A Message to Teachers about Going Back to School Tomorrow

Christmas memories are quickly fading, and New Year’s resolutions may have already been dropped. Tomorrow, after a long holiday hiatus, it will be time to return to work.

For my teacher friends who will be returning to school routines, I hope you are looking forward to Monday morning with joyful anticipation. You have missed your kids, perhaps, and you can’t wait to hear them regale you with all of their holiday stories of gifts gotten and trips taken.

For some of you, however, you may be experiencing a sense of dread. When I taught and worked as an elementary school librarian, I remember some of my colleagues talking about how they cried on the Sunday night before coming in on Monday.

I couldn’t relate because I loved my job as the school librarian. I knew then, as I know today, that being the media specialist was the best job in the building, and I never took it for granted. I did look forward to coming back after summer vacations and holidays and weekends. I know, however, that some of my colleagues did not share my enthusiasm because they talked about it with me.

It always bothered me to hear of my colleagues’ misery. Some were new mothers, and leaving their babies at the daycare or even with Grandma was excruciatingly painful for them. Others had just stopped enjoying their work but didn’t know what to do about it.

I suspect that the percentage of teachers who dread going to school tomorrow has increased dramatically since my days as a librarian. I suspect this based on the calls and emails I get from teachers who have lost their enthusiasm for teaching.

For many teachers, the fun has been sucked out of the profession by reformers and politicians who never taught a day in their lives but think they know how classrooms should be run. Add to the misery the countless number of tasks that have been added to the plates of every teacher in the country while nothing has ever been removed. (This is a pet peeve of mine, and I complained of it in my last speech before the Virginia Board of Education members in 2012 when I was still President of the Virginia Education Association from 2008-2012.)

Unless you have been a teacher or you have lived with one, and you have personally witnessed the work hours they put in at home, you can’t possibly appreciate the amount of work the average teacher puts into their job when they are not at work. Oh, I know people in business often bring work home at night. I also know that a lot of that work stays in the briefcase all night and is never touched. The work can be caught up the next day, after all.

Not so if you are are a schoolteacher. You have kids who are counting on you to bring them your A-game every single day, and every single period of every single day. You don’t have the luxury of slacking off if you have papers to grade or lesson plans that haven’t been created but must be ready for the next day.

Teachers have pressures to which people in business cannot relate, and they should stop trying. On top of that, if I hear one more time that teachers have it “easy” because they “only” work from 7:30 to 2:30 and they get three months “off for the summer,” I might scream.

Most teachers not only have the massive workload to which I have referred, but many of them have to take 2nd jobs to pay the rent, keep food on the table, buy gas for the car, and pay back massive student loans. Those loans will be anchors around their necks for decades to come because getting a college education today has become so oppressively expensive. But that is another topic for another day.

My first year as a teacher, after paying rent and utilities and budgeting enough for gas so I could get back and forth from work, I had $20 left for food. My roommate’s mom kept me fed, and the $20 went toward buying yogurt cups that I could get for 4 for $1 on sale. Occasionally, my dad would offer a few extra dollars to get me through the month.

I eventually took on additional jobs to supplement my income. Now, I ask you…who does that on a routine basis besides teachers and maybe actors? And why do teachers do it?

I will tell you why. It is because, for the most part, they love teaching. In fact, many of them never considered ever doing anything else!

Now, none of them went into teaching expecting to get rich. They did go into it thinking they could make ends meet, however.

Like other people, teachers want to get married and have children of their own. They want to buy homes and pay for college tuition for their own children. They would like to be able to take the occasional vacation, and they want to be able to live without fear of going broke every time the car breaks down.

As a Career Transition Coach specializing in teachers who are experiencing job burnout, I hear this refrain all of the time: “I love my kids, but it is all of the other stuff I can’t bear doing anymore.”

“All of the other stuff “is “teacher code” for all of the additional paperwork that is now being required of teachers everywhere. For the most part, nobody seems to care about the extra paperwork, but is required for the purpose of holding teachers more “accountable.”

