tough topics of health education. Develop connections and clever reveals by trying and modifying activities with transparency. Learn to love failure as a step towards success.
Positivity – the practice of being positive or optimistic.
The right environment matters. Teaching several quarters of the same curriculum year after year can cause things to feel repetitive and stale. That’s disastrous for a teacher. When I felt like I couldn’t find motivation, I saw that I wasn’t creating motivation. I decided to use my changed perspective and my continued purpose to create the environment where I wanted to be. Not the overwhelming inspirational culture of “the grind” we sometimes see online, but a genuine climate for safe, positive living.
Question: How can I stay positive and love going to school so that transfers to students?
Answer: Use flexible seating options and decorate the room with personal items, diverse posters, daily quotes, and student art. Provide platforms on social media. Make the classroom my second home. Above all, remain open to learning what makes me a better teacher.
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