Happy Teacher Series: Be Brave

Four ways to be a brave teacher. The 3rd one just might be the most important!
Teachers as a whole are a brave bunch. How many people do you know that would voluntarily close themselves in a room with a whole lot of tiny humans? There's a reason teaching is a calling not just another job, because you have to really want it!

Part of being a teacher is the giving of ourselves for the sake of our students, and in that process sometimes we can lose ourselves. I am here today to tell you though that you can continue to be a brave, fierce person while still being an amazing teacher that puts your students first.

I wanted to share some ideas on how to be a brave teacher. Being brave can mean different things for different people. Personally, being brave is all about living life as my authentic self and being brave enough to make the choices that are best for me even when they aren't popular. What does being brave mean to you?

Remember Why You Became a Teacher

When you take a moment to think about why you became a teacher what do you think of? I am willing to bet that few are thinking, because I needed a job, and more of you are thinking along the lines of wanting to make a positive impact on the lives of your students. 

When you remember your students while making decisions it can help you to make a brave choice. By this I mean when you are faced with a decision between doing something that is the popular choice and something that will have a positive impact on your students, putting your students first helps you to swim upstream a bit. Putting students first isn't always easy, but it is always right. 

When you frame your thinking to always serve your students' interests first in the classroom you can make brave decisions more easily. 

Happy Teachers Teachers Make a Plan to be Brave

As teachers we inherently are planners, organizers, and general type-A people. That is not to say that every teacher fits this mold, but the majority do. As teachers we are used to making and carrying out plans from IEPs to field trips, but sometimes we fail to make a plan for ourselves. 

When you know that big decisions are coming up in your teaching life make a plan. By planning ahead you are able to think through your choices without the pressure of a deadline or your colleagues' opinions. 

Having a plan will help you to be brave and stick up for what you believe in. By having your thoughts together before approached by others you can solidify how you feel about a subject and have the facts or reasons to back it up. 

Happy Teacher Trust Their Teacher Gut

Just like moms have mother's intuition, we as teachers have a gut feeling that can lead us to make the decisions that will be most beneficial to our students. When you get that feeling down in the pit of your stomach trust it. 

Four ways to be a brave teacher. The 3rd one just might be the most important!As teachers we are in the trenches with our students all day. We know our students much better than admin who drops in or specialists that see our students for a limited time each day. If you feel a certain way about a decision being made that affects your students speak up! Your gut feelings on your students need to be trusted.

Happy Teachers Try Something New

Brave teachers know that we never stop growing as professionals. We grow every day in the classroom as well as through experiences in our own lives outside of school. It is vital that we continue to experience new opportunities in and out of the classroom that will help us become more well rounded people. 

When we experience environments that are different from what we know we are able to relate more to our students. This might mean trying a new cuisine that one of your students has recommended, taking a driving/walking tour of the neighborhoods that your students live in, or pursuing professional development in any area of growth. All of these experiences will provide you with the chance to learn something new, make brave choices, and grow. 

For more on professional growth check out this post

For more ideas on how to be a happier teacher read on at 11 Things Happy Teachers Don't Do

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Why Teaching is Like Baking

Why teaching is like baking. There are more similarities than you would think!
This weekend I was making a pie for a bake off that we were hosting at our house for friends. While I was kneading, rolling, slicing, and baking away I couldn't help but think of all the similarities between baking and teaching and wanted to share them.

You Can't Be Afraid to Get Messy

This is the first similarity that I thought of because honestly I hate making a mess in the kitchen. I am a big fan of one pot recipes so that there is less the clean. I feel the same way about the classroom. I like to keep things as neat and clean as possible. 

The thing is though, that when you are afraid to get messy you miss out on a whole lot of deliciousness and learning. There is no neat way to make a pie, because regardless of how many precautions you take there will be flour, and likely other ingredients, everywhere. 

Don't be afraid to make a mess in the classroom. Break out that glitter with reckless abandon and let the magic happen. Pro tip: lint rollers are great for cleaning up glitter. 

It Doesn't Have to Be Pretty

When I went to slice the apples for my pie I realized they were all bruised and not looking great. I debated throwing them in the compost and making a quick run to the grocery store, but decided to slice into them instead. I am so glad I did because they were in perfect condition on the outside v. their lackluster outside. 

I think in the world of Pinterest we have all had to step up our classroom game a bit lest we be judged by our fellow teachers of why our classroom wasn't picture perfect. I would urge you though to slice into your classrooms and see what is really going on inside. A perfect looking classroom means nothing if there isn't a solid plan of action being followed within it. 

Repeat after me: substance over style. Every day. Every time. 

This is all to say that my pie is not the best looking pie on the block, and neither was my classroom, but I would be willing to bet on its taste or substance against any other pie. 

The Most Unlikely Ingredient Combinations Can Be Winners

Often when I am reading recipes I think the creator must be crazy based on some of the combinations, but guess what? They always work out. For example, a pinch of salt always makes a pie sweeter and balances the sugar. 

