Professional Development Opinion

Focus on What Can Be Done

By Starr Sackstein — October 27, 2016 3 min read
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In education today, educators are trapped in the muck and mire of red tape that can easily lead to burn out or loss of purpose.

It is easy to get wrapped up in all of the things that make teaching untenable and sadly, many do.

Because this is the reality of the current educational environment, it is important for educators to focus on what can be done and try their best to live in those moments that connect us to why we decided to teach in the first place.

Here’s what you can focus on, even when the going gets rough:

  • The students. It’s always about the students. Even the ones who give you a hard time occasionally. Most of us went into teaching because we wanted to have a real impact on the people we are working with. And every child has a story just like we do. If we focus on the hows and whys and develop our relationships with the students in our spaces, it is easy to find aha moments that inspire the will to push on. This is not to say, you won’t have days with the kids push you to the point of frustration, but it is to say that those days will be less than the ones where you can really connect with them and the work you want to be doing.
  • Developing your professional network in your building. Our colleagues can be a great source of solace and having a strong support system in the building you work in can be vital to getting through tough times. Since they can empathize with whatever plight is happening in your current school and know the players and issues, there is a first hand knowledge that can be easy to bond over. Make sure to develop relationships with these peers where you can bounce ideas off of each other in terms of pedagogy or students. Teachers who share your students can be a great help especially if they know background information you haven’t recevied yet.
  • Develop your professional network through social media. Let’s face it, we may not be close with many of our colleagues at school or maybe we don’t share the same educational philosophies. This can be an isolating experience. But all is not lost. Take the time to develop your professional networks outside of your school through any of the following: Twitter or other social media outlets where educators spend their time, go to edcamps on the weekend where you can meet face to face with the people who live locally to you but may not be in your building. These free unconferences are a great way to get revitalized when you aren’t connecting at work.
  • Blog. Sometimes we just need a space to reflect on our situation. When we write or vlog on our experiences, we not only have the cathartic experience of working through challenges and successes, but we also get to share and connect through those experiences in a different setting. Don’t underestimate the power of connecting through universal experiences. Reading other people’s blogs can help at first too.
  • The resources you do have. Some schools don’t have technology or book resources and others make use of it all. Whatever your school does have, that is a blessing. My current school has a dedicated copy room with a co-worker who makes copies for us. In schools’ past, the machines were always broken and copies were seldom made. Although I had access to more technology in my old school, this school has more of a budget to provide different resources. Be grateful for the ones you have and try not to focus on what you don’t. This way you can learn to live inside of the real situation instead of in a fantasy.

Teaching is a challenging job, no one would dispute that. In order for us to do it well, we need to be very connected to our purpose. Always focus on what you can do and can change and don’t be afraid to push where change isn’t happening yet. We just can’t harp on big system issues unless we’re prepared to be a part of the change.

What can be done where you are that makes even the tough times easier? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.