Teacher Inspiration: Bright Ideas

Who inspires you?  Do you ever have those one of those days, months, or even a year when you just don't feel it? 

If you were in high school or college in 80's, more than likely you saw the movie Top Gun once or twice.  At one point, Tom Cruise is questioning whether he should continue to be a fighter pilot. He had lost his co-pilot and questioned his skills as a pilot.  He had lost his edge.  While you may not lose your students the same way that Tom Cruise lost Goose, you may question your abilities as a teacher when you fail to reach a student.  Maybe you have a new administrator or a particularly challenging parent this year that questions your skills as an educator.  Any of these situations can cause a teacher to lose his or her edge.

Teaching is a job that requires you to give, give, give and give a little more even if you don't think you have anymore to give.  Is it any wonder that there is a high burnout rate with teachers?

You give emotional support to the ones who are needy.  You give of your time, not just the contract hours from 8:00 - 3:00 but often your family's time, too. At times you give every ounce of your patience - or so it seems - with the ones who are crying out for attention but in the wrong way.  

If you teach long enough, you will eventually have a time when you hit one of these bumps I illustrated above.   If you are lucky, it will only be a little bump and you will have a quick recovery.  But, what do you do when you lose your passion for teaching and need some inspiration?

When I've had times where I questioned my ability, had others questioned it for me, or I felt drained and had no more to give, I knew that it was time for me to find my passion again.  One way I do this is finding a little me time on the weekends.  I pop some popcorn and watch a great teacher flick.  Two of my favorites are Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting.  They are the perfect movies for teachers to find a little inspiration.

How many times have we overlooked the bright student like Will Hunting because his behavior overshadows his gifts?   I can't tell you how many times after I have watched this movies that I listed the gifts that I had been overlooking in my students with challenging behaviors.  When I went in the next day and really focused on the gifts, my attitude changed, my approach changed, and quite miraculously the student's behavior changed.  Such an easy fix, but it is so easy to get in the power struggles that ensue in the day-to-day life of a classroom and forget what is at the core of the behavior.

Click HERE to see the clip.

The scene in the courtyard of Dead Poets Society is my absolute favorite because it deals with conformity.  This scene has been the starting point of many lessons.  I love to see the little cogs spinning in some of my students' heads after introducing this topic to them.  There is nothing like delivering a high quality lesson to remind you why you became a teacher.

Have you ever taught in a school where you felt like you were a square peg in a round hole?  You feel like you need to conform to the teaching style, behavior management, and other norms of the school but these aren't your philosophy.   In fact, if asked, you could write a 5 page paper, researched based, why you think the norms of the school are not student based or effective teaching practices. If you are in one of those square peg situations this year, you may want to bookmark this video to watch when you come home frustrated.  

The best advice I can give you is, nothing in education is permanent.  The running mantra in your head should be, this is just a temporary situation. Talk to any teacher who has been around for a while, education is a pendulum that swings back and forth or maybe the better way to look at it is like the weather.  If you don't like what is happening now, just wait, it will change.  When it will change can depend upon different factors.  

If you don't like the direction that your school is going, get involved.  Volunteer to attend training of something that does align with your core beliefs and then give workshops for your colleagues.  Be the "go to" person for this subject.  Join committees, take on leadership roles, share your knowledge, and your resources.  Change takes times and with someone leading the way, it will happen faster.  You will feel less stressed if you take on an active role.  

When I was in grad school for educational leadership, I took a class called Change.  It was one of my all time favorite classes EVER!  I think all undergrad students should have to take this class because we all go through many changes throughout our life. After attending this class I felt like I understood how I was reacting to change and also understood my co-workers' reaction better.  Although change is still a stressful situation, it is manageable when you understand it.
  • Do you have a new administrator this year?  How are you and your colleague reacting to the change in leadership?
  • Have you recently adopted a new curriculum?  How are you and your team members handling the change? 
This class helped us see how different people react to change.  I found a resource that has some of the information that we covered in my class.  This is a good starting point for those of you who are going through change.  I recommend googling change management to find other resources, too.  The more you understand, the less stressed you will be this year.

Click HERE to see Andrea Wenger's slideshow.

Where do you find your inspiration?


Sally said...

Thanks for posting this! Honestly, I've had that conversation with myself many times in my 37 years teaching. Somehow, I always come back with energy and enthusiasm! Yes, education is always changing. That's what makes it so interesting.

I LOVE that scene from Dead Poet's Society. In fact, that's always been my favorite teacher movie!

Sally from Elementary Matters

Unknown said...

Great post Michelle. Thank you for sharing.

Nicole Heinlein said...

Thank you Michelle! Definitely bookmarking and re-reading on those days I come home frustrated and defeated. This is great advice for new and veteran teachers alike!

Jennifer @ Simply Kinder said...

Love this post! All teachers should read it! It's all about perspective!

Jennifer from Simply Kinder

Kathy Griffin said...

Thanks for your ideas and encouraging words. I love Dead Poets Society. That is one of my favorite scenes too.

Kathy Griffin's Teaching Strategies

tlford73 said...

I really needed this today. I'm starting into my second year of having a really tough class, you know the kind that have "the infamous kid". I'm feeling discouraged and last week I realized I have to make a change in my own attitude if I am going to make it through the year.