I was told before I began my career in education that I should do my best to avoid the “negative” teachers. The ones that complain about everything and never have anything positive to say. The only smile you ever see on their faces are on Friday afternoons as they rush through the exit. While I knew these teachers existed, merely from going through high school myself, I almost didn’t believe these warnings. Call it naiveté but I couldn’t understand why any person so jaded with a profession would wake up every single day and go to a job they hate. Now, I know this world we live in is filled with people who hate their jobs. Some would say it is simply a part of life, but, this job, this career, isn’t like others. I believe to teach is a calling. Most of us walk into this career knowing, at least to some extent, what is going to be expected of us. We work long days that many times bleed into the late hours of the night. We spend copious amounts of time reworking and rethinking lessons so they are engaging while still promoting and pushing academic excellence. This time commitment is understood when a person takes on the role of teacher, and I can’t think of a single teacher that got into this profession for the money. This is why it is confusing to me that so much negativity spreads throughout our schools.
Now, before I throw the first stone, I am in no way exempt from these things. I have, in moments of weakness, found myself drifting into the ever-flowing stream of negativity. I have said things in moments of desperation that I know were not right. In the midst of many tired mornings I have carried myself in a manner that is more representative of an out of work artist struggling to survive than of a professional educator. I am in no way proud of these things, but maybe I am speaking as much to myself as I am to anyone else.
It seems to me that there is a culture of negative thought and action in our school system. Yes, there are many things that need to change. For example: Teachers do not get paid, especially in Arizona, nearly enough to constitute the amount of time and effort most teachers put into their job. Class sizes are often way to large and resources can at times be scarce. While these are real issues that need real solutions, these things often become the source of extremely negative thought and discourse.
I am not saying we shouldn’t be upset about these things. What I am suggesting is that we put those issues, angers, and frustrations aside when we walk into the doors of our schools. There is a time and a place for everything. That time or place is not in a room full of students who depend on you, for however short a time. The reason we teach in the first place is to impact the lives of young people. It is not right nor appropriate to vent our feelings and anxieties to students or in the proximity of students.
On a daily basis, I hear more negative comments that I would like to count. One teacher dislikes the way another teachers runs their class. Another teacher can stand the schools policy on dress code or thinks the campus should be closed at lunch. An English teacher can’t understand why the history teachers don’t teacher thesis statements and essay writing. A history teacher complains about conventional errors in a student’s writing and blames the English department.
Many of these complaints and comments are on issues that are minute and inconsequential at the time. We, as people who are passionate about what we teach, often allow these minor issues to darken our thoughts. We find ourselves, before we even know it, saying things that may not be appropriate or constructive.
We have to be intentional in our daily lives to promote an atmosphere of community and joy. It is not enough to stand outside the door of your class and greet your students as they walk in if they over hear you talking to a coworker about how much you can’t wait to get out of the school and start the weekend or that the meeting that you went to the day before was a waste of time.
While it may be a struggle to convince students to listen when you are trying to give them useful information, more often than not, if something negative is coming out of your mouth they hear it.
We may disagree with many things. We may feel tired. The end of our ropes may be quickly approaching but for the sake of our school, our students, and our lives, we need to reign in those feelings. If we can find a way to do this, I believe we will see a change in the outlook of many of our students. Students that seemingly don’t care will begin to. The student that is about to give up may hold on, knowing that they have teachers who really do care. If a teacher walks around with a negative attitude and brings that into the classroom, their students will embrace it. However, if a teacher does their best to promote and encourage community and positive thinking, their students will embrace that too.
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