Bringing Your Best Self into the New Year

Teaching is both challenging (exhausting) and fulfilling. The time off in December can be a time to breathe, renew your energy and refocus on your passion and vision for yourself as a teacher and what you want for your students. Parker Palmer’s book Courage to Teach is a lovely resource for renewing your sense of purpose, and cultivating your capacity to teach wholeheartedly, for your ability to bring the best of you into your classroom.

Effective teachers have of a strong sense of personal identity and enthusiasm that infuses their teaching with inspiration and challenge.

  • What do you love or care about? Share some of that interest or passion with your students so that they know you as a human being.
  • What do you love about what you teach? What tickles you and brings you joy in learning? Let your students see that part of you too. It might be what delights you about reading or about solving a math problem. Pause now and then and reflect on the wonder of discovery and learning.istock_000006223937small
  • How do you connect with your students about the delight of learning? It is so easy to focus on what is not going well. Can you make a promise with your self to pause once a day and have a “share the joy of learning moment” in some small or humorous way?

Effective teachers build authentic learning communities and connection. Many of our students come from cultures that are less individualistic and building connections supports their learning as well.

  • Continue to build in opportunities for students to share what they are learning. Pair sharing and small group work more powerful at building connections than displaying or presenting in front of large groups.
  • Routines and rituals build a sense of connection in the classroom. What is unique about your classroom that your students can identify with? Do you have a chant, a signal, transition music, a ritual for acknowledging mistakes or some other thing that makes your learning community special? Ask your students what they think makes your room special.
  • Class meetings and compliment circles where students have a voice and hear others’ perspectives are one of the most practical and powerful ways to build classroom community. We recommend the regular structure of Positive Discipline class meetings 3-5 times/week for elementary classrooms and once a week for secondary classrooms. There are lots of resources for how to teach class meetings and learn more about them.

Effective teachers take care of themselves. You cannot be your best self pouring from an empty pitcher.

  • Spend time with the people and things you enjoy outside of school. Get some movement, some quiet time, some time with people you love.
  • You could spend 20 hours a day on doing your work and it still wouldn’t be perfect. Learn to let go and be proud of “good enough.” Your students need you – not the “perfect” lesson.
  • Collaborate with and get support from colleagues. You can learn time-saving techniques and share work.
  • Get enough sleep. Teachers are notorious for thinking they can do with less. Not true. New brain research shows that sleep is very important for “brain cleaning,” for learning and for preventing dementia long term.

Here is another resource from the Center for Courage and Renewal on the Heart of a Teacher.