I’m struggling a bit to feel as thrilled to be an Art Teacher as I typically do. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Art and I LOVE me some teaching. . .But, still, the lackluster feeling remains. There is no one thing that is contributing to this feeling of unease (it certainly is not my awesome students); instead, it is a huge, ugly, nasty, storm of Very Unpleasant Things Outside of my Control. I’m sure you can relate.
I think we all feel this way from time to time about our professions. When I asked my friends and colleagues, they resoundingly agree that they too have had such feelings. The reason I’ve chosen to write about such a sad and boring topic is that I allowed it to get to me a bit too much this week. I’m all for indulging in a little pity party from time to time (at home, alone, in my bed, with my dogs, a pile of blankets, and binge-watching House of Cards). But, there’s indulging and then there’s wallowing.
Wallowing ain’t pretty, y’all. In fact, wallowing in self-pity is a pretty quick way to find yourself alone, griping in the corner, talking to your imaginary friends (who are also over your whinging).
Here is my list of Do’s and Don’ts to help snap yourself out of a I-Don’t-Like-My-Job-Funky-Time-Blues.
Don’t hang-out with the grumps!
Look, you’ve been hanging out with the grumps because in exchange to your listening to their complaints, they listen to yours. But the thing is, negativity breeds negativity. Imagine you have your Class From Hades in 10 minutes. Prior to that class, you spend 10 minutes talking to Negatron Nelson about how much you hate School Situation XYZ. Then, you start class with that hump of negativity on your back. Instead, take that 10 minutes and sit at your desk, go to the bathroom (omg, you know we never get to pee), talk to a positive peer, look out the window, or do something pleasant. Then, when you start Class From Hades you have a little peace in your reservoir.
Don’t go looking for problems!
All teachers know that, at school at least, there is something that always needs to be done. And, guess what, there is always some potential issue at school looming. Don’t go looking for problems. You have enough sitting right in front of you. I’m the yearbook editor this year. This is my first year ever doing this, and I’m new to my school. The simple truth is, once the book gets published someone is going to be upset about something. I can’t control that problem; expending time and energy worrying about it is wastes my resources. My resources are better utilized tackling the problems in front of me.
Don’t gripe publicly!
We all need a confidant. Gripe to your confidant; don’t gripe to random people in hallways or on the internet (I’m totally guilty of both). Griping to non-trusted people can backfire in some Really Bad Ways. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Don’t get overwhelmed!
My southern Mama and Daddy told me as a kid, “It’s like eating an elephant; you gotta do it one bite at a time.” Don’t think about all the stuff you need to do, are going to get in trouble for, situations that upset you etc. etc. Again, that wastes your resources; you can’t control all of that at once. Take it one step, one situation, one problem at a time.
Don’t compare yourself to others!
I love Art Teacher blogs, I participate in the Art Teacher Facebook group, I subscribe to several Art Teacher email groups. . . And, every time I login to my social media accounts (which I do for fun and to socialize) I’m inundated with awesomeness. When I get down, it is easy to tell myself, “I’m no good compared to that. I could never be able to teach this. I’ll never be as accomplished as him.” That is a totally self-defeating thing to do. While competition is awesome (and a great way to avoid complacency), your biggest competitor should be yourself. Don’t get bogged down in the comparison game. Allow yourself the freedom and peace to be yourself.
Joy is all around us; especially in schools. Find the small things and celebrate them. Take pictures if you have to, so you can remember your joy. Keep a diary or a jar of Good Things and read them on days that you are down.
Consider your best students
It is easy to get overwhelmed by humanity in education. Try not to focus on the negative student interactions. It is true, that we often need to marinate on negative student behavior in order to problem solve a solution. . .But, don’t let it dominate the time you spend thinking about school. Take some time every day to think about your very best students. Consider what you can do to make their days awesome, and how you can recognize their unique contributions. I promise you that the moment you see their grin and know it is related to something you planned, you will get an amazing rush of happiness.
Take a break from social media and/or blogs
It is okay to not read Art blogs, to not participate in Art Teacher social media. You can avoid it all together or you can take a short hiatus. It is okay to not be on the cutting edge of the coolest Art project on the planet. Chances are, you teach some tried-and-true units that both effective and enjoyed by students. It is okay to “just” be the best version of you.
Make to-do lists
In addition to my keeping an intensely documented calendar (I love me some color-coded highlighters!), I make a daily sticky-note check-list. I only put items on the list that MUST be accomplished and CAN be accomplished that day. As I complete items, I tick them off my list. At the end of the day, I crumple the sticky note and I throw it away. The process of ticking off tasks and throwing them away is incredibly cathartic. When I toss that note in the trash I think, “Done! Out of sight and outtta my mind!” I highly recommend this; it is SO satisfying!
Take time to fulfill your non-school life
Y’all. I realized in May of last year that I had no life beyond the walls of my school. And, I’m 33; that’s just beyond tragic. I’ve worked very hard since that epiphany to carve out time for me, my interests, and my non-school life. I’ve come to realize that my time away from school is critical to my performance at school. Doing things that fill my Happy Reservoir help me to be my best self for my students and my school.