About this time every year, schools close for winter break and teachers all over the country head home for some much needed rest and relaxation. Among the holiday hubbub, it is easy to forget that this time of year is particularly good for reflection. So, it is in the spirit of contemplation that I am writing this post. Let’s call it my “unofficial” summation of the things I have gleaned over the year and beyond, boiled down into seven palpable statements sure to cause you to “like”, share, or comment with your own reflections for the year.

On to the list…

  1. You are not perfect. And that is okay! Believe me, I get reminded of this almost every day. I don’t think I have gone one week this year without forgetting to put my class attendance in the computer. Thank goodness for my paraprofessionals, who make my life and job infinitely easier.
  2. Even if you feel like you are not getting anywhere with a student, you are still making a difference. I love the quote by Temple Grandin regarding teaching autistic children, “The worst thing you can do is nothing.” Sometimes I believe the lie that spins in my head that what I do for my students does not matter. The truth is that even though you do not feel capable, you have what it takes to make a difference in your students’ lives. Stay calm and keep teaching.
  3. You will never be caught up. In teaching, there is a lot of paperwork (I hope that this is universally understood). In special education, the paperwork is interminable. My tendency is toward chaos and disorganization, but, I have tried very hard to setup systems and structures that will keep my desk and inbox clean. Yet, to no avail, I still end up pushing those deadlines. I know I am not alone. Just accept that this is how it is. In other words, stop going crazy over the paperwork. Do the very best you can.
  4. It is okay to ask for help. Since I am a guy, I don’t like to ask for help. But, (cut to number one), I am not perfect, and I don’t know everything. Rather than waste time trying to figure it out on my own or “reinvent the wheel”, why not ask someone who might know the answer? You can even call it collaboration! Here is an even better idea, ask a general education teacher. The more we make connections with the “other” teachers in the building, the more opportunities will open up for us and our students.
  5. Expect the pounds to start piling on. Wow. There is so much food available at a school, especially during the holidays. With the exception of one year where our school staff played a version of “The Biggest Loser” (I lost about 15 or so pounds), I have gained weight every other year. What is funny, is that we talk about how bad we are eating while we are putting food on our plates in the teachers’ lounge. We humans can be so droll. Listen, no judgement here. Teaching is a stressful job. One of these days I’ll get that gym membership.
  6. Your attitude will make or break the day. This is especially true if you work with paraprofessionals. If you come in complaining and have a bad attitude, guess how your day will go? Guess how you will interpret your students’ behavior? If you come in with a positive attitude (but not unrealistic) and seize the day, you will be better off. Positivism is contagious. Spread it around, you will thank me.
  7. Being flexible will solve 99% of your problems. That is just too easy Tim. Well, you heard it here; it is the truth. When you are a teacher, you need to expect the unexpected. There is no telling when a student will have an emergency health issue, engage in challenging behavior, or a visitor from the district office might stop by. Roll with it! This makes the job exciting. You never know what surprises are right around the bend. We have to stay flexible, because if we don’t, we will break.

As you look back on your year or previous years, what have you learned about yourself that you would like to share? If you are reading this and it happens to be during your holiday break, I hope you have the chance to reflect on your teaching practice. It is well worth the effort.

Thanks for your time and attention.

Do you have any reflections you would like to share? We love comments! Take a minute and tell us what you thought about the article or give us something that you learned about yourself this year in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: losmininos