Recently I had “one of those days” in room 212. A day that brought me to tears and had my heart aching. Driving away from school on a Friday afternoon I knew my fun weekend plans would be interrupted now and again by thoughts of my kids and some of the tough stuff going on. The same kind of tough stuff every single teacher has to deal with on occasion. If we’re lucky, these sticky situations are few and far between. Unfortunately however, in some classrooms and schools, they happen on a regular basis.
I’m one of the lucky ones. Experiencing “one of those days” is a rare thing in room 212. Back in the day when I was a rookie teacher facing a rough day (or week or month!), I would struggle to keep things in perspective. However, that old adage is true … with age comes wisdom. After 27 years of teaching, I now have a nifty way of dealing with the big things that so easily bring teachers down. My secret is to simply focus on the little things, those often-overlooked perks of being a teacher that have the potential to lift you up even on the darkest days.
Let’s start with the love notes from kids. My favorites are the ones on tiny pieces of paper or post it notes. Although they typically don’t showcase perfection in the area of spelling, my guess is just about every teacher has received a similar “thank you” for being “grate” or “speshul.” I can pretty much guarantee that folks who work in the private sector do not get this kind of affirmation from their co-workers. I actually have several love notes taped onto the sun visor in my car—important reminders of why I love my job as I begin and end my days.
Next on the “little things” list, is the proof that kids are some of the kindest and coolest people on the planet. My case in point includes a “business plan” one of my students is working on during writing time. This little philanthropic entrepreneur is developing an idea called “Helping Paws,” a fundraising venture to make toys and treats for cats and dogs. The money raised will be donated to an animal shelter. The plan covers lists for everything from “set up” to “peopol” to “decrashons” and “stuff we need.” I’ll be honest, I don’t know that this business plan has what it takes to succeed, but just knowing that I’m surrounded by 8- and 9‑year olds, who are creative and caring enough to envision the plan, warms my heart.
Humor may be the hardest thing to find when life as a teacher becomes overwhelming, but trust me, it’s there. It may be “kid-funny” and not exactly the thing that brings deep belly laughs for the adults in the room, but if you look for signs of it, you will find it. My example for this “little things” category is the WARNING sign a couple of boys added inside the cover of the book series they are collaborating on. They thought this was hilarious and I did too:
Warnig: Pay attention
for mrs. rome.
Dear mrs. rome
I can just see those two guys chuckling as they taped that piece of candy to the page and it makes me smile.
Finally, I turn to the evidence that proves teachers belong to a profession that this world needs now more than ever. Teachers do make a difference when it comes to inspiring goodness and spreading love. My class celebrated “World Kindness Day” and earned a “cardboard creation party” last month. The poster (at the beginning of this article) and cardboard sign created by two of my students for the two special events mean more to me than a test score or performance review ever could. Although there are many times we teachers may wonder if anything we say to our students is registering, these lovely artifacts are a testament that says they really are listening.
Even on “one of those days” it is possible to climb out from the bottom of the heap. Instead of dwelling on the big things that bring us down, we just need to allow the little things to lift us up.