Sometimes I feel like my favorite football team: potential is there to have a winning season, but oftentimes they fail to live up to expectations. Sure, my team is beat up and filling spots with their practice squad guys they've had to sign to pick up the slack. But they still have potential. They proved what they could do recently on the football field. Sometimes I feel as though I have the potential, but I just doesn't click. When I get stressed over how things are going in my class, I think of the quarterback of my team. He urged fans to "R-e-l-a-x" and things would get better--everything would be okay. Even though we didn't go to the Superbowl, we had a good season and made the playoffs. In essence, he was right. When I get stressed over events in my classroom, I need a dose of that advice.
What I have noticed after two plus decades of teaching is that nothing goes according to plan. Really, how could it? There's a variable in there that is not a constant--it's kids and they are never constant. Their worlds are rarely constant, so how can they be? Instead of getting stressed about their seeming lack of engagement, we need to relax as teachers and realize things will get better.
It seems the holidays are the worst, at least for my demographic. For a myriad of reasons, life isn't always easy or kind to my kids, and it's worse during the holidays. I know they have a world full of complications in their lives outside of school that sometimes spills over into the school day. We can either approach kids with a firm, inflexible hand, or with empathy and flexibility. Does that mean we let them off the hook and not have high expectations of them? No, it means that some days we reduce our expectations, knowing they have a whole lot more important stuff on their mind than Walt Whitman.
When I'm relaxed and in the teaching "zone," I know what I'm doing and things are clicking. Relaxing takes stress out of me, out of the students and out of the classroom providing a more appealing environment for learning.
The key is that we, as teachers, help to establish the classroom atmosphere. Things may seem as though they are bogging down and kids are approaching school with a lack of energy, but we can change that through our own attitude. Maybe we do need a "recharge" of our attitude or approach to school. Maybe we do need to lighten up. Maybe we do need to relax. Our classrooms are a reflection of us--like it or not, good or bad. By relaxing and enjoying your students, you can create a less stressful environment for learning.
The holidays can be stressful enough. For football teams and teachers. Teams are trying to wield their magic on the field in hopes of achieving that elusive play-off berth while teachers are working the same magic in the classroom, hoping to engage students and help them learn. Both can be difficult endeavors. And both can be doable. We just need to R-E-L-A-X. It can make all the difference.