What separates a good teacher from a great teacher? There are many factors that separates the good from the great. In this upcoming series of articles I will be examining 7 Keys to Prosperous Teaching. To be a prosperous teacher means you enjoy vigorous and healthy growth, flourishing in all areas of your professional and personal life. If we are called to teach, either in the classroom or in a home schooling environment, then we are not here just to exist and survive, but to have favor; thriving in our spiritual and emotional lives, relationships, finances, health, profession-ALL Areas!
In this 7 part series of articles, I will use the acronym T.E.A.C.H.E.R to describe the “7 Keys to Prosperous Teaching.” Each letter (T-E-A-C-H-E-R) represents a key to being a prosperous teacher. Here's part 1 of this 7 part series-the 7 Keys to Prosperous Teaching.
"Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers."
- 3 John 1:2 NASB
