Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Reversing the Trend

"Joy does not simply happen to us.
We have to choose joy
and keep choosing it everyday."
- Henri J. M. Nouwen

The young lady was full of vibrant energy.  She believed she could save the world.  Her student teaching experience was going well and she had already heard of multiple openings in several districts. Things were really lining up. 

Since her fifth birthday she had always dreamed of being a teacher.  Her memories were full of time spent in her playhouse as she pretended to be the teacher to her pets and stuffed animals.  The passion ran deep inside her.  She always dreamed of going to college and becoming a teacher.

The day began like most.  She arrived at 7:45am just ahead of her supervising teacher.  The routine was simple.  Check over the lesson plans, make a few copies and talk to the other teachers in the hallway.

As she walked out of the classroom she noticed another teacher that she had very few interactions with.  This wasn't by accident.  Each time she saw this teacher the mood was always negative, sarcastic and edgy.  She steered clear of the lounge whenever she heard the voice.

Hearing that voice triggered a memory.  It was her tenth day of student teaching and she was just starting to take some of the load from her supervising teacher.  She was really excited to get to school and set up her lesson.  It was going to be great.  

As she carried in the PVC pipe, Hot Wheels cars and small weights you could see the smile on her face.  She simply loved teaching!  With a hop in her step she headed to the door.  At the exact same time Mr. Thomas was grumbling towards the same door.  They reached the door at the same time.  He looked at her basket and supplies and shook his head.  He didn't hide his disdain or irritability.  She smiled, said good morning and hoped he would hold the door.  As he pulled his key out of his pocket he looked at the lock and began talking.  "Why are you bringing all of that stuff?" he mumbled.  She smiled and told him that she had an activity planned for the day.  His response cut her to the core.  "It won't make a difference." he muttered. Her smile left her face as she headed towards the classroom. Since that morning she tried her best to steer clear of him.

Her mind bounced back to the present and she headed back to the classroom and away from a possible interaction with Mr. Grump.

A few minutes later her cooperating teacher arrived.  She could tell when she walked in the room that there was a bit of tension.  "Elizabeth, everything okay?" the supervising teacher asked.  They sat down at a table and Elizabeth blurted out, "Why is Mr. Thomas always angry?"  Her supervising teacher asked what happened.  She told her about the past event and just his overall demeanor.  What happened next was a bit surprising to the student teacher.

"You need to understand that he wasn't always that way, Elizabeth.  We both began teaching together.  He was full of life.  Everybody loved Mr. Thomas.  Our principal at the time had leaned on him to be on a couple committees.  Parents wished for their kids to have him, and other teachers reached out to him for advice." shared the supervising teacher.

Elizabeth responded, "What happened?"

"Well honey, it didn't happen overnight.  In many ways we didn't see it, and it was occurring right in front of our faces.  Elizabeth, his change happened over a long period of time.  He gradually went from optimist to pessimist.  He grew more and more cynical.  He cleared his plate of all extra duties. He stopped participating at staff meetings and he became confrontational with administration and parents." the supervising teacher shared.

"Why?" asked a perplexed student teacher.

The supervising teacher shared a series of events that seemed to suck the life out of Mr. Thomas.  The events varied from confrontational parents to failed initiatives to feeling unsupported by his administrators.  Mr. Thomas became more and more cynical as time went on.  He had a sarcastic comment for just about everything and he appeared to be simply collecting a paycheck.

Elizabeth looked at her supervising teacher and said, "That will never happen to me!"

Her supervising teacher shared some wise words.  "Sweetie, I hope it doesn't, but you need to know that people don't enter education to simply make money.  Lots of educators feel helpless by the endless bureaucracy, constant moving target and the bashing that takes place in the media."

She looked at Elizabeth and told her how she stays positive.

Here is the key, Elizabeth, at some point you will feel yourself not feeling the same about teaching. At this point a few things need to happen.  

First, you need to believe that reflecting and understanding your feelings will allow you to reverse the trend.  Every day I make a conscious effort to not let myself get sarcastic and to stay upbeat.

Second, you need to have an outlet.  Some people have hobbies, others exercise and still some people just spend time with family.  

Third, try to connect with your colleagues.  When you work with someone for a long time you should be able to be honest.  I'm lucky enough to have two close friends that I work with.  These ladies encourage me, they challenge me and we support each other.  Too often educators go it alone and isolation can be their downfall.

Elizabeth looked at her supervising teacher and smiled.  She then said, "Do you think we should eat lunch with Mr. Thomas?" The supervising teacher smiled and said, "I like how you're thinking young lady."

This Week's Big Question:  What is one key for you to stay positive?


Monday, September 7th:  Labor Day, enjoy the final day of Summer Vacation!!
Tuesday, September 8th:  First Day of School!  8:30am - 3:35pm
Tuesday, September 8th:  2nd Annual "Boo Hoo" breakfast from 8:30-9:30 in the cafeteria
Wednesday, September 9th:  Full Day of School, Early Release begins the following week
Wednesday, September 9th:  Grades 3, 4 and 5 - 8:45am Assembly
Friday, September 11th:

Articles Worth Reading:

Join the 2015 #ClassroomCribs Challenge @ajjuliani

How to build relationships with students through personal stories @Angela_Watson

Which Mic Will You Choose? @Jonharper70bd

The Director's Chair @jon_wennstrom

Powerful Ways To Raise Healthy Kids

A Walk To Remember @danpbutler

Your Choice of Words @mattwachel

4 Questions That Will Change Your Attitude @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Pay it Forward?  (3 min)

E60 - Long Toss (What a cool story!) (13 min)

Beach Boys or Jimmy Fallon? (3 min)


  1. Ben,

    Thank you for sharing. I like that explained how the process of him becoming Mr Grump was gradual. You're right, it can happen to the best of us if we don't reverse the trend. Thanks for the reminder!! Have a great year!