See the Good, Feel Important

Teaching is a lonely profession.  This is an odd phrase because teachers are with students all day.  But, people can feel lonely even in a crowd.  The feeling of loneliness comes from feeling a lack of importance in life.  How can teachers be lacking a feeling of importance?  We shape the minds of the young and this is a very important undertaking.  However, the day-to-day battles are intense.  The students can be vicious.

Constant negative feedback is tough to swallow.  I had students not trying after discussing biking, which I thought would be applicable to their lives.  I had a student tell me she doesn’t do work in my class because it is boring.  Today we were building an environment out of Legos and other pieces to understand watersheds and pollution.  I had a student write “Mr. Hingstrum is a bitch” on the desk after I took her book away because she wasn’t doing her assignment.  These constant negative actions cause me to feel unimportant, and thus, lonely.

Changing our mindset in order to see the good we did is hard in these situations.  I had excellent visuals for gears for the students to see.  I tried to make the problem applicable to their life.  I gathered the resources for the students to be able to build the environment.  I did have some students interested and trying.  I was important to some!

We all must note when we feel stress or anger begin to rise. More importantly, we must use it as a trigger to begin looking for the good around us.  This will help steer us toward a positive mood, which in turn will help the environment around us.

What are some good things you did today?

The Purpose of Education

Educators must supply new experiences of suffering for their students.  The purpose of education is to learn how to overcome new obstacles.  Amazingly simple.  This may be why teaching has been so difficult for me.  I never want to harm anyone.  I want to help.  But, I’ve come to realize teaching includes both aspects.  More specifically, teaching in public schools does.  I must plan to deliver the new problem for the students to practice solving and help the students solve it.

I had this same thought before.  In my past, I called the problems “puzzles.”  This felt more positive.  But, I think if students understood that the purpose of school was to help them understand how to reduce suffering, then more students would want to be there.  Who doesn’t want to know how to reduce their suffering?

In case you are wondering, I believe science is the best way to reduce suffering.  Make your life into an experiment.  You’ll learn so much!

Keep Growing

Growth.  It makes us feel good.  Remember all those amazing first steps: tying our shoes without help; signing our name in cursive; hitting a pitched baseball; running our first 5k; getting our license.  These moments stand out in my memory, and I am assuming yours.  I hope you, too, are smiling.

Maintaining the feeling of growth is a challenge now that I am an adult.  I was told what to achieve while growing up, but now I have all this freedom.  And this abundance of freedom causes stress.  What are some ways to reduce or eliminate this stress?

There seems to be one all-encompassing way to reduce stress: Mindfulness.  Live in the current moment and act in ways to reduce the current cause of stress.  This is extremely difficult because our minds are extremely creative.  If you are anything like me, then your mind identifies the stress and creates an elaborate story stemming from it.  For example, I’ve played out entire conversations with troubled students in my head (and the real conversations NEVER end up like my imagined story).   We must practice realizing and stopping our wandering mind.

What would be helpful to replace the elaborate story with?  First, we should create an action plan to eliminate the stress.  Then, we must implement the action plan.  For me, my teaching is a main cause of stress.  I consistently feel overwhelmed.  But, I also know my use of time has been poor.  Here is a new cause of stress: the feeling of wasting time.  So what causes us to waste time?

I waste time for two reasons: 1. Not understanding why I should do something, and/or 2. Not knowing a next step to take.  We can work to fix both of these.  To fix number one, we must ask ourselves, “What good might come from doing this project?” An easy answer would be, “My stress will go down once it is over,” but I think there will be much more motivating answers to this question.  To fix number two, asking the question, “What are the pieces of the project I am doing?” will be a good start.  Afterward, we can plan steps to build the pieces and then how to arrange them in order to complete the project.

Once you do a couple of projects, you might find that you ask yourself the same questions over and over.  This happened to me while lesson planning.  From there, I created a template to use, which is posted below.  Watch for patterns in your mind and create something to help make those patterns efficient.  Especially if they work!

Lesson Planning Helper

 What big idea is being taught?

Why is the big idea important to know? How has it impacted the community and me personally?

What are three ways to show an understanding of this big idea? How can the students apply this knowledge?

What is needed to understand this big idea?  What skills are required?  What facts are required?

Turn the above concepts and skills into questions.

For each question, identify resources to use to help answer the question.

What will be used to assess the students?