What else can you do to make it as a teacher?

Besides knowing your own limits, know your students’ limits. Remember you are not a miracle worker, so don’t expect to cure an attention deficit child, or stamp out children’s behavior problems overnight. You have to think in terms of small steps, not giant strides. You can help an attention deficit child sit still longer, or pay attention longer, but you won’t turn him into an attention deficitless child. Unless you realistically evaluate, from the start, what children are capable of doing, you’ll find yourself getting frustrated, either because you’re expecting too much or too little from them.

Another survival technique is to consider all the ideas, information, and recommendations parents, children, and other professionals present to you, but decide for yourself what you will and won’t do. Take control! Be open to suggestions, but leave the driving to yourself, not someone else. It means modifying strategies to fit your student’s needs, your classroom structure, and your way of doing, things. It means prioritizing therapies, starting with the ones you feel are most needed. It means only taking on what you can follow through on competently, so you won’t end up with a bunch of half-baked projects that don’t do anybody any good.

As well, never forget to include parents in your classroom. Besides relieving you of some of your responsibilities, parent’s presence in your classroom gives children a clear message, parents and teachers are working together to help them learn. Also, you need parent’s cooperation in following through at home on special programs you devise for their child or helping with homework assignments. Remember parents are the ones who will carry on seeing their child long after she leaves your classroom.

Another tip is don’t get too close to children’s problems, and try not to feel sorry for people–nothing leads quicker to burn-out. You may know a child comes from an uncaring, teetering-on-the-brink-of-break-up family, but constantly reminding yourself of that, and letting the child off the hook for his misbehaviours because of it, doesn’t help you, and certainly doesn’t help him. Be caring, but don’t let your emotions take over.

Keeping your distance also means not taking matters personally. Sometimes this is hard to do. Irate parents complaining about your teaching abilities, angry children yelling obscenities at you–who wouldn’t get upset? Consoling yourself with, “It’s not me they’re mad at,” may not bring the reassurance you need. What you need to do is get mad back. Your classroom, with 25 pairs of eyes may be not the right time or place. Alternatively, you might want to consider these stress-relieving options.

One way of relaxing is to remind yourself of the you outside of school. It’s okay to submerge yourself into your job, but don’t forget to come up for air once in a while. Make a point of having a hobby, doing fun activities, or participating in sports. Active sports are great stress relievers. What seemed like a major concern slowly melts away with each swat of the squash racquet or stride on the pavement, and may even escape your mind totally by the time you’re finished.

Secondly, try relaxation exercises. Common relaxation techniques like deep breathing, imagining a tranquil place, and releasing tension from your muscles can be done while you’re sitting at your desk and children are working at theirs. Another idea is listening to positive self-affirmation tapes. You can slip these into your tape deck on the way to work, and by the time you pull into the school parking lot, you feel like nothing’s going to get you down.

And finally, above all else, remember to laugh. By simply making yourself smile, you can feel better (even though you may not be smiling inside). Humor helps you keep a positive outlook, and puts problems into a bigger perspective.

Laughter is the corrective force which prevents us from becoming cranks. Henri Bergson.

You need to be positive, not just for your own sake, but the sakes of your students. Your classroom may be the only place a child receives any positive strokes, acceptance, and genuine caring. The most you can do for your students is to accept them the way they are, show them you like them, care about them, and enjoy their company. This has more impact than any program ever can have. It helps children to like themselves, and value who they are.

With most children your positive feelings come out naturally. However, with difficult children it takes a conscious effort. It’s hard to say something nice to a child who called you a “skunk” yesterday. It’s also hard to say something positive to a child who seldom does anything right. But these are the children who need your help the most, and they are also the children you can do the most for.

Helping children discover their talents, their sources of well-being, are the greatest lessons you can teach them. These stay with children in their journey through life–not geometry, and not the hottest new computer program. It is important for children to learn geometry, but I bet most adults would fail a grade four geometry exam. (I can’t even remember how to figure out the circumference of a circle). Learning about themselves and how to get along with other people are the skills which give children direction in life, help them make decisions, make friends, achieve goals, and derive satisfaction.

Education is helping the child realize his potentialities. Erich Fromm.

What about you? The best advice I can give you is what my mother used to say to me before I wrote a big exam, “You can only do your best.” Doing your best is the true measure of your personal success, because your effort is controlled by you. You may try your best in curbing Nelson’s aggressive behavior, but if he goes home to parents who frequently hit him, chances are you won’t make much headway–and you can’t do anything about that. If you base your own success on Nelson’s progress, you’ll find yourself getting frustrated. You need an internal valuing system, non-contingent on how well your children do, which tells you whether you’ve done the best job you could. And if you did (you’ll know), you’ll always have that consolation.

I hope this website gives teachers as well as parents some knowledge about children’s development, insight into behavior-change techniques, direction in motivating children to do their best in school, and leads in how to get along better with children. The information may seem overwhelming, but really the keys to progress are basic and eternal. Remember to respect your child, show your love to them, be firm, and be fair. Even if you don’t follow these four dictates all the time (don’t worry you won’t), your children will still know you’re on their side, and you care about them.