Back-to-school season is here. How are you feeling? Do you have a positive teacher mindset? In my twenty-five-plus years in education, my thoughts and feelings have ranged from excited anticipation to trepidation. I ask myself what accounts for that range of emotion. On the good end of the range, I was excited about my content area, my instructional strategies, the expected reactions of my students, and the collegiality of my work environment. Almost everything I anticipated about the coming year was good, pleasant, and fulfilling. When I’ve found myself on the other end of the emotional spectrum it is because I anticipated problems and unpleasantries. I could foresee issues in the classroom that prevented me from imparting content knowledge and using the instructional strategies I was so proud of. My anticipation was of prickly relationships with students, parents, administrators, and colleagues and unnecessary extra work that lent nothing to my teaching experiences. I actively and often thought about changing jobs or getting out of teaching altogether.
How Do Teachers Stay Motivated?
If you find yourself on the good end of the above range with a positive teacher mindset, nothing needs to change. You are doing what fulfills you and probably having a very positive impact on those you are serving because you are so happy doing it. If, on the other hand, you find yourself on the unpleasant end of the spectrum, this is a good time to do some self-evaluation. You need a change in perspective. The source of your problem is your reaction to your situation, not so much the situation itself. In relation to the above descriptions of teaching environments, many of the components of the “good” situation are currently present, but a few of the “bad” are as well. Here is where the change in perspective comes in. You must accept and work around the things you cannot change, and actively manage the ones you can affect. Try one or more of the following:
1. List the things that bother you as well as the reasons they do so.
Simply listing the things that bother you helps you develop a positive teacher mindset and a perspective of what you can control and what you can’t.
2. Strategize ways to deal with (or change) each.
Once you have come up with the right idea of what you are in control of, then you can begin ignoring those things that you can’t control. You will never be able to change things that are out of your control, but you can make a plan to deal with the things you do have control over.
3. Think about and choose the best approaches in #2 above, then do them.
Take some time to really evaluate the ideas you came up with. Let them fully play out in your head. Once you have decided on the best approaches, take action.
4. Get the help of supervisors and/or colleagues if necessary.
There is a good chance that if something is causing you to have a negative mindset, then others are faced with this same issue. Seek out a network of support to tackle the issue.
5. Forget your remaining issues and focus on the good you are doing in serving others.
If you are still thinking about those things you can’t control, then it is time to let it go. At the end of each day, write down 3 good things from that day. This helps to shift your mindset from focusing on the bad to centering positivity around you.
6. Find something to be joyful about and look forward to each day.
Go back to your WHY. Why do you do what you do each day? What drew you to being in education? Get back to the roots to reignite your flame for teaching. No matter how simple something may be, let it be a reason to make you happy.
7. Finish any unpleasant tasks before you go home each day.
Not only should you finish unpleasant things before you go home, but put these things at the top of your to-do list if you can. When you get done what you don’t want to do first, it helps you to build a sense of accomplishment and makes everything else a little easier. “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
8. Go into each day with a plan and a feeling that preparation is complete.
Take some time to anticipate what may go wrong or what challenges you may face. Confronting obstacles with a plan is much more effective than hitting them blindly. Also, if you’ve managed your time well enough, then you will always be prepared. And being prepared is the key to success.
9. Work to develop good time management skills so that you can balance your work, relationships, and personal life.
Finding a balance between your work and other things is critical to developing and keeping a positive mindset. Create a schedule to get your work done, find time at school to interact with colleagues to build positive relationships, and be able to fully focus on things in your personal life when the day is done.