Sunday, January 6, 2013

Are You a Disgruntled Educator?

Public Domain Image Used With Permission
Earlier this week, a non-educator friend of mine posted this article on 5 Toxic Beliefs That Ruin Careers on Facebook. Curious, I took a look at it, and although it is aimed at people working in the business world, I found myself interpreting it through my educator's lens. And feeling convicted on more than one of the points.

I must interject here that I disagree a bit that believing my destiny is controlled by the supernatural (#3 in the article linked in the previous paragraph) is always toxic. I have faith in a God who does care about my life, and whom I lean on to help me through the slumps. I try not to blame him for the circumstances, but do seek his wisdom in dealing with them. Without his supernatural intervention, I don't know where I would be!

Throughout our life's work, we experience highs and lows - periods where we can't imagine doing anything else with our lives and other times when if we were offered an eject button and promised we'd land in a nice, comfy, everyone-is-happy-with-what-they-do job, we wouldn't hesitate to push it. It's normal to experience these ups and downs.

What I found myself thinking, though, is how very tragic it can be for the students or teachers we serve if we get stuck in one of those lows. We may think being disgruntled, or working under the influence of toxic beliefs, only hurts us, but the truth is, no matter how much we try to cover up, our lack of satisfaction with our work is going to affect the people we serve. In the best case scenario, we might manage to put on a smile and make it through the day, but our students and colleagues are not getting the best we could offer. In a worst case scenario, we may not be pleasant to be around, and we force those around us to tolerate or survive us, rather than be focused on their own teaching and learning.

Education is a unique career in that it is a path, that when chosen, is often pursued because one feels called to do it for the betterment of others. Because educators invest so heavily in the lives of others, I think they are obligated to seek to be happy in and with their work the majority of the time.

If you are currently in a low period (or when you wind up in one), don't beat yourself up, but do think about the fact that in addition to being miserable yourself, you are likely affecting those around you in a negative way. If those people are your students, they are a captive audience, and they are depending on you to work toward getting out of your funk so you can be as good a teacher as possible for them. Take advantage of a new year to try and work your way out of the slump. You might try looking at the toxic beliefs and see if any of them are keeping you down. A related article, How to Be Happy at Work, might give you some ideas for working out of one or more of your slump areas.

Educators answer to many bosses in the form of the administrators who oversee us, the parents whose children we teach, and policy makers and enforcers. There are some things we can't change about our jobs, but our attitude is almost always subject to adjustment by our own efforts, and, in my opinion, a little divine help!

I hope your new calendar year is getting off to a good start. If you have any insights into how to deal with the low periods of your career, please share them in the comments below!