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How-To: Develop as a Professional
Being a Positive Force Judy Jones

Your state of mind defines you as a professional! Each year and every day we educators are faced with incredible challenges. This year, as I returned to my high school, I was confronted with the fact that our six year-old high school is now overcrowded. We have 14 science teachers and 12 science rooms so it is necessary to have traveling teachers. I have volunteered to travel since I cannot see placing this entire burden on our new teachers. So I am teaching 3 classes in one room, navigating the crowded halls (in six minutes!) to reach my fourth period, and then after lunch and a prep period, I wheel my trusty cart to another room in another quad to teach my last class. I have three different preparations - one of them new. Our computers have been reimaged and out network upgraded and there is a myriad of glitches! We are using a new state-wide system for taking attendance and recording grades (NCWise) and I can't begin to describe the problems we have encountered! (And I know that many of you out there have challenges even more formidable to face.)

I have learned over the years that when I seem to have lost control of many pieces of my life, I still have absolute control over one thing - my attitude. I can face my challenges with a smile or I can grumble and grouse about them, but the reality is that they will be there no matter what. I choose to face each day with a smile, with enthusiasm, with humor, and with the welfare of my students uppermost in my mind. Knowing that I can make this choice gives me power and helps me influence those around me. I feel that I am contributing to the total school environment. This is my first step in presenting myself as a professional. 

If you are a new teacher and feeling overwhelmed, maintaining an upbeat, positive attitude will go a long way toward helping you cope with your situation. Here are some tips.

  1. Maintain a sense of humor. Look for those crazy things that give you a laugh each day. Years ago I read a book by Bel Kaufman titled Up the Down Staircase. This book gave me such a laugh. Bel Kaufman highlighted her first year experiences in a large inner city high school - these experiences haven't changed that much. The unique spin that she put on her challenges was filled with humor.
  2. Try to avoid jaded, discouraged experienced teachers. In my experience there are not many of them, but the few that there are can wear you down and make you feel discouraged, too. Sometimes this means avoiding the faculty lounge!
  3. Find some time for yourself each day. Try to find a little nook at school where you can find a few minutes of solitary to reflect, rest, and recoup. I know you won't get much of this, but there are some tricks. I go back in my workroom during my preparation period and take just 10 minutes to have a snack, a cup of coffee, and to read an interesting article. That much can revive me for the next set of challenges.
  4. Walk into the school each morning with a smile (even if you have to force it a little). Stop and talk to students, other teachers, custodians, and secretaries. Ask how they are doing and really listen. This only takes a few minutes and it connects you with the people at your school. Sharing a few words and a smile with other people really sets off my day in a positive way.
  5. Get together with other new teachers at your school. Our new teachers like to meet Friday afternoon at some local restaurant to share their week, to laugh, and to let some of the stresses roll off their shoulders. This helps to build friendships and builds strength around shared experiences. And it might only take one hour a week.
  6. Reflect on your students one-by-one. Think about them as unique individuals each with gifts and each with many things to learn. When I do this, I appreciate even more the problems they face and the efforts they are making. It gives me joy to be part of their lives.
Please email me and let me know the ways that you maintain your positive attitude!


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