7. Confidence & presence. When you’re a teacher, the classroom is your domain. We start as unsure newbies discovering our boundaries, being too permissive, being too strict, finding our voice. Eventually, we discover the middle ground, and own the space with a power that comes from an inner confidence. You know those classrooms when you step into them. This confidence, how to own a space with your presence without needing to exert your control, is priceless. If you can do it with a classroom, you can extend it to other areas of your life.
8. It doesn’t matter what other people think about you, or about the profession, so let that sh*t go. One thing that I learned to let go of as a teacher, particularly an early elementary teacher, is that people think the job is “cute”, or that you’re cute for doing it. And usually, they haven't the slightest clue just how physically and mentally f'ing hard it is! Not that there's anything wrong with cute, but I am/we are so much more than cute, and the job is far from cute on most days. A person can be smart and driven and have the option to be a _____ (doctor, lawyer, financial analyst, insert any respected job), and choose to be a teacher. (In fact, uh, isn't that who you want in the classroom?!) It’s a shame that teaching is a low respect profession in this country, because bright, creative and driven people make bright, creative and driven teachers. But if you are standing around waiting for people to say, "hey, you must be really smart because you became a teacher!" it ain’t gonna happen. Be happy with your choices in life, that’s all that really matters. And if you’re not happy with them, then work to change it. (Also see #9).
9. Affirm yourself. (See #8). Other people aren’t going to to do for you. This took me a while to learn, and it’s still a struggle some days, but teaching (and life) are so much better when you can do this. So learn to give yourself a pat on the back. Feel awesome about your successes, no matter how big or how small. Own your hard work, own your awesome classroom set-up, own the way you connected with that student who does everything in her/his power to build walls, own the way you redirected that lesson in the spur of the moment. High-five yourself. You rock.
10. Forgive yourself. (And others). You’ll screw up, you’ll make mistakes, you’ll forget things, some little, some big. If you’re an elementary teacher, you spend more time with your students during the school day than their families do. You have their little lives in your hands, and that’s a sh*t load of responsibility. You’re a walking, talking model in everything you do. But you’re also human, and as such sometimes you’ll respond with less than kindness, you’ll be unprepared, you’ll make a bad call. I know the world likes to think teachers should be perfect, but you’re a person, just like everyone else. (It's also handy to remember this when your colleagues, admins, students' parents, significant other, etc screw up). When you make a mistake, acknowledge it, do what you can to rectify it if necessary, learn from it, and forgive yourself. That’s the best any of us can do, in the classroom, and in life.
Much love and much gratitude to you and this profession!