Sunday, 1 February 2009

What Will My Day Be Like?

Every day is a challenge.

Not many people realize just how much mental energy gets zapped from the moment a teacher steps into the classroom till the moment she leaves.

Bombarded by a magnitude of stimuli, from dealing with students asking silly questions to having to make informative announcements, check homework, read notes from parents, perform administrative tasks, and prepare lesson plans, a teacher’s job seems a hundredfold more than what it’s made out to be.

We are the care-takers of the mind, the soothers of the soul, and the farmers of tomorrow’s society.
Yet, given these many responsibilities, it is so easy for a teacher to become overwhelmed and despondent – right at the start of the day.

All it takes is a combination of several things going wrong at once.

“Teacher, I forgot to bring my Math Textbook home, so I couldn’t finish my homework.”

“Teacher, what are we doing for Science today?”

“Teacher, I lost my worksheet.”

“Teacher can I go to the toilet?”

“Teacher, Tommy took my pencil! Waaaaaaahhhh….!!!”

Knock at the door.

“Ms Shimona, can you give these letters out to your class? And I have not received your attendance list yet. Can I get it soon?”

Ten minutes pass. Still no homework handed in. An argument breaks out. 5 kids need to visit the toilet at precisely the same time. I’ve misplaced my lesson plans somewhere underneath a labyrinth of homework and textbooks. Kids keep coming up to the teacher’s table to ask questions that have nothing to do with the lesson.

Another ten minutes pass. Students are finally taking out their textbooks, albeit very noisily. We have about twenty minutes left. How will we cover the lesson in time now?

One can easily feel stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed by a situation such as this, especially if this is a normal, everyday occurrence. It would be the most natural thing in the world for a teacher to, at this point, feel her blood pressure shoot up through the roof and start shouting for the kids to sit down. Her mood would steadily get worse and worse, and the classroom climate get more and more tense. The teacher, after all, sets the tone.

Mind you, I am not the most bright and cheerful person first thing in the morning. In fact, this is one problem I often face – feeling like something the cat dragged in –all grumpy and sleepy in the mornings and being tempted to “blast” any kid who irritates me with a silly question or talks too loudly. So instead of letting the day set my mood, I try to take what I’ve learned from positive psychology and make precautionary measures to decide for myself what the day will be like.

This morning for example, I woke up feeling groggy and grumpy as per norm. So I decidedly had a “talk” with myself on the way to school.

“What will your day be like today, Shimona?”

“Will you be grumpy, shout, and take it out on the kids?”

“No! It is going to be a great day! You’re a good teacher, and the students are all fantastic children. You will have fun together, and the school day will be a success!”

Amazingly, those few seconds I spent having that little pep talk with myself worked wonders! I waltzed into the classroom this morning with a huge smile plastered on my face, and the day rolled out before me in a blanket of cheer and goodwill. Being pleasant and humorous came easily, and I found that my tolerance for silly questions was much higher as I deemed the questions not so much silly as inquisitive. My smiles came more frequently and readily, and the kids responded eagerly to my excitement for learning. Soon, we were playing games to learn content matter, and my students were eager to please and behave well.

Isn’t it a wonder what starting the teaching day with the right, positive mindset can do?



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