Similarly in our classrooms it is important that we include all of our ingredients; students, teaching methods, materials, and our families. When we include everything in our lessons and step outside the box we are sure to experience some failures, but the successes are so much sweeter as well. 

Patience Is Key

Why teaching is like baking. There are more similarities than you would think!Without patience I would not have a pie crust, for two reasons. The first reason is that to make a pie crust you have to follow directions precisely. The second is that I love the short dough I use for pie crust and could easily eat an entire batch raw. Add to this that you need to refrigerate the dough for two hours before rolling it out and filling it, and it is a real practice in patience. 

Likewise, classrooms are the perfect place to practice patience, because let's be honest, our students are sometimes annoying. 

Following Directions Matters

Following a recipe when baking is a precise process. It is extremely easy to mess up a recipe by not reading carefully. For example you might use baking soda instead of baking powder or a teaspoon of vanilla instead of a tablespoon. Either would change the outcome drastically. 

In the classroom we must know our rules or directions to the letter. Part of this is so that we can follow them, and part of it is so that when we intentionally break them, we do it with purpose. 

After all, some of the best baked treats come from a little experimentation. 

Everyone's Pie Will Look Different

When I first learned to bake pies it was in a class with about ten others. We all followed the same directions, had the same ingredients, and were cheered on by the same instructor. Guess what, each of our pies turned out a little different, and that's okay! 

In our classrooms things are going to look different for different people. We as teachers can be given the same set of directions and still present it to our students in different ways, who can then in turn process the information in different ways still. 

This is the magic of a classroom, because no one size fits all. 

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Happy Teacher Series: Self Care

Teaching is tough and we often forget to take care of ourselves. Check out this list of 10 ways to take a little time out and put yourself first!
Teaching is a demanding career, and if we, as teachers, don't take care of ourselves we are pretty much worthless. The truth of the matter is that we have to make time for ourselves in order to be our best for our classrooms.

Self care looks different for each person, because what relaxes one may actually cause stress for another. For example, part of my self care routine is reading every day. I like to get in a solid hour of it, but if you were to tell my friend that she had to read an hour every day she might lose her mind. Self care is not a one size fits all item. What is important is that you do what works for you.

10 Ways Happy Teachers Practice Self Care

  • Make time for exercise. Exercise serves two purposes because it is good for your body and good for your mind. In the words of Elle Woods, "Exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy!
  • Take up a hobby. Your hobby may be reading, binging on Netflix, going for walks through nature, or taking long bubble baths they all serve the purpose of making you happy and taking your mind off of school. 
  • Give yourself something to look forward to. When I know I am going to have a particularly stressful week I will schedule a pedicure for my first free time afterwards. This way while I am working away and stressing out during the week I am able to remind myself that a pedicure is awaiting me at the end of it. It makes it that much easier to push through.
  • Give a label to your emotions. Sometimes you need to just stop in the moment and say that it stinks. When I am waist deep in a task that is tough I will stop and say, "I am totally overwhelmed right now," which actually helps me feel better. Once I have placed a label on my feelings I am able to dig in and move on from them. 
  • Get enough rest. When we are in the middle of the school year it is hard to take the time to rest well, but that is when it becomes even more important. Take the initiative to decide when enough is done, even if you still have things to do, and go to bed. With a restful night's sleep you will be a better you.
  • Have a snack. I don't know about you, but sometimes I not only get hangry, but my hunger can also affect my ability to handle life in general. Those snickers commercials may be funny, but they harbor truth. Give yourself a chance to eat a healthy snack like some fruit, nuts, or a cheese stick and try to attack the problem again. 
  • Stay hydrated. As busy as we get as teachers we often forget that we need to be drinking water throughout the day. Dehydration brings on a variety of effects not the least of which is not being able to think clearly. Grab yourself a cute refillable water bottle and drink up!
  • Give yourself a treat. Think chocolate. I like to keep a stash nearby, because it is amazing how quickly my mood can be lifted with a tiny square of dark chocolate. It must be those anti-oxidants. ;)
  • Give yourself a creative outlet. Doodling is a great way to relieve stress and has been proven to help us think through situations more clearly. You don't have to be a doodler though, maybe you like to write or paint. Having a creative outlet of any type can be relaxing and good for your health. 
  • Give yourself a break. Remember when you were a child and given and time out. You probably thought it was the end of the world. Fast forward to today. How nice does it sound to sit in a quiet corner and think about ourselves for a few minutes? I'll take two please! 
Teaching is tough and we often forget to take care of ourselves. Check out this list of 10 ways to take a little time out and put yourself first!
In the end it doesn't matter what you do to take care of yourself, just do it! For more ideas on how to stay a happy teacher check out 11 Things Happy Teachers Don't Do.

Other posts in the Happy Teacher Series:

How to Say No
Stop Pretending to Have It All Together
Accepting Imperfection
How to Encourage Others
Professional Growth
Stop Rushing Through Tasks
Follow Your Passions

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