While I’m not teaching anymore, there are certain lessons from my experiences in the classroom that have helped me in my new pursuits. Indeed, I am now marked indelibly as a teacher and this will influence my perspective everywhere I go.
If you do something wrong or make a mistake that affects someone else negatively, say sorry and explain why. People are more likely to move on and forget about whatever happened. It also helps build up trust because they know that you’re not likely to pass blame onto others or act like nothing’s happened.
2. Admit when you don’t know
If we always give the impression that we know everything even to the point of making things up, we give the impression that there is no room for error. Young people struggle with being wrong. By admitting when I didn’t know something, I tried to show my students that it was acceptable and that no one knows all the answers. When we’re not afraid to be wrong, it’s easier to ask for help when it’s needed.
3. Don’t take it personally
Everyone comes into school and work with myriad issues affecting their mood. No matter what someone says—or doesn’t say, for that matter—pause to consider what might be going in their lives to influence them to behave that way. If teachers took every comment and misbehaviour to heart, I don’t know how they’d get through the day.
4. Know your limits
The stronger students are, the more likely they seem to be given extra work. The same goes with teachers and any other employee in a work place. If you are seen to be competent and willing to get involved, you will be asked to. Make sure you know what you are and aren’t willing to do, how much time you’re willing to spend and for how much. It helps to talk to people from other sectors to find out what other workloads, work environments and expectations are like. While these might not be comparable to your own, it offers some valuable perspective to help you figure out what’s possible and what you consider acceptable.
This may seem obvious when working with pupils; it’s easy to forget when we’re working with colleagues.
5. Notice when things are good
There’s little challenge in complaining, in whingeing about what’s gone wrong or about how busy you are. Some days, the real challenge is in finding something good to talk about and celebrating the successes, no matter how small. If you don’t make a conscious effort to do this, sometimes work seems much more miserable than it really is.
6. You can’t control everything
We can discuss waves 1, 2 and 3 intervention for days. We can have conversations, make phone calls and apply new strategies. There are some things, though, that are out of our control. While this doesn’t stop me from trying my very best, I feel considerably less stress when I keep this in mind.
7. Find another way
We’ve all been in the position of not understanding something and having someone repeat it back to us in the exact same way, though maybe with different emphasis or more slowly. We’ve also all had the feeling that this doesn’t work. Sometimes we need to use a different vocabulary. Or we need to relate it to something more familiar. Use a diagram. This may seem obvious when working with pupils; it’s easy to forget when we’re working with colleagues.
8. Defining success
It’s different for everyone. By having the same expectations of each person, we’re unnecessarily setting up some people for failure. No doubt there are certain basic, ‘across the board’ reasonable expectations, but where it comes to individuals doing their best, they vary. Try to discover each person’s strengths and recognise when they’ve done well, according to their ability, not everyone else’s.