I intended to write a different post this morning. I made my coffee, planning it out in my mind. But when I sat down to write, I found myself thinking about a colleague who has a very challenging class this semester–and about my own past challenging classes–and about what I wish I had known then.
Strengthening relationships is always the right answer. For me, a positive healthy relationship means feeling and expressing a genuine interest in, enjoyment of, and caring for my students. One challenge: it often means listening a lot more than talking and validating their feelings rather than trying to change their minds. I wish I had known then that I also need to express caring in ways that students will be able to feel and accept it.
Changing my perspective is the fastest way to change someone else’s behavior. Granted, this is mostly true because a behavior ceases to be a problem to me if I am no longer bothered by it. Not recommended for actual safety issues. But all the little irritating things that frustrate me and that I spend my day trying to stop? Those things are usually more about me. I think we all reframe in different ways, but for me, I need to try to understand a behavior from the student’s perspective, imagining what their why might be, and then I need to understand why the behavior bothers me so much. It’s usually related to fear of losing control or fear of what others will think of me. Reframing a situation so that we can understand and find positive ways to work with rather than against others takes work, but it’s liberating. And a side benefit I often see: once I stop being bothered by a behavior, the behavior may actually stop. I don’t know why that is. Maybe because it’s human nature to resist; maybe because what we put energy into is what we get more of. I wish I had known then that reframing isn’t giving up or giving in; it’s refocusing and freeing energy that allows me to find actual solutions.
The only thing I can control in the classroom is myself. I never did very well in science, but I still like the lab as a metaphor for teaching. Each class, each interaction is an experiment of sorts. The input I can best control is myself–my words, my energy, my regulation. As a new teacher, it was absurd for me to be trying to control kids when I couldn’t always control my own emotions or how I expressed those emotions. Now, with many years of deep practice thanks to teaching and parenting, regulation feels like a more natural state. I wish I had known then how liberating it is to be able to respond thoughtfully and intentionally rather than react.
I feel such fondness now for the classes that have been challenging for me. Fondness and gratitude. I hope my colleague will eventually feel that way about this particular class too.
My theme for Slice of Life 2022 is finding inspiration in the writing of others. Each day I plan to find my slice in someone else’s words or forms. Today I was inspired by the teaser jcareyreads posted at Two Writing Teachers: “This wasn’t the piece I planned to write today!” You can read her post (the one she wasn’t planning to write) here. Thanks for the nudge to write the piece I wasn’t planning to write.