the first few years
We live in a full world. We rush, we run, we shuffle papers, we attempt to multitask and we are all over-committed. We have a lot on our plates and it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to keep them all spinning simultaneously. I get it, I truly do. The other day I was on my way home from school and I called into my local shops to pick up something for dinner. When I had decided what to buy I walked to the checkout. There a young man, probably in late teens, served me. I asked him how his day had been and before I had finished my sentence he responded ‘busy, really busy, you have no idea how busy.’ I was taken aback. Nevertheless, I wished him well and proceeded to walk to the car and head home for dinner. As I was driving I couldn’t get his response out of my head ‘busy, really busy….’ I don’t mean to sound archaic or insensitive, but what would a young working casually (I assumed from his school logo that was visible under his nametag) know about being busy? I began to get defensive and thoughts like ‘…what would he know about being BUSY? I’ll give him one day…one day…in a classroom and see how he copes with being really busy!’
After I had returned home, and settled down, I began to be a bit more apathetic about what had happened at the checkout. I realised that when you ask people how their day is going quite often the first response is ‘busy’ or that they are ‘tied.’ It is a response that we can’t help giving, it is automatic and it is a response that is ingrained into our twenty-first-century lives
Now busyness and tiredness in the twenty-first century is a far greater topic than we have time for in this short post, but it did get me thinking. I decided that for thirty days that I would try an experiment. For thirty days, when someone asked, despite how tired, overwhelmed and stressed out I felt, I would search for other adjectives that ‘busy’ or ‘tired’ to describe my mood and my day. As a result, some interesting things happened:
- I had to pause and think about how I was actually feeling – instead of just blurting out how I felt I actually took the time to stop and listen to how I was feeling.
- I had to expand my vocabulary further – I had to search deep into my reservoir of language and find more suitable descriptive words like complex, full, challenging and intense.
- I felt less tired or stressed the less that I used those words.
- I learnt that my the words that I used had a powerful influence on my mood.
The words that you use have a power influence on your mood, your emotions, and your mental state. I encourage you all to take the Thirty Day Challenge and please let me know how you go.
Small actions done consistently every day add up to big outcomes in the long term. A while ago I heard one of my favourite speakers, Robert Fergusson give a presentation titled ‘Mastering the Mundane.’ In his presentation Fergusson spoke convincingly about the importance of attaching significance to the small, seemingly insignificant, things that you do each day. His presentation got me thinking and it has stayed with me for many years. We often don’t see the compounding results, either positive or negative, of small decisions until much later in our lives.
Acts like brushing your teeth, daily exercise, kissing your spouse or being grateful may seem inconsequential but the truth is if you do these consistently they could have more significant outcomes than you can imagine.
Conversely, daily habits and actions that are unproductive can also have negative compounding results over the long haul. If you consistently work late, skip breakfast or neglecting time with your family you may find yourself heading down a road that you did not expect. When I was a student I never serviced my car. I was living out of home, had very little money and I just didn’t really see the point. I would drive my car all over the place, fill it up with the cheapest fuel possible, never change (let alone check) the oil and rarely check the tyres. I just assumed that it would keep going indefinitely. Of course it didn’t. The money that I had ‘saved’ from not servicing the car was quickly surpassed by the price of a new engine. Lesson learned. Small decisions like regularly servicing your car can save you lots later on.
If your health, life and career could be dramatically improved by the ‘small things’ that you decide to do or not do every day what would you do differently? What small things would you change today?
Here are a few small thing that, if done regularly, could have a huge impact on your teaching career:
- Saying hello to the principal
- Being courteous to you colleagues
- Taking a deep breath and smiling before you walk into your classroom
- Enjoying your lunch break
- Returning phone calls
- Building relationships with parents
- Returning emails
- Adhering to deadlines
- Being present in meetings
- Negotiating yourself out of over commitments
- Walking slowly across the playground
- Having a life outside of the classroom
It is so easy to neglect the small things that we (should) do each day. Amidst the busyness and chaos of the start of the school year these things can be easily forgotten. But these small things build up, so decide to build a reservoir of small decisions and do you best to minimise the poorer options.
What other actions would you add?
As a teacher you have a responsibility to find the thing that engages and motivates the children in your class. In my first year on kindergarten I had a particularly challenging child. He was from a country that had been through horrific civil war, and was continuing to work through some of the worst cases of human rights violations that I have ever heard of. The story of his past brought me to tears when I heard it for the first time. His mother had fled their home country while pregnant with my student. On the way to a refugee camp her entire family was murdered, but somehow she managed to escape with her unborn child. The child was born in a refugee camp and I can barely imagine the type of things that he was exposed to in the early years of his life. Somehow he and his mother made it to Australian shores and received refugee status.
When this child arrived at school he, as you would expect, displayed very challenging behaviour. He would punch other students to get his way and he stole items from the school that he liked. The student simply could not appropriately settle into the school environment. I didn’t know how to cope with this child, how to manage his behaviour or how to get him to relate to other students. My supervisor at the time advised me to design an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) for him so that I could find out the things that he would respond to best. After weeks of trying different approaches and behaviour management strategies I began to feel frustrated that I would never find the thing that engaged him.
Then one day we were doing a lesson using instruments and talking about beat and rhythm in songs. Out of nowhere the student began dancing and performing his own responses to music. He smiled for the first time in my class and I learnt that he, just like all of the other students in my class, had talent that was waiting to be discovered.
This story highlights the importance of individualising your lessons and the power in finding the things that motivate and engage each and every student in your class. As an educator you have the responsibility and privilege of creating stimulating and engaging learning environments for your class. Every single student in your class has talents and has the capacity to excel in a number of areas.