“All the other stuff” is also “teacher code” for being evaluated using rubrics that make no sense, yet these rubrics tie a teacher’s evaluation to the achievement of their students with no regard for where those students live or their readiness for school.

A popular saying among top policymakers has been, “poverty is no excuse” for lagging achievement in our country. The fact is, however, that lawmakers and policymakers completely ignore the fact that sometimes children don’t do well in school because of factors over which their teachers have no direct control.

Some children come to school hungry. That in and of itself is a travesty given that we live in the richest nation on the planet, but it is no less a fact.

Other students don’t do well in school because they can’t see. They need glasses, but optometrists and glasses are not covered by most insurance policies. Still other children may be having trouble concentrating because they have a toothache, but they have no access to a dentist.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

So, to my teacher friends and colleagues:  I hope you will be able to start 2016 with a renewed enthusiasm for your profession. If that feels impossible, however, don’t lose hope. Your education, talent, and experience CAN be used in many other endeavors.

I never want to encourage anyone who still loves teaching out of the profession. I do, however, want to help those for whom teaching has lost its luster. I want them to know that they can find help with identifying their transferable skills, writing their resumes, getting their LinkedIn profiles optimized and setting them on course for a career that may be a better fit for them than teaching has turned out to be.

If you are a teacher who wants to hear more about that, let me know. Sign up for a complimentary 30-minute consultation. Let’s talk.

 

Developing Healthy Habits for 2016

 

healthy habits

My mom used to say that if you had your health, you had everything you needed. She was a nurse, and she had seen people lose their health and subsequently lose jobs, families, and even their lives. She was a great proponent of preventative health care. She urged me to keep regular check ups with my doctors and my dentist. She also urged me to get vaccinations when recommended. To this day, with few exceptions, I follow her advice because I recognize the soundness of it.

Health is result of good genes to some degree, and as we get older, this is a factor, for sure. Another factor in health, however, is dependent upon whether or not you practice good health habits. Good health habits include eating for good nutrition, drinking recommended amounts of water, getting adequate and appropriate exercise, and so on.

During this time of year, with the Christmas holidays just behind us and the New Year just ahead of us, it is the time when we start to think in terms of fresh starts and New Year’s resolutions. Many of the most common resolutions are centered around health and fitness. I am certain that every fitness club on the planet is braced for an onslaught of new memberships that people will likely abandon almost as quickly as they sign up for them. That is a not a disaparagement…just a fact. Take a look at the graphic below to see why I make such a statement.

habits

Note that “85% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the first week.”

We don’t need to be resigned to bad health, however, just because creating new healthy habits is challenging. We just need to heed the two tips above, “Start slowly; Be consistent.”

I am starting a new program next week which I am calling “7 Months to 7 Healthier Habits for 2016.”  Click on the link for more information.

Are you as healthy as you would like to be? Consider:

  • Are you at your ideal weight?
  • Is your BMI (Body Mass Index) what you would like it to be?
  • Do you practice healthy eating habits regularly?
  • Do you drink the recommended amount of water most days?
  • Are you getting the exercise you need in order to be fit for your age and your current physical condition?

These are extremely important questions at any time of the year, but especially at this time. While everyone is thinking about making a “new start” in the New Year, why not think about how you might make 2016 a healthier year than last year?

If you have questions about the “7 Months to 7 Healthier Habits for 2016,” please let me know. I will be happy to work with you if you are interested in making this a healthier year ahead. In this program we will be working slowly and incrementally as we incorporate one new health habit a month for 7 months. In that way, the habits we create will last longer and by the end of July, 2016, we will be healthier, and if the adage is true, happier as well.

I invite you to join me.

Until next time.

 

 

5 Steps to a More Successful 2015

As you approach the New Year, you may be considering how you might change some of your less helpful habits—habits that are holding you back from being your “best” self. Or, perhaps you are thinking about which of your “bad” habits are preventing you from being happier, healthier, and more successful.

