The Secret to Being A Happy Classroom Teacher

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I found my life’s calling when I became a teacher. Finally, I thought, a job I could see doing for the rest of my life. 

And pretty much as soon as I found my calling, I lost my f*king marbles.

I’ve always been a super productive, perfectionist, ambitious, go-getter and stepping into a new career wasn’t going to change that fact.

My plan was to be the best teacher ever in the history of the universe.

Even if I had to do ridiculous things to get there.

My first year I worked the first 72 days of school straight. No weekends, no evenings, no friends, no exercise, no fun. I was in it to win it, friends.

Work, work, work. You name it, I did it:  lesson and unit planning, curriculum and classroom management trainings after school and on the weekends, seating charts, weekly progress reports, calls home and community building activities. 

I limped to the finish line that year with the promise I’d do better the next year. Teaching would get easier with time I told myself.

Turns out my second year, was harder than the first. I had an exceptionally challenging class, and I again told myself teaching would get easier when I had more experience under my belt.

By the end of my third year, I was exhausted from teaching and some personal grief, and if I’m being totally honest, completely unhinged. Mentally and physically exhausted, I knew something had to really change if I was going to stay in this profession.

A couple more years passed pretty much the same way. I was doing the same thing and expecting a different result: working too much, too hard and promising to do better “next year” and each year I just got more and more exhausted.

The worst part? It was affecting my ability to be a good teacher. Resentment was building and I was becoming less flexible and fun, both inside and out of the classroom.

But let’s be honest, not much changed because I didn’t know where to start. Knowing something needs to change and actually making real changes are two very different things.

Time and experience were not going to be the only thing to help me stay healthy, happy and sane in the classroom. That much I figured out.

Midyear, my principal called me into his office to basically stage an intervention. He asked me if i was happy being a teacher.

Keep in mind, this guy thought I kicked ass in the classroom. He knew I excelled at all the teacher work, but he wanted to know if I’d be happier doing something else because he didn’t see a single ounce of joy in my face.

*GULP*

<cue tears>

I cried. Totally ugly cried. Because, the answer was no. I wasn’t happy being a teacher. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else for a living because I still felt I was called to be a teacher. But I wasn’t happy doing things the way they were being done.

Something had to change.

It wasn’t pretty. 

I was embarrassed because apparently I wasn’t the best teacher in the universe after all.

Then I got mad.

And then I got real.

Real immature.

If “they” weren’t going to appreciate all the time and effort I was putting into my classroom, then I just wasn’t going to any more. I’d show them…

So instead of spending every free moment of my life working, I started going to yoga class in the afternoon. I started cooking dinner and making sure I had good leftovers for lunch. I started making plans with friends for fun.

That’s when it all clicked.

When I was happier in my life outside the classroom, life in the classroom was happier. My patience grew, my appreciation for my students grew, my resentment disappeared and we ALL did better.

Let me repeat that last part: My students did better at school when I took better care of myself.

Maya Angelou is famous for saying “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Teaching is a marathon and requires some serious training. And not that kind they cover in your credential program.

Enter: The Healthy, Happy Sane Teacher.

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What’s your secret to being a happy classroom teacher?

Image Source: Drawing Digital Print Mixed Media Illustration Print … by CocktailZoo on Etsy

6 thoughts on “The Secret to Being A Happy Classroom Teacher

  1. I’m not a classroom teacher, but yes, I can relate as well. A massage therapist needs to take care of herself too. The weight of that didn’t kick in when I worked at hotel spas, gyms, not even chiropractic offices with acute accident injury victims… And then something switched. It was when I started providing massage to teenagers and young adults who were seeing me as part of a wraparound team program to help them recover from serious emotional problems… and they of course could see right through any act I might put on. Energy knows energy, and working with people with addiction recovery issues and attachment disorders, forced me to start to dig and face my own. Mine wasn’t meth, or anorexia, but it was patterns all the same. The stifled energy that I held locked in me by not exercising, not resting, not connecting inward, not being honest with myself about feeling what I was feeling, not being authentic in many ways– that energy was strong enough to blow the roof off any face I might put on. Being with young people brought out the real person inside me, my conscience as well as my compassion, and it spilled over into my own mirror somehow. My will to live ordinary life in a more soulful way suddenly got real. And it was teachers, of yoga and other mind body healing arts, that got the engines running.

    Thanks teenagers, young people, children… for reminding us who we want to be. Who we are. And thanks Tami for making me smile, as usual, with your strong and vibrant truth. Peace!

    =)

  2. Pingback: Tami’s Teaching Story and How She Was Totally Doing It Wrong Until She Wasn’t Anymore. | The Healthy, Happy, Sane Teacher

  3. Reblogged this on oliviaobryon and commented:
    I know, I know, two reblogs in a row, but I can’t help it. This post made me laugh and smile. So much truth. The secret to surviving (and enjoying) teaching is taking care of yourself. Pretty sure that transfers to other hard jobs in life too… Like parenting, perhaps?

  4. I LOVE this post. The first line made me laugh out loud. I had to read it to my husband. Then we both laughed together. Most of all, however, I love your message. It is so true– I have experienced the same thing on a smaller scale (I still gave myself weekends my first year…). Teaching is easier, happier, better when I take care of myself. Thank you for the reminder.

  5. I’m not a classroom teacher, but boy can I relate to this post! Making a significant amount of time for self-care exponentially improves my work performance, even though it – paradoxically – often means leaving “the pile” (of not-done work) on my desk at the end of the day!

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