Ever heard of the “Phases of a First-Year Teacher”*? If you haven’t, I’m sure you will. According to the studies, I am in the disillusionment phase. This means at this point I am more likely to get sick from being highly stressed and I’m beginning to feel inadequate as a teacher. How right they are! I am exactly at that point.
Every day, I come to my classroom with renewed zest for teaching and try to think positively about the day. Lately, it seems no matter how much I plan or stress, I still am dissatisfied. My parents and husband would say this is because I am a perfectionist, but I’m going to blame this one on the disillusionment phase.
I heard one of my colleagues say in a meeting, “I just don’t understand how I am supposed to do this. I put everything out there, put all of myself into planning for these kids, and it still doesn’t seem to make any difference.” One of the senior teachers wisely responded with, “What are you talking about, you are making a difference!” She then went on to explain that sometimes we don’t always realize the difference we are making.
I have found it so helpful to take time to notice the little things in my classroom. Maybe I’m just an emotional and stressed teacher, but I find myself tearing up over the littlest things that happen in my classroom. These things remind me that I am not a failure and that these kids are learning from ME! Let me share with you a little of the sunshine that I have noticed in my otherwise stormy and stressful days.
About a week ago, one of my students looked into his desk and could not find his tickets (tickets are a reward system in our classroom and throughout the grade level. You would think they are equal to gold…). This student frantically started tearing through his desk to find them. He then began sobbing uncontrollably. Before I could step in, my tough-guy, football-player student walked up, patted him on the back, and asked what was up. Tough guy returned to his desk, took out his tickets, and then put them on the other student’s desk and said “Keep ‘em.” Next thing I knew, this little boy’s desk was piled with tickets from our class.
So it turns out that they were listening during our kindness lesson! And these acts of kindness haven’t stopped! I hear daily from my students things like, “Mrs. Lyon–I did an act of kindness today!” or “Mrs. Lyon! Charlie did an act of kindness for me today!” We even had a chance to sit in a circle and share compliments we have for one another. Here are a few of the highlights:
“I really like Ariel because she never gives up and she tries really hard.”
“I think Hector needs a compliment because he is smart and a great friend.”
“Karl is a good example to me because he is nice to everyone.”
and of course…
“Mrs. Lyon needs a compliment because she is a good teacher and works really hard for us.”
Push me to tears why don’t ya!?
So when you are teaching, whether in practicum, student teaching, an internship, or in a career, take the time to notice the little things. Look over at the one kid that is on task and breathe a sigh of relief that at least one kid listened. Celebrate that 53% your low student got on their test, it’s an improvement from the 30% last time! Really listen to those sweet compliments your class gives you, kids don’t lie! If they say they love you, they really do!
Get a calendar and write down a quote a day from your students that made you remember why you are teaching. When you get down, look back on those quotes. In teaching, it isn’t the big breakthroughs you’ll remember, it will be the little things.