I golf. I rarely get invited to golf because I’m a girl but that’s talk for a different day. A golf instructor once gave me excellent advice at the driving range. She said, “Your first 8 balls don’t count. Don’t get too frustrated or stressed and definitely don’t lose hope. Just swing, take note of how you felt, and swing again.” The parallels between this comment and the first month of school are extraordinary. Rather than 8, I would say I usually need 20-30 days to get my groove and even then I might lose it and need to re-evaluate my swing. I try to be kind to myself that first month. I go in each day, swing, and then step back and note how I feel. At the end of 30 days, or sometimes sooner, I start to see patterns of things that are working and things that aren’t. This is when I make big moves. But I have to give myself some days that don’t count in the beginning. I have to get warmed up. There are more balls in my bucket; I’ll focus on those.
If we only talk about problems, life gets depressing real quick. I am in this profession because I find it rewarding, funny, uplifting, and challenging. I try to disengage with the chatter that involves blaming the principal, the vice principal, the district, Common Core, parents, the system. Talk like this wastes my time. The autonomy I have in my classroom day in and day out is overwhelmingly powerful. Change and opportunity are at my fingertips. If I can see the sky as limitless instead of falling down, I am a happier teacher and my students benefit.
- Have a snack or sweet available for parents to munch on. Cheap pretzels and chocolate are my go-to.
- Greet parents at the door. This helps them feel welcome and know that they are in the right place. Standing at the door also keeps me from awkwardly standing at the front of the room while parents arrive.
- Say goodbye at the door. This helps to avoid any parents who might keep me from getting home before I need to wake up again for school the next day.
I had a stellar principal my first year of teaching. Here are some things she did that helped validate my new career choice.
1. She visited my classroom often and would immediately follow-up with things she liked and ONE question for me to ponder.
2. She made me feel like I could try things and take risks. She acknowledged that teaching is hard.
3. She made sure I was set up with a mentor teacher in the building.
4. She didn’t ask me to do anything extra. She told me that my only focus should be my students and collaborating with other teachers in service of my students.
5. She publicly shared something she had seen me do that she liked.