Hey there, teacher friend! Welcome to a brand new year! Instead of giving you even more goals to add to the ones you’ve maybe already set, here are three teacher bad habits you can bust. Kicking these three bad habits to the curb can increase your joy and peace in the workplace. We all need more of that, am I right?
New years always give me a renewed sense of hope and opportunity. I am so excited for the opportunities 2021 can bring. Oh, and to 2020, you can go ahead and leave. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. In fact, lock the door and throw that key in the ocean somewhere! 😉
2020 was a year of loss for me, and maybe it was for you too. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look forward to gain and goals in 2021! This year, more than trying to do new things, I’m looking to break some bad habits. Sometimes creating happiness in our lives isn’t as much about creating something new as it is taking the things we already do and restructuring them so they work better for us.
Bad Habits to BUST
We don’t always need to create a new habit. Sometimes we need to break bad habits. I’m going to share three with you today that are all related to being a teacher. We love our workplace and career, but sometimes they overwhelm us and make us feel frustrated and stressed out.
Today I’m going to encourage you to honestly examine whether you have these bad habits that are toxic to your joy. I won’t be in your head judging you! I’ve worked really hard over the years to overcome these obstacles myself, so I have a few solutions I hope will help you too. I can’t be the only one who has ever had these habits! Let’s get rid of them!
Now, when I say bust, I don’t mean just dally around with the idea of letting these things go. I mean bust them to pieces. Imagine you have this giant sledgehammer, and you can take it and bust something to pieces to the point that it is unrecognizable. That’s what I want you to do to these bad habits.
I’m passionate about helping YOU bust these particular bad habits because they have haunted ME in the past. I want you to break free of them too.
Teacher Bad Habit #1: Imposter Syndrome
If Imposter Syndrome is a new term for you, think about an imposter. That’s someone who shows up and pretends to be something they’re not. Have you ever felt that way as a teacher?
Have you ever stood in front of a parent and asked yourself, “Do I really know enough to make my case to this person?”
Or have you ever had an observer, maybe an administrator, in your classroom, and thought, “Oh, they’re going to know that I’m fake. That this is all made up. And I really don’t know what I’m doing!”
That, my friend, is imposter syndrome. It can creep up on you no matter what level you’ve attained in college, and no matter what kind of experience you have in the classroom. Imposter syndrome is this little lie that tells you you aren’t adequate enough.
That you don’t have the skill or the knowledge to be the best you.
We Aren’t Imposters
I’ve dealt with this for many, many years. I’ve sat in front of my principal before and kept quiet because I was scared that he knew more about my job than I knew. I felt like an imposter. But I’ve come to realize that that is a lie, because my administrators, the parents, and many other people do not see day to day what I see in the classroom.
I spend hours upon hours working with children, seeing the context of that, seeing their growth, seeing their weaknesses, finding solutions to fit those weaknesses.
That makes me an expert at what I do.
I let go of imposter syndrome in my second year of teaching. I taught kindergarten, and I quickly realized, even though I once was completely intimidated by his knowledge, that my principal knows very little about what a kindergarten teacher actually does.
Besides coming in the classroom for a few minutes here and there or for a formal observation, he has very little knowledge about the content or the context of working in kindergarten. It was then I decided I would not feel inadequate around him or other administrators, because when they came into my classroom, I was the expert. Besides your coworkers who teach the same grade level or same content, no one else knows what it takes to be you. Only the other people that do it.
You are the expert.
Imposter Syndrome Lies
Imposter syndrome does not want you to feel that way. That feeling of inadequacy you get is not true. Always remind yourself of that. You’re doing what you do hours upon hours every day, you’re practicing, you’re constantly getting better, and that’s what matters.
There will never be a point in our lives when we feel we know everything about our jobs. As long as we are learning and growing, we are the experts at what we do. Don’t ever feel like you don’t deserve to be in your position. We need people like you who have a heart and passion for kids.
Teacher Bad Habit #2: Staying Late
I’ve been guilty of staying at work late for years in the past. It never gave me any benefits I can actually identify.
I hope I’m not offending you if you’re thinking, “I stay late at work every day, and I couldn’t do my job if I didn’t.”
That’s a lie I once told myself as well. At the end of the day I was overwhelmed with all of the things I needed to do before the next day began. I would stay at school and leave my daughter in daycare an extra hour to hour and a half every day to catch up on the things I couldn’t get to during the school day and that had to be done, or at least I thought had to be done, before I could be successful the next day.
What We Give Up
I have not done that for years. I kicked that habit to the curb, and I’m so glad I did. Look at all the time I was giving away. Time with my baby. As much as we love our job, we have to think about what we are putting aside to stay late at work.
Is it presence with your family? Is it a hobby? Working out and things that could benefit you in the long run?
If I hadn’t had this problem myself, I wouldn’t be up here on my soapbox right now telling you that staying late is not necessary. So now you’re saying, “Okay Toni, I get you, but how can I get it all done?”
I will tell you it does take a mindset shift, but you absolutely can get everything that needs to be done without staying late every day. Here are some ways I’ve managed to do that. Hopefully you can take these ideas, and maybe find some more, and finally stop staying late every day.
Batch Your Lesson Planning
Batching is actually a strategy that many business owners use to create content. Think about a blog you read or podcast you listen to. That content is more than likely batched. That means that person sat down and created that content, or a big chunk of it, at one time.
