Confessions of a Real Teacher: I Got Locked in a Closet Today
Today, I got locked in a closet with a coworker while we were looking for books. We were straight up banging on the door, desperate to be let out. And oh, it was 90 degrees in our building because our AC was not working. Then, once we got out, I found out I had less than 20 minutes to get my kids ready to be dismissed. After only a solid hour of school, because of the malfunctioning AC. This is after missing two days of school last week because of good old Hurricane Florence last week. I was furious, I needed the kids to stay, I needed to teach! Nothing about my day was going as planned. I was hot, sweaty, and still feeling the residual effects from the panic attack I had from being locked in a closet.
When all of my students were dismissed, I had a choice, I could stay and work in my classroom, or go home. My initial reaction? I am sweating, I am tired, and this day is a waste I am going home. Then I took a breath and thought of all the things I could do upstairs that would make me feel a lot better tomorrow. I went and got myself a far too extravagant drink from Starbucks (because I decided on days you get locked in a closet you deserve a Frappuccino) then went back to school and worked an hour later than I had to. Why? Read below.
Have you read, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis? If not, as soon as you finish reading this post, go get this book and read it. Rachel's positivity and self determination are traits I aspire to. One quote from her book that really resonated with me not just as a teacher but as a person is,
“Our society makes plenty of room for complacency or laziness; we’re rarely surrounded by accountability. We’re also rarely surrounded by sugar-free vanilla lattes, but when I really want one, I somehow find a way to get one.”
It hit home to me, because it is true. If we try hard enough we can blame, rationalize, and pass the buck until we aren't accountable for any of our actions. But if we do that, what changes? I mean, we are complaining because we don't like a circumstance. But if you stop at complaining and refuse to take action, how will your situation change? I could not change the fact that our building was 90 degrees (they fixed it don't worry), that my students had to go home, or that I had spent time locked in a closet. But, I could suck it up and make sure tomorrow would be better.
I am going to be honest with you right now, we are teachers, there is no white horse coming in to make everything better for us. No Daddy Warbucks coming in with all the funding we need to make our dream classroom and make our resources more bountiful than we could ever imagine. Oprah is not coming to give you a car, Beluga whale, and all the copy paper you could ever need (dreams though right?).
We have to do the best and make best with the situation we are in. Stop crying about what we can't control and do what we can. So what does that look like? I call it my V-B-P process!
1. Vent- That is right, get what is unfair and making you mad off your chest. Let it out, and let it stay out. You'll feel better when it is off your chest, but you need to say it once, not 100 times.
2. Breathe- Take a breath to calm down, step back, and reflect on the situation. Try and think more creatively and from different perspectives.
3. Plan- Put on your big girl (or boy) pants, and start coming up with solutions to make it work for you and your students.
What Does That Look Like?
Here are some examples of situations you can V-B-P in real life.
1. My Students' Parents Just Don't Care
Okay, we have all said this, myself included. But deep down, is it really true? Maybe in some extreme circumstances, but the truth probably is that your students aren't showing they care in a way we understand. Aren't signing papers, showing up to events, sending supplies, etc? Call them. Start the conversation by complimenting their child. Then, explain how important it is for parents and teachers to work as a team during the school year, explain how you typically communicate with parents and when/what to look out for (we do folders home on Tuesdays) and ask what you can do to help them be an active participant in their child's learning. Making it clear you aren't trying to make more work for them, you are trying to work with them as partner's in their child's education. Don't have a working number? Send a note home with that student and say that they get a sticker, piece of candy, small prize of some sort, if they can get a parent to e-mail you, call you during your planning or a pre-arranged after school time, or write down a working number for them. We know how charmingly persistent our students can be, let them use those skills on their parents for us.
2. I Don't Have Enough Experience to Handle Some Situations
First of all, been there, and this is hard when you feel unprepared. Before anything else, reach out and ask colleagues for their ideas. Not for them to do your job for you, but for them to talk you through what you need help with. We are also beyond fortunate that we live in the digital age. The internet is your best friend. The Teaching Channel website has accomplished teachers actively teaching every type of lesson imaginable, and then debriefing what they do piece by piece. I watched at least one video a day as a first year teacher. If it isn't a lesson you need help with, google it friends. There are countless articles, websites, journals, to help you.
3. I Don't Have Enough Resources
Again, I have been there, I know how tough this is. If it is physical resources, books, paper, pencils, etc. Crowdfund, beg, and borrow for any and all donations. Churches and community centers are HUGE with helping teachers, you just have to ask. Post to social media! Ask your friends to sponsor your class or an individual student for the year. If people say no? Okay, well you tried. But, more than not, people say yes. If it is lessons or curriculum you feel like you need more of. Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, ReadingA-Z, and countless other websites are filled with ideas and resources. Or if you are tired of spending money, make what you need for yourself! I taught myself how to make all the products in my TPT store by watching videos on YouTube.
4. I Don't Have Enough Help
Do we ever? Learn to plan, schedule, and manage your time like a champ. You are only one person; but you can make the most out of the time you have and how you use it.
5. You Don't Know My Kids, It is NOT That Easy
Let's not get into a who has it harder, tougher, more challenging, than who. But I can promise, I have had my share of challenging classes. My student teaching supervisor said something to me on this and it has always stuck with me, "we set the climate of our classroom". This might be a tough pill to swallow, but if you are struggling to handle your class, there are probably some changes you can make to your management style. Try out new approaches from what you have always done, ask for honest and constructive feedback about your management style from coworkers and administration.
Lauren Mary Medlin