As a stress management coach, I offer specific strategies on how to manage and reduce stress in the lives of my clients. These strategies also help them become more resilient in the face of life’s inevitable challenges.

For the purposes of today’s message, I would like to focus on 5 steps that you can start taking today to take you to a better 2015:

1)  Make a decision. The first step you must take before making any change, much less maintaining a better habit, is actually to make the decision that you are going to change. You must first decide that you are going to change and maintain an improved habit (or habits) in the upcoming year. A decision is different from a wish, a hope, or a dream, and making a decision to change something in your life is the first step toward making any meaningful change that is likely to last.

2)  Change only one thing at a time. People don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions—and let’s face it, most don’t—because they overwhelm themselves with making a dozen “resolutions” when they need to focus on one change at a time. If you have multiple areas of your life where you want to make significant changes, you need to choose the top one that you feel is the most urgent to your health, happiness or success, and start there. If you try to make more than one change at a time, you are dooming yourself to failure before you even get started.

3)  Create S.M.A.R.T. goals. “S.M.A.R.T.” stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or Attainable), Relevant, and Timely (or Time Limited).” A habit is something that is deeply ingrained. You engage in the behavior in question automatically and without thinking. That’s why it is called a habit. There is no denying that habits are hard to break. If that weren’t the case, we would drop bad habits in a hurry with little effort, right? But habits are sneaky…they drive your actions through your subconscious. So turn changing the habit into a goal and then establish parameters around how and why you want to change by creating S.M.A.R.T. goal language around it.

4)  Write your goal on a piece of paper and refer to it daily. There is something about writing down a goal that makes it feel more achievable than when it is just rattling around in your head. Write down your goal and write it in terms that comport with the S.M.A.R.T. goals in #3. In addition, write down why you want to change this habit. If you are a smoker and you want to quit smoking, write down why you want to do that. Is it because you don’t want to be a poor role model for your kids? Is it because you are tired of your clothes smelling like a stale ashtray all the time? Whatever the reason for your making the decision to change your habit, write it down. Then, carry the paper with you so that when you are tempted to revert to the old habit—and you will be tempted many times—you can remind yourself of the reasons for wanting to make the change.

5)  Share your goal with others and/or get a coach if you need one to hold you accountable for your actions. There is something about sharing goals with other people that keeps you more honest than if you keep the goal to yourself. If you make a decision to lose ten pounds between New Year’s day and March 31, 2015, that is something you CAN do…it falls under the heading of something you can translate into a S.M.A.R.T. goal…and if you stick to the resolve you felt when you made the decision, it is definitely doable. There are going to be times, however, when you will feel tempted to go back to your old habits of eating poorly and not exercising enough to be successful. You will be tempted to give up. If you have shared your goal with someone else, you are far more likely to stick with it. You may choose a friend or a buddy who will hold you to your promise to yourself. Perhaps you could use a coach that you hire specifically for the purpose of helping you stay motivated and to keep you honest throughout the process.

I have participated in a program around setting goals for myself as a business woman for the New Year. One of the important distinctions that the program offered is one that I believe might be helpful to you as you enter 2015. That distinction is to remember that your past does not define your future. You may have tried to quit smoking before and failed. You may have attempted to lose ten pounds before and gave up because it got hard or was inconvenient or you just couldn’t stick to your resolve.

That was then…this is now…it is a new day. This time you CAN be successful! You must first make a decision that this time is different, however. Decide once and for all that whatever it is that you want to change is not only something you wish you could do or just want to do…decide that it is something you will do…no excuses…and then follow the other four steps offered above to get you there. Tackle one bad habit at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many changes at once. One habit at a time, one day at a time…you can do this. Happy New Year.

For more information about Kitty Boitnott at Boitnott Coaching, LLC, contact her at BoitnottCoaching.com and subscribe to her newsletter by opting in for the free stress management evaluation that is available on her website. Or, fill out the form below: