Always On The Lookout

Ok I am not hesitating, I am plugging away and making another blog post right away. I have had a stressful day, and the way I have handled it brought to mind a great lesson I learned during my time in behavior education.

I got into behavior ed after my first paid year as a teacher. I sort of got tapped for the job, told I seemed like a good candidate for working with the type of students that attended the alternate school. I was excited by the idea of the challenge and thought I might have a lot to offer as a young teacher still able to connect on my students’ level. It started out that way, a nice week-long honeymoon period where I had the chance to connect and get to know the unique group of individuals I would be working with. Then things changed. The behavior issues started to pop up and I was constantly running from fire to fire, doing my best to put them all out while taking the time to work with each student and help them learn new strategies to deal with their difficulties. I was run off my feet, stressed out, and so tired. I could barely keep up. I found myself stretched pretty thin, but this was what I had signed up for.

In the coming weeks I found I was stressed and tired even on the quiet days. It didn’t make sense. Even if the day went by without a single significant student issue, I went home exhausted and still stressed by the day. I shared this with my boss and he immediately knew what it was that I was doing. He said, “You are always on the lookout aren’t you? Even when nothing is going wrong, you are looking for what will. You are anticipating the next problem and sitting on the edge of your seat until it does”.  He was right. I was waiting for the next fire to pop up, in a state bordering on panic, wondering what I would need to do to handle it. I was already living in a reactive state, before anything had even happened. His advice was so on the money, that it is something I repeat to myself even now when I get into that super-vigilant state. He said “Relax. Whatever happens you will be able to handle it, you have the skills and you will know what to do.” It was the one thing that kept me sane that year! I learned, over time and with many reminders, to get off the edge of my seat and sit back and enjoy my job. I loved working with kids, I loved helping them and it took that perspective to see all the great moments my position would provide me with.

So now, as a new administrator I am reliving those moments of putting out fire after fire, and it is the kind of experience that can throw me back into that hyper-vigilant head space if I am not careful. I need to remind myself to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. I need to trust that I have the skills and that no problem is so big it can’t be solved by taking the time necessary, listening and working with all parties to find the most appropriate solution. If I do this, I know I will find more joy in the interactions I have and I won’t always be on the lookout for a problem, instead I’ll stumble upon the opportunity to connect with a young person who could use my help.

2 thoughts on “Always On The Lookout

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Always On The Lookout | Opening Doors and Turning On Lights --

  2. I was lucky enough to receive similar advice from a special education instructor in my last year at university. He said, “If you go into the classroom looking for a problem you will always find one.” That single piece of advice has popped into my head almost every day of my short teaching career. As you, I have let that wisdom escape me in the last few weeks. Sometimes we (or at least I do) forget our demeanor at the front of the room often dictates the mood our students for the day. This very morning, I decided to consciously begin the day very calm, cool and positive no matter what happens in the first 10 minutes. I was also looking forward to trying something new with my students. I had one of the most productive and issue free mornings in weeks.

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