This is for you new teachers out there…
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received in my teaching career was a simple one:
“Sit back, relax, and enjoy your time with the kids.”
I had just started a new alternative program for junior high in an Outreach School, and I had the great opportunity to work with some very unique and special young people. Now with all the great things these students brought to our class, they also had some issues with behaviour, issues that could lead to some very trying and stressful situations. By the end of October I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do the work the rest of the year, I wasn’t sleeping much, I wasn’t eating a lot, and I was stressed out and exhausted.
My principal, one of the greatest mentors a teacher could ask for, came in to observe my class and offer his thoughts. After the students left for the day he flashed his knowing smile and chuckled, and I knew right away he had me and my issues figured out, that’s the way he was. He told me how I spent most of the class walking around looking for problems, or on the edge of my chair waiting for something to go wrong. He explained how I had amped myself up into a hyper-vigilant state, moving from problem to problem, just waiting for the next thing to go wrong.
Then he asked me “Have you had anything happen so far that you couldn’t handle?”, I told him no. Then he asked “Whatever might happen, could you handle it?” and I responded yes. “Well” he responded, “then stop looking for something to happen, or waiting for something to go wrong, sit back, take a deep breath and try to enjoy your time with the kids. If anything happens, you’ll be fine, and if you’re not, I will help you, but this will never be work you will enjoy if you move from crisis to crisis without taking any enjoyment from your day.”
From that moment on, my time in the school and with my students got better. So much better. I spent time with my students and was able to bring more of me to my teaching as I relaxed and let down my guard a little. We still had issues from time to time, but they became mild inconveniences that we worked through rather than the dreaded storm that always seemed to be on my horizon.
For you new teachers, you are two weeks (or more) into your year and if you haven’t done so already, it’s time for you to take a step back and just watch the magic that is students learning together. Whatever might happen, you can handle it, so don’t worry about the class getting a little loud, or the learning heading off task, it will be fine. Students can sense when we are anxious or stressed, and it is not helpful in creating the relaxed and open learning environment you want for your kids.
We work in a great profession, and the part that makes it great is the kids, so make sure you take the time to enjoy them, and enjoy learning with and from them!
Have a great year!