Day 29: How have you changed as an educator since you first started?
Because I've fallen behind in this blog challenge, sometimes I read the posts of my fellow #comcon members before I get to writing my own. This is both bad and good. I don't want to mirror their ideas closely, but I often get inspiration from their awesome work.
In this instance, I have been inspired by Maria Verwey and her post, "Moi? Changed?". Like her, I'm going to write this post as a letter to my past self from my current self.
I don't know how much I've "changed", but I've definitely learned a lot and if I could go back and share that wisdom with my past self, I'd make my own life a whole lot easier.
Dear Past Shauna of 2004,
You look great. Seriously, I know you don't think you do, but you do. Ten years and a bunch of sleepless nights and a lot of stress eating changes you. Enjoy how you look right now.
Cut yourself some slack. When you start to accept the advice you give to your students, life will get a lot easier. "Don't worry, be crappy" - just get things done. They don't always have to be perfect. "Be Velcro. Let the good things stick to you. Be Teflon. Let the bad stuff slide off you". The bad stuff does NOT weigh more than the good stuff. Let it go.
You have a sphere of influence. Those kids who come into your classroom everyday, they deserve the best of you. For the time you are with them. They have lives away from you, too. You can't fix everything about those. You are their teacher and they'll see how much you care for them, but they don't have to haunt your every waking hour. You're only one person.
There are only 24-hours in a day. Some of that needs to be spent on you. Captain Handsome and your friends deserve your full attention at least some of the time.
You can say no sometimes. You will meet so many amazing people who can run clubs, go to meetings, help students and mentor others. You don't need to do it all. Other people can do it just as well as you. Sometimes better. You don't have to be an active part of every single cool initiative you hear about. Sit back sometimes and encourage someone else to take a chance. Remember, you only have 24-hours in a day. I'm not kidding, working for 18 hours a day doesn't make the day itself any longer. You do have to sleep.
Take a day off when you are starting to get sick. Don't let the scratchy throat turn into Strep, then Bronchitis, then Pneumonia twice or three times a year.
Track your spending. You will spend thousands on teaching resources. It will be good to one day tally it all up and see the percentage of your earnings you reinvest into your career.
Those days when you feel like you are a failure? They get fewer and farther between over time. I promise, they really do. You'll also get better at holding on to some of the good stuff. It doesn't help right away when things go wrong, but having an "Atta Girl" folder on your email and keeping beautiful handwritten notes from students, co-workers and parents helps build you up.
Everybody makes mistakes. Even you. It's OK. People will like you more when they see that you're not perfect and when you let them see (a little) behind the facade of strength. You will start to make your best friends you've ever had when you do.
Relax. Laugh more with your students. Following their ideas, passions and interests always makes for the best relationships and the best learning. Don't worry so much about making the BEST educational use of every single moment. You, and the kids, will remember the other stuff more.
You know those people who said, "Never hug a kid" or "Don't smile 'till Christmas"? Your initial reaction to them was right. They're so very wrong. For you at least, the relationships you'll build with your students will make all the difference in how you reach them.
Let go of envy and jealousy. You're doing a good job. Teaching and learning are life-long processes and you're on a journey. You are exactly where you should be right now. Other people's successes do not change what you are doing.
Don't doubt yourself so much. You have pretty sound judgement most of the time. Trust it. When you make a mistake, own up to it, and then learn from it. You don't need to beat yourself up.
You know those kids who seem like they HATE you right now. They don't. They really don't. Someday, years from now, you'll get the most incredible reaction running into them in public. They'll tell you which of your words made all the difference to them. What you are doing is worthwhile. Those kids need you and you're doing what they need.
Take care of myself,
Future Shauna (2014)