As parents and students, it is easy to forget that there is a third equally-important element to the school equation – the teacher – who also needs to prepare both physically and emotionally for the upcoming school year.
This is usually more difficult to do than to physical preparation. Teachers, the first thing you have to remember is that under no circumstances can you take it out on your students. They have nothing to do with your life outside their classroom. As a mentor, it is easy for a teacher to get too emotionally attached.
When we get involved in the child’s personal life, we often think we are just trying to understand or help the child succeed. But the fact of the matter is, a teacher’s responsibility ends when the bell rings, and he or she has no control over what happens outside the classroom. Our emotions tell us we can do more than we actually can. I am not saying not to be involved in the child’s life, but be careful and be mindful of the healthy limitations.
One of the easiest boundaries a teacher can cross is unintentional favoritism. No matter what your emotions tell you, do not do something for one student that you are not willing to do for all your students. A great example of this is a home visit that many teachers do, especially with younger class. Unless you plan to visit 200 homes week (or however many students you have total), don’t do it for one.
As an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball coach, the home visit was a boundary I inadvertently crossed, not knowing what I was getting myself into. One of my kids was about to be kicked out of AAU due to failing to maintain a sanctioned grade average. I took him under my wing, and tutored him in the subject that he was failing. As more of the team started needing help, the time demands started to really add up. If I would have taken them all on, it would have stretched me too thin.
The second way you can avoid the emotion roller coaster of a teacher is to leave your work at school. Just like with any job, realize you need a personal life. Taking your work home with you creates stress and strained friendships (or lack thereof). I understand that sometimes you do have to take work home, but let it be just that…. not every night. When you do take work home, set a time limit and do it in a designated place, a place that is reserved for working. This will help keep your personal life and work life separate. Don’t correct those tests where you watch TV, you are mixing business and pleasure. Would you bring your TV with you and watch it at your desk while the students take a test?
A third way you can help maintain a decent emotional level is by remembering to not give free hours at work. If you are scheduled to be in class from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, allow an hour or two before or after class to do all the things you have to do, and then quit for the day. Do not reason that you will stay at work until all these tests are corrected, rather instead say, “I’ll correct these tests until 5 p.m., and then finish them tomorrow.” This is basic time-management, and will help you emotionally.
Emotionally speaking, no matter what job you have, the three basic principles are still the same. No favoritism, no taking work home, and no free hours at work. If you follow these three basic principles, you will be prepared for the school year that is now upon us. Remember, emotional attachment often masquerades as a good thing, but can often bring us down. In less than a year, many of you will never see these children again.
While it seems as if there is not much to prepare physically as a teacher, it’s just another common misconception. Teaching is a demanding profession and requires some personal concessions, such as not sleeping late in the morning. But make sure you are allowing yourself a full night’s sleep, as this will keep your body at a basic level of health.
Another way we can prepare ourselves physically is by exercising every morning. Whether you go to the gym, a yoga class, or simply stretch at home, these practices are a necessity. Exercising in the morning helps get our body’s blood flowing, which means we are more alert. A more alert teacher means more patience, kindness, and less of a chance of a mental breakdown from happening, especially so early in the morning. As an AAU coach, I always arrived at the practice facility about 30 minutes before I knew kids would start arriving and ran suicides, and shot around the court myself, so I would be mentally focused. Mental and physical preparedness do go hand in hand. Physical isn’t always about strength of muscle, but can also be the strength of mind.
A third and final way you can prepare yourself to be physically disciplined as a teacher is to maintain strong time management. Yes, we already talked about this in our preparing emotionally section, but this is a critical part of a successful classroom for a teacher. When I would plan on arriving at the court early to prepare myself, it was something I looked forward to, it was my time.
As with everything, the key is moderation because planning your time too detailed can cause just as much stress as not planning at all. You have to find the balance that allows for structure and flexibility.
Preparedness for both the emotional and physical demands of the classroom will help maintain a happy and healthy teacher. Time management is important in both of these areas. Teachers need to find a balance so that they get everything; the best of both worlds. They need to go to the movies and have fun with their friends, they need to have time to spend with their significant other and family, and they need to have quality time in the classroom.