When you batch your content, or your lesson planning, you’re not constantly wondering, “What am I going to be teaching? What comes next?” You sit down at a dedicated time of the week, you focus only on that, you plan it all out, and you get it out of your way. I recommend batching at least two weeks of lesson plans, or more, if you have the focus.
This is something I set aside a time for each week, usually early in the morning at home on the weekend when my kids are asleep. That way I can truly focus on it. Put your phone away, take all of the things out of the room that could distract you, shut your door, and say, “I am going to do this lesson planning right now so that my mind and time can be freed up for the next several weeks.”
Close the Door
Another reason I was constantly staying late during the early years of teaching was I felt the need to be social during my planning. I would open my door, go down the hall, and make trips to the office really to see and speak to people because I felt like I needed that.
The truth was I was wasting my planning time, and that was time that I would then have to get back at the end of the day. When I learned that I didn’t need it to be a social event and I needed to focus on my work, I really got strategic with my planning time. I wrote in my planner what I would do each day of the week and get accomplished during my planning time. I highly recommend it.
Put Your Phone Away
Another thing that can really kill your planning time is your phone. I know, these phones are attractive to us. They’re engineered to be so addictive. But just think about the time you’re going to have to find somewhere to get these things done in the classroom.
If you spend your planning scrolling through Facebook or checking your email (I’m really bad for that!) then you’re going to have to make that time up in another part of your day. More than likely, it will be when you could be doing other, more important things, like spending time with your family, with your dog, in the gym, whatever you like to do.
All the Things
Another practice that is harder to explain and really comes with experience is to stop expecting to get so much done. I will recommend a really incredible book, Do Less, by Kate Northrup. She talks about how our bodies work in cycles. Our productivity works in the same way. We can’t always be 100% productive, so we have to get really good at realizing what on our to do list is really important and what isn’t.
After several years of staying late, and now after many years of never staying late, I have to say I’m much happier now. I’ve learned to be more organized and spend my time more wisely now. That came with the decision that I am not staying late after school any more.
Staying late is for the birds. It’s one of the bad habits that has to go!
Teacher Bad Habit #3: Negative Talk with Other Teachers
I’m only telling you this because I have been, and sometimes still am, guilty of doing this. It’s one of those bad habits none of us can afford to have. Despite lots of intentionality on my part, I still find myself, every now and then, having a pity/complaint party with someone at work about how hard my job is.
I want you to think about your relationships at work and the people you surround yourself with when you have free time to socialize. What do you and those people talk about? Do you talk about student growth and the wonderful lesson you have planned?
Or do you talk about how tired you are and how horrible this one kid is that you can’t get to be quiet? And how you wish it was Christmas break again?
What I’ve learned over the years and analyzing myself during those conversations is that they are so counterproductive. They don’t benefit us in any way. They actually send us in the other direction. When you talk negatively, your negative feelings increase. When someone else reciprocates those negative feelings to you they increase even more!
Surrounding ourselves with negativity and complaining fuels a ravaging fire. It can take small situations like a bad behavior in your classroom and make it seem a lot worse than it is. We can convince ourselves that something is awful when, truly, it isn’t.
This habit is particularly hard to break if you work directly with someone who is negative. I know, I’ve been there. Ready to bust this habit?
Be Aware of Your Language
Sometimes we feel so comfortable talking to someone else, we aren’t really aware of what we’re saying. So for the next week, when you go into a friend’s room or meet them in the hallway, I want you to think about the words they are saying and the words you are saying. Would you rate them mostly as positive and beneficial or negative and damaging?
I work with this incredible lady named Claudetta. When you say, “Hey Claudetta, how are you today?” She doesn’t say, “I’m doing fine.” She says, “I am blessed.”
What I’ve realized that does for me is it doesn’t open a door for me to speak negatively to her. I can’t say, “Oh, me too, I’m so tired. It’s been a hard week.” Your response has to be positive.
So that’s one area you can start in. When someone asks how you are, give them a really positive answer. That will kill a lot of negative talk before there’s even an opportunity. Don’t just use that tone in the greeting. Take that same outlook and add it to the whole conversation.
You’ll be surprised how people respond when you speak positively even when they are negative. You will influence them to speak more positively and to kick that negative talk to the curb. I’ve been in many conversations when someone was talking negatively, even about another teacher. When I’m brave and say something kind and uplifting, the conversation changes in that direction.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
Find positive influence somewhere. Maybe you feel like you’re surrounded by negativity. You have a choice about who you spend your time with. You may have a planning period or a professional development hour you have to spend with negative people at work, but you don’t have to surround yourself with their negativity.
We are like the people we spend the most time with.
Surround yourself with positive people. Put positive thoughts in your head by reading people who have a positive tone about teaching. Maybe listen to my podcast, because you guys know I love you, and you know I love teaching. Being really intentional about those kinds of things can bust that habit.
Toxic Work Relationships
Sometimes we have a relationship that never brings us any positive effects. We just have to cut those out. That doesn’t mean we have to be mean or unkind. It just means we have to really cut back on the time we’re spending with that person, because that is what your soul needs. I’ve had to do that in my professional career, and you won’t regret it.
Negative talk never has a benefit. It’s counterproductive, so you’ve got to bust that bad habit.
Go bust those bad habits!
If you’ve busted a teacher bad habit, let me know what it is over in the Primary Teacher Friends Facebook Group. We’d love to share experiences and motivation as we move into 2021. If you’re looking for more ways to improve your classroom in the new year, let me give you some ideas for a reset.
Know that I’m thankful for you, and I’m wishing a blessed New Year to you.
Bust those bad habits and keep making a difference, you difference maker!