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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Can We Please Stop the Countdowns?

So I am currently in the last week before spring break, which means I am hearing "____ more days until break!" a LOT right now. When we get back from break, it will be "____ more weeks until summer!", and no matter what time of year it is, there's always the classic, "it's almost Friday"! There is always something to look forward to, right?!? What may come as a surprise is that I very rarely hear these comments from students- it's almost always the adults who are counting down the days and weeks. And I'm over it. I'm done with the countdowns- I think those seemingly nonchalant statements are wreaking havoc on our school climate.


I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because not only do I hear people counting down the days until their next day off at school, but I also see it a lot on social media- memes about teachers waiting for their next vacation, dreading going back to school on Sunday night, hanging onto their sanity for dear life before a break... I get it. Teaching is HARD. Like, really hard. And it's only getting worse. The demands put on us by politicians, administrators, and society in general are often just straight-up out of control. Budgets are tighter, and so are our schedules. And I know I'm not the first one to say that it seems like each kindergarten class that enters, the kids are a little less prepared for school, a little less respectful of authority, a little less caring about their success at school, and a little more able to make us lose our minds trying to get them to just. sit. still.

I get it. There have been days when I've closed the door to my classroom and just cried. Last year I ended a choir rehearsal early for the first time in my career to try to get the kids out before the tears started flowing. I didn't quite make it. There have been days this year when I've gotten so upset with a class that I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.

But here's the thing: I really think we need to change our mindset. Stop always telling ourselves that if we can just make it through a few more hours, we can get to the fun part of our lives. Stop telling ourselves that we just have to survive a few more weeks of torture and then we can relax. The more we find our comfort only in our lives outside of school, the less we find comfort within our walls. The more we tell ourselves to just survive a few more days, the less we expect of ourselves and our students in those days.

Don't we want to make our schools a place where students want to come? Then why would we publicly announce that we don't want to be there ourselves? And what are we communicating to our students about our relationship with them when we talk eagerly about our next time away from them? It seems to me we are presenting the subtle message that we don't enjoy being around them, and we in fact prefer our time away from them.

I'm a firm believer that words have power. When teachers and students always hear people talking about how much they look forward to leaving school, it changes our attitudes. Instead of counting down the days until the we can leave, I'd rather we spent more time talking about what's happening in the present moment, right there in our classrooms. And if we're talking about the future, let's look ahead to where we hope our students will be in 10 years. Let's find out what our students want to do when they graduate from college. Let's talk to our colleagues about how we can teach that unit in a more exciting way next year.

I'm not saying we shouldn't need time to decompress. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be able to vent our frustrations. But I am making a commitment to talk about what I love about school, about my classes, and about my students, not about all of the reasons I can't wait to leave the building, get away from my students, and take a break from my work. I think the more we can talk about reasons we want to be in school instead of out, the less trapped we'll all feel and the more we can actually look forward to coming to school each morning.

I hope you'll consider joining me. No more countdowns.


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6 comments :

  1. I had a college music professor (one of my all time favorites) tell us that every time he left the classroom to go out into the school he made a commitment to say at least one positive thing about his music classes. Good for the spirit and good pr. I'm with you sister! Let's knock the count downs off!!! Great post!

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    1. Yes! Some days it's harder than others to find something nice to say, but there really is an element of "self-fulfilling prophesy" too, in my mind, the minds of my colleagues, and most definitely my students, when I say positive things about my classes and school life in general, whether I think anyone else will hear it or not.

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  2. Yassss!!! I often wonder, when looking at FB teacher posts, if they really LOVE children or LOVE the school they are in. The energy we use in getting frustrated, irritated, annoyed and upset and in venting that information could be turned around if we focused instead on ONE positive thing. Yes, the children are irritating this time of year, but NOT all. They are always someone's child and someone's sweetie. The mind is a dress rehearsal for the lips; we can do better at training our brains. It won't always happen, but we need to find the positive and rekindle the love we have for children, no matter what age, stage, or time of year.

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    1. I love your saying, "the mind is a dress rehearsal for the lips"! While I definitely don't want teachers to feel guilty for getting frustrated with their students from time to time, or even feeling stuck in a very difficult teaching position they truly don't like, I still feel that counting down the days until we leave, or speaking negatively about our students (especially in front of them) so often is damaging for everyone involved.

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  3. *FANTASTIC* blog post!! I absolutely agree that the 'countdown to the next break' mindset is becoming increasingly prevalent. When looking towards the next thing and the next thing, it certainly does negate the importance of the NOW. Such discontentment with the present is a waste of your life! Every moment we have should feel precious to us and always looking ahead to the next vacation and next break is an endless pursuit...you'll never be satisfied. Thank you for writing this, I wish more people would have such a mindset. ~Danielle | MusicOnACart.com

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    1. Absolutely. We've been focusing on "mindfulness" with our students this year at my school and one of the sayings is "focus on the present moment, right here right now" (or something like that). We as teachers would do well to remember that as well! Thanks for commenting :)

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