Success in the Struggle

When I started my career, I worried about finding a teaching position. With relief, after several interviews, I accepted my first job as an educator. This was back when we had an abundance of teachers and competition for job openings. Being asked to interview was a big deal, and being chosen was incredible. As we experience the current teacher shortage, we recognize a lot has changed.

We now have record numbers of teachers leaving schools. With extreme fatigue, educators are turning to jobs where they feel appreciated. Issues of feeling safe and staying well along with unrealistic demands and overall educator burnout make it challenging to keep teachers teaching.

If you have dug in your heels and started another year as an educator, I applaud you. Whatever kept you here, we are thankful. Ahead of you lie cancelled bus routes, low attendance, substitute teacher shortages, and the need for you to do more than ever asked before – successfully. Sound like a lot? It is, but small steps can make it easier .

Use Good Tools

I faced many challenging days working with students who had huge gaps in their reading skills. All of them were at different levels, and many were not interested in learning. Every day, I dealt with these difficulties along with the expectation for students to be reading at grade level before standardized testing in April. Sure, no problem. Sigh.

Ever stood in front of class realizing you needed a miracle and didn’t have one handy? We’ve all been there. Now more than ever we need to use tools that will help accelerate student growth and lift some work off teachers’ shoulders. Avoiding further teacher burnout is a necessity. We have the tools, but are we using them?

After many tries and failures, I ended up using a digital platform that offered differentiated instruction for my students. Immediately, the need for me to modify work was gone and the stress of making sure all students learned disappeared. This new freedom allowed me to teach reading skills to the whole class, work with small groups, and spend time with individual students to discuss progress and challenges. All this, and they were learning. If I was absent, they were learning. If my day got busy, they were still learning. My students grew, and I was happier. Good tools can make a huge difference.

I sometimes wonder why we chose to do things the hard way when easier can be better. What tools do you have available to you that will benefit both you and your students? What can you utilize to give your students a sense of structure and ease of use – with growth? What can you use to help decrease your stress? Good tools produce success.

Have Your Routine Ready

Students learn best in a structured environment. Although I am sure they would disagree, we know as educators that distractions and misbehaviors decrease in a classroom that has clear expectations and daily agendas. Having a routine is going to be an important part of your successful year.

Teach your students what is acceptable and expected in your class daily. Have agendas up on the whiteboard when they walk in every day. Open each class with a five-minute bell ringer, warm-up problem, or quick write. End each class with an exit slip. Routine produces a safe, secure environment.

What is your routine this year? If your principal teaches your class tomorrow will your students be able to tell them how things are run? Can students walk into your class and begin working without your prompting? Having structure might be a challenge at first as students push back, but eventually they too see the value of order in your class.

Think about how you will build routine. How are assignments given and completed? Do the learning tools you use promote structure? Routine will lighten your load and help you stay energized this year. Routine brings about success.

Stay Focused

Early in my career I assigned a project to 8th grade students where they created their own cereal box and brand. They had to share their creation with the class and were graded on the project and presentation. Within seconds of my first student’s introduction, I realized I made a mistake. To the delight of the class many presentations had edgy themes and colorful slogans. By the end of second period, I stopped all sharing out and had the remaining classes turn in their projects to be graded by me alone.

What a waste of time. I thought I was teaching students to be creative and use vocabulary to bring an idea to life. No. I gave every stand-up comedian in my first two periods a chance to try out their comedic material. I lost focus.

Students need our projects, lessons, and ideas to be rich and build areas of challenge. We must use targeted instruction to stay focused and allow students to thrive this year. What are your targets? What tools will help you identify areas of challenge and check for progress throughout the year? This information will keep your instruction meaningful and relevant. Our students deserve focused, learner-centered instruction. Focus builds success.

You Are the difference

Have you already had a cereal experience this year? Do you have classes where you wonder how you could possibly make a difference? Do you live for three-day weekends and holidays so you can get some rest? You are not alone. There are millions of teachers feeling the same way, and every single one of you is amazing. As you look for the energy you need to face the day ahead, know you are making a difference in the lives of students. No tool, routine, or focus will come to life without you. Take a moment to celebrate being a teacher in 2022. You make a difference.

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