Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Teacher's New Years Resolution

I've spent a relaxing week and a half celebrating Christmas, chasing my two year old, and eating far too many Christmas treats (no matter how many I eat I can't seem to get them to disappear). With half a week left of break I've found myself already stressing over going back to work- the paperwork to fill out, the deadlines to meet, the reports to write, the lessons to plan, emails to send...  just typing this sends me into a horrible frenzy of stress and despair. Yet I slowly came to realize that none of that list above- my awful and never ending to-do list- has anything to do with the kids.

When I think about going back to the kids I'm excited. I want to know how their breaks were. I'm looking forward to teaching them, listening to their third grade reasoning, leading discussions in reading group, and hosting lunch bunches. I miss the kids over break- I miss their random jokes, their smiles and watching them grasp an academic concept that was difficult for them. The most important part of my job- the reason I do this job- I miss that.

SO, my new years resolution is to focus on the kids. Not to let the stacks of paperwork and deadlines get me down. Those reports I have to write, yes, they will be horrible to do and I will spend way too many nights desperately trying to get them finished when I could be with my family. The IEPs, the meetings (oh, those meetings), the lesson plans- yes, those will not go away. But when I focus on those elements of my job I get lost in a horrid sinking depression of teaching. When I think about those aspects I start to agree with all those Facebook articles going around about "Don't let your kids grow up to be teachers" and the "I was a teacher and quit and now my life is so much better" blog posts. When I'm focused on the paperwork and the adult aspects of my job I get angry at the world. I resent my job instead of embracing it. And that's not OK.

Because in truth, I have one of the best jobs there is. Teaching children with special needs- helping them overcome obstacles, navigate social situations, and teaching them that trying their hardest even when they think they can't do something is something I am blessed to be able to do. I am lucky that in college I felt called into the classroom instead of going to law school or pursuing another job that would leave me in an office dealing with grown ups all day.

There are days when it's hard to remember that. When I barely see the kids and spend far more time in meetings than teaching. When fighting for what is right for kids seems harder than it should be, or when the paperwork of the job seems to suffocate everything else. But for 2014 I cannot let myself focus on those elements. Being depressed or frustrated at the job will not make me a better teacher. It will not help my students learn. It will not give me the patience I need to see a student with clarity and empathy so I can determine the best way to help them.

So for 2014 I will focus on what I am exciting about teaching every day. One thing a day that makes me excited to go to work. It may be small, like simply being happy to do a read aloud with a class, or to check on a student I'm worried about- or maybe it is big, like learning how to introduce division to third graders. And every time I get frustrated and angry at the teaching profession, the adults who seem to put up road blocks, the paperwork and the reports I will remember why I am there everyday. I plan to post these every morning on the Facebook page to hold myself accountable for these positive thoughts (don't worry, I'm only teaching until March when the new baby comes so it won't clog your Facebook feed that much!)

For the next few days of break I will be getting my paperwork ready to go so that we can hit the ground running on January 6, 2014. But all the while I am going to try to keep my focus on the real reason I'll go into work that day- the kids.

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