Got stress? These two words speak volumes. While stress can mean different things to different people, we all experience stress, especially teachers. If you belong to a teacher forum, a Facebook group of teachers, or listen to conversations in the teachers’ lounge you may have noticed that this year the stress level seems to be higher than normal. Districts have adopted a new curriculum because of Common Core, which means training and extra time planning. New types of tests are being implemented, leading to more meetings about the tests, the data collected, training, testing your students; and at some point you are supposed to squeeze in high quality lessons so your students will be ready for the high-stakes test in the spring.
Teachers today have a tough job, and finding a balance between work and home is a challenge. I have a few tips that you might like to try.
How many times have you heard people lament about the good ol’ days? If you are a teacher, you have probably heard veteran teachers say that it used to be easier to teach children because they listened and followed directions better. Did you ever watch Oprah when Dr. Phil was on her show? I loved the episodes when he would listen to someone’s troubles and then say, “How’s that working for ya’?” This is what I would ask myself after I had properly vented. Keep in mind I needed to properly vent first, which means my husband got to hear play-by-play details of my day. Which is why when he came home he usually asked, “How was your day? I just need the headlines, not the fine print.” But, the fine print is where the venting occurs. So, after a proper venting, I would ask myself the Dr. Phil question. Obviously, it was not working very well if I had so much “fine print” to vent about.
One day I had an epiphany. I would do the exact opposite. That particular class was an exceptionally challenging class. The students individually were good kids, but, the chemistry of the class was the problem. I had too many leaders and not enough followers. The students in my class that year were the oldest children in their families, and they were used to being the boss. Unfortunately, too many of my students were used to being the boss.
Instead of trying one more behavior management system, I would implement a focus-on-the-positive system. Did you hear about the golden rule when you were a kid? That was my basis for this. I told my students that manners matter and good manners are worth their weight in gold. I spray painted popsicle sticks with gold paint. You could color them with a yellow marker, as well, but paint is quicker so I did it that way. Students had a library pocket with their number on it. We talked about what exceptionally good manners looked like. I would give students a gold popsicle stick when I saw exceptionally good behavior. Examples included:
- Helping a classmate when he/she dropped his/her supply box.
- Letting a classmate take a turn at the water fountain when both arrived at the water fountain at the same time.
- Helping a classmate open her/his milk at lunch.
- Noticing that a classmate doesn’t have anyone to play with at recess, and asking him/her to play with you.
- But, these weren’t just behaviors that were normal expectations. These were “going for the gold” (great tie in with Olympics) or whatever else you want to call it. At the time, I was teaching in Texas so my students said that remembering to call me ma’am was showing golden manners.
I told them that I would be watching for golden manners. Students couldn’t point out their own exceptionally good manners but they could tell me about a classmate. Teacher Tip #1: This made a big difference! Suddenly they were looking for the positive in their classmates. They wanted to help each other so a classmate might give a positive report about them. You can organize the system however you want. For every 5 popsicle sticks that my students earned I put a stamp in their take home folder. It was a happy report for their parents. This system took very little time to make, was easy to implement, and motivated my students. Teacher Tip #2: Suddenly, my students were saying please and thank you for everything, including when I handed out their assignments. This looks very good when your principal is observing you. You might want to consider implementing this system if this is your year to be observed.
Here’s an example of how you can do it. I like to use gold tinsel. It is inexpensive and adds a nice 3-D touch.
This next tip was shared at an inservice given by a former principal and counselor. At the time of the inservice, the staff at my school was stressed and feeling unappreciated as our school was going through changes. I have shared this tip with student teachers and many stressed out colleagues.
Everyone needs a “You Make a Difference” file. My principal and counselor provided file folders, markers, stickers and other fun stuff that we used to decorate our file. They gave us time to go back to our classroom to find happy notes from parents and coworkers, evaluations, great test results, pictures, and other things that made us proud that we were teachers. We put those in our file.
I made some signs that you can use to decorate your own “You made a Difference” file. Plus, there are notes you can send coworkers to let them know they are making a difference. Click HERE for this FREEBIE.
They told us that there would be days when a parent would be upset with us, bad days with a student or co-worker, or a day when we found out disappointing test results. We needed to open this file and read these happy notes so we would remember that we do make a difference in many people’s lives!
My non-teacher friends often ask me for gift ideas or ways to show appreciation for their children’s teachers. If you are a parent, you have seen the huge impact a talented teacher has made on your child. Teachers can spark an interest, build a child’s confidence, and create a love of learning. Here are a few suggestions:
- One of my moms sold Tupperware. From time-to-time, she would send in muffins or other home baked goodies in a Tupperware container. Not only did I get a yummy treat, but also I got a great collection of Tupperware that year. . I loved that it was unexpected, it wasn’t a holiday, it was a just-for-the-fun-of-it treat and a great way to brighten a teacher’s day! If you don’t sell Tupperware, you could send goodies in one of the Ziploc containers in the picture below because teachers love those too. In this picture, is one of the bowls that Andrew gave me over 10 years ago. It is used every week and every time I use it, I think of Andrew and his mom.
- I love to get notes or emails telling me specific things that they like or appreciate. My favorite stories are the ones about my students being excited about learning and how they are applying it at home. Those stories make it all worthwhile!
- You’ve heard the saying, “it’s the thought that counts”, that is so true when it comes to showing thanks and appreciation. I’ve had students bring me a bottle of perfume and jewelry that belonged to their mothers that was half full. They said that they wanted to give me something for Christmas and they noticed I liked to smell good and wear pretty stuff. Isn’t that sweet and thoughtful? Of course, I called the mom later and explained what happened. I’m sure that’s a story that will be told for years to come.
This week, Chevrolet asked me if I would tell my followers about their new Educator Discount program. How great is that! For once I was sought out to share a teacher discount, instead of me having to reach out them. This is Chevrolet’s way of thanking teachers and helping them save money at the same time. Since I have a daughter who will soon be driving, I was more than happy to pop into my local Chevrolet dealership and check out their vehicles.
We all know that it takes everyone in the school to run a school efficiently. Chevrolet understands that too and their program is for all school employees, not just the teachers. Employees of public schools, private schools, colleges, and universities are eligible for Chevrolet’s Educator Discount so be sure to visit the site and find out more about this great deal.