Thinking of what to write about this week was a struggle. Everything I wanted to talk about was negative, and I’m tired of everything being negative. I don’t want to sound like a whiny, helpless, negative person.
I wanted to talk about something good that happened this week, but I sat here for far too long trying to think of one good thing.
I realised at that point that this profession makes it far too easy to focus only on the negative things.
Things like the prolonged arguments I had with a number of year 11 students who don’t want to do after school intervention sessions.
Like the extra intervention session I had to supervise on Friday afternoon because the person who organised it had another meeting to go to.
Like the fact that I really struggled to make a lesson for my year 10s because I couldn’t focus properly, and I didn’t know how to structure it easily.
Like the realisation that the year 8 boy who plays up every lesson actually struggles to read so much that he just gives up instead of trying, even with my help.
There are so many components to this job, so many individuals to deal with, so many tasks to do, that it is very easy to find all the bad things. And once you start picking out the bad, it becomes ever easier to keep finding more. Our brains are generally hard-wired to focus on those bad things, because it helps to stop us from repeating mistakes. We are even encouraged as teachers to reflect on all the bad things specifically to think of ways to do better next time. When we get together at lunch or go home to our house mates or family after school we need to vent all of that, to the point that we often compound the issues or make them much larger than they deserve.
It is very easy to let the negatives completely overtake the positives. It happens to the point where you are overcome with stress, develop anxiety issues or depression, lose your sense of humour and most (if not all) of your patience, start having health issues, and finally you don’t see the point any more and just want to quit. The ever-real threat of teacher burnout.
Trying to see the positives when you are dealing with all of that is near impossible. I am sitting here consciously trying to think of what went well this week, and it is hard! Of course there were good things that happened this week! I just let all of the negatives become so much more important that I let the positives go.
But I will try.
I will try, because if I can’t see the good in what I do, really what is the point?
I got to go home relatively early at the beginning of the week, because my planning was mostly done and I didn’t have a meeting. This meant I worked a 8.5 hour day for the first time in months.
I had a really good lesson with my year 10s. We did a group station activity for the first time, and they engaged with the task so well I was able to sit for a while and just observe them.
I told one of my year 11s he had to come back after school to complete an experiment for assessment because he was away on the day we did it in class, and he did it with no complaints.
One of my year 8 classes had to write a letter to the school about recycling for homework, and some of them were written so well that I couldn’t fault them.
Some of my girls in our Star Skills class wanted to make science posters instead of playing science games on the laptops, and they were absolutely beautiful (now taking pride up on my class wall).
Some of the boys in that same class challenged me to a competition at Lemonade Stand, and I won. Bit of inequality on my part as I’d played this game when I was in high school, but they tried so hard to work out the economics of the game and develop a strategy.
Our school recently acquired a hedgehog baby, and I got to see it and it is so tiny and adorable.
Looking back at it now, there were actually quite a few positive things that happened at school this week! Some of them quite small, some of them much bigger, but they all happened.
I want to make a concerted effort to focus more on the positive things. That doesn’t mean I ignore or disregard the negative, but once I have given them their necessary thought (or vent), I want to actively think of a positive thing. I want to do this for me – if I can counteract each negative with a positive, it might help me deal with this whole profession a bit better, and stave off the ever-looming desire to give up and let it go.
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.