What Wise Teachers Have Taught Me
Much to my surprise, I’m back in the classroom! (Not what I expected this month.) But ok, we are making it work. As I prepared mentally for this return, I was reminded of some powerful wisdom passed on to me by fellow teachers over the years.
Turns out these are things that apply to life in general. What can I say? Teachers are smart.
- “A reflective person is an effective person.”
Ok, so I tweaked it a little. Originally this was shared with us by a fabulous professor who taught us that a reflective teacher is an effective teacher. (Being the journaler I am, I thought this was brilliant.) As a teacher, we should reflect on how things are going, what questions have been asked, how we might better reach the students with the material we desperately want them to get into their noggins. The same can be said for us as moms, wives, friends, and human beings. As Dr. Phil says, “How’s that goin’ for ya?!” We all know that if we do the same thing over and over again, we will get the same results. But we might not realize the reality of our circumstances until we actually reflect on it. Love this wisdom and it’s slapped me around once or twice.
- “You can always change your mind.”
This is a golden ticket in the classroom. Sometimes we have a plan that falls apart, and we have to make an unexpected turn. It’s fine! You can change your mind! If students don’t understand the content, if surprising questions arise, if something just isn’t working… You can change your mind. It’s like magic when you give yourself this permission.
Works great in life too. Especially when the terrain suddenly changes and the map all at once becomes useless. When schedules don’t pan-out the way we imagined them, despite our carefully-crafted-5-year plan. You have permission to change your mind. My brain gets cranky, but you can train yours to be more flexible.
- “Be flexible.”
Which brings us to our next teacher advice: flexibility. It’s like changing your mind, but harkens to the compassion that real life demands of people. I know firm teachers are useful and some have taught their students many a valuable lesson. But no question there is a place for flexibility too. This is a lesson we can teach our students and practice in everyday.
Flexibility in real life means routines sometimes have to be abandoned, lists often need to be put aside, and people come before rules. (And by the way, there is a difference between being flexible and being a pushover.)
- “It takes two people to have an argument.”
At one of my first teaching jobs, I had a mentor who gave me this advice when I was struggling with some crazy-difficult students. (Schools love to give those kids to the new teachers. #eyerolling) This advice sounds easier than it is, but it’s so true and again, applies to all of us.
There are plenty of argumentative people running around flapping their jaws. You don’t HAVE to engage with those people. I know sometimes confrontation is necessary. But, you guys, lots of the time it’s not.
- “Don’t get carried away.”
As a teacher with perfectionist-tendencies, one gets caught up in creating the most creative, innovative lessons complete with assignments that demand students process the material to the next level. This is great and exactly what the world wants from its teachers, but everyone can get too much of a good thing. Sometimes simple lessons and simple assignments can do the job quite nicely. Piles of grading (especially for an English teacher) means ruined life. And I mean that literally. We have to be reasonable about how much we can handle.
The same applies for the rest of the population. Volunteer opportunities, an extra job for some spending-cash, the most exotic pinterest birthday party your child has ever seen… these all sound fabulous. Then reality hits us in the face and we are compromising relationships for dumb things like looking wow-ing someone or “because I should.” Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s silly. Again, good teachers know what lines to draw. And so do happy people.
My classroom time is temporary, but the lessons I’ve learned are timeless. It sounds corny, but it’s undeniable! Teaching has always meant oodles of learning for me. What life-lessons have your teachers taught you?