I am a middle school English teacher, and I used to hate my job.
Even thinking about going back to work on a daily basis would cause me so much stress and inner turmoil that I didn't know how long I could possibly do the job. After weekends it was even worse. But then... something changed.
Perhaps more accurately, I changed.
You can write this post off as cheesy, cliche, and far fetched. But it worked for me. And if you feel even a fraction of the emotions that I did: exhausted, terrified, annoyed, stressed, and defeated, then it is at least worth a shot. Hear me out.
I intentionally and deliberately changed my attitude about my job.
I know what you're thinking, "Life is not like that. If it were so easy to change everyone would do it." It is those reactions that made me put off writing this post... becuase I know some people just got really pissed and exited off this page. But if you're still here and you're still reading, then I know that you have the slightest bit of hope left. And I really want to offer you the fulfillment of that hope. I constantly saw other teachers around me who loved their job and had great relationships with the students. It does not come naturally to me, but I still wanted it... badly.
If you're thinking it wasn't easy, you are absolutely right. It WASN'T easy to change my attitude. It sounds stupid and naive to say (write) aloud because it sounds much easier and simple than it was. It was a deliberate change that took weeks and months to become almost second nature for me. I can't exactly explain my step by step process, because at the time I didn't know I was even creating the change. It was little steps that snowballed into where I am now; a person who actually likes her job, who has better relationship with her students, and who doesn't dread going back, even after break. (Here's a post from 2 years ago of proof when I WAS dreading going back after Christmas break.) But if I were to put it into steps, this is what they might be.
1. Remember they are only kids- and take NOTHING personallyThis was one of the biggest changes for me. When I first started teaching, I took nearly everything that the students did to heart. In some part of my brain I believed that they were a reflection on me. That simply is not true. Students are going to do DUMB things because they are kids. I started deliberately expecting the dumb things and the irrational reasoning to it. I finally realized They're just kids. Let them be kids. Once you've accepted that, nothing touches you. And since it no longer affects me, I deal with misbehavior with deadly calm that packs a greater classroom management punch than quick anger. Double win.
2. Fake it Till You Make itYou actually can trick your mind into being happier. We are our own worst enemy, and we often feed into our own negativity. I know I did. But with a little intentional focus, we can begin seeing more of the good than the bad in each day. Force yourself to smile more. Trust me, it not only tricks the brain, but the students too. Then next thing you know everyone is smiling... for real this time.
3. Force Positive Interactions with the StudentsSome days I'm tired, sick, and/or upset, and I want nothing more than a job where I get to get sit in a cubicle and do paperwork. But when I show up to work, 120 little people are depending on me for a kind word. Especially those who aren't getting that positive attention at home. So this year I started making a concentrated effort to address students in the hallways by name with "good mornings" and "how's it goings." The response has been pretty good. They like being interacted with, and a lot of the times they have something nice to say back to me. Later, when maybe they're misbehaving in class, their first interaction with me is not something negative. We have a relationship already being built up. It is literally no extra work for me, but I've definitely noticed the benefits.
4. Mask AngerAnother intentional push I made this year was to mask anger. I have a variety of strategies to do this that I have read through various books and posts. One is to always address the students by Mr., Miss., Sir, or Ma'am when you're correcting their behavior. It makes you sound so formal, and never comes out sounding angry they way their first name would. You're not their parent... you don't get to call them by their middle name when they've done something to upset you. Seriously, just try it a few times and just try to tell me it doesn't make a difference! I dare ya! Secondly, like I mentioned earlier, try the "deadly calm" approach. I've read about managing off task behavior on the other side of the room by using the 6 step/second turn to stare down the students who are misbehaving that really freaks kids out. It shows you mean business using only body language which is far less likely to ever get you in trouble.
5. Brush up on your Classroom ManagementThe better this skill is, the better your year is going to be. If you're trying to be intentional about your happy and positive attitude and increasing your positive interaction with students, but your classroom management just isn't there, you're going to have a hard time loving your job. There's no shame in reading a couple books or attending a workshop. I LOVE to have tons of strategies in my back pocket to try for different types of kids. When you have 120 different human beings every year, you're bound to get the full gamut of personalities!
By training my mind on a daily basis to show love and grace to my students and to myself, I have been able to change my outlook on my job. Deliberately controlling your mind and your attitude isn't easy in the slightest. It is a task I had to commit to and work at until these things became more second nature than rigid control. To me it was worth the effort, because I no longer hate my job. I actually look forward to seeing all my kids and working with them- something I never thought was possible. Remember, you can either make yourself happy or make yourself miserable... the amount of work is the same.
Thanks for reading and good luck. You have one of the world's most important jobs. :)