Thursday, March 28, 2013

Preparation is Key

Did you ever do something you thought was going to be easier, but ended up being the hardest thing you ever did?  Sometimes things in life are not the piece of cake we first think they will be.  Sometimes things are just downright difficult.  

I've had a few of these experiences in my life.  One was my first year of teaching.  I thought it was going to be easy.  After all, I loved children and organization and reading and pretty much all things educational.  Teaching was a natural next step.  But somedays my love for it wasn't enough.  Somedays it took all I had to make it to the last bell.  Somedays I barely made it.  Somedays I swore I was never going to go back.  

So what do we do when the going gets tough?  People respond differently, but I usually count the days until the next break.  Seriously.  I'm not kidding.  Is it terrible to admit that I know summer is 63 days, 15 hours, 42 minutes and 8 seconds away.  At least that's what the countdown app on my phone says.

I also try to gain a little perspective.  Is the trouble I'm having due to a lack of preparation on my part?  Am I frustrated with my response to a particular student or parent?  Is it that I am trying to get too much done with the kids too fast?  Over the years school sometimes becomes hard to manage for different reasons.  Sometimes it's as simple as not getting to bed early enough and being tired and grouchy the next day.

Seldom do I find the root of the problem in the behavior of a student or parent.  Ninety-nine percent of the time I'm able to trace my current circumstances back to me.  How many of us can testify to the fact that a well-planned day runs much more smoothly than an unplanned day?  We are able to remain calm and patient.  We know the next activity is ready and waiting.  Our supplies are prepared, our copies are made, our time and attention is completely on the task at hand and not worried about what we are going to do next.  

We set the tone in our classrooms and our students rise and fall with us.  If we are aggravated, their behavior is magnified.  Molehills become mountains.  Colors are changed and notes are sent home.  Parents react, we respond and meetings are called.  At this point we are probably losing sleep over the conflict and snapping at our family at home.  I know that when I've taken it to this point, I have a hard time admitting I could have done something different.  But the truth is, I could have.  

Now think about those times we feel prepared, well-rested and on top of our game.  We move around the classroom with more ease.  Our student's behavior is more manageable and we are able to respond rather than react to them.  Our words are gentler and our tone kinder.  We are a different teacher on those days.  We know it.  Our students know it.

So where are you today on the organizational spectrum?  Are you one of those teachers that always has it together?  Or are you the opposite, always running to make copies or get yesterday's paperwork done?  I've been both and I'll admit that the prepared me is a much better teacher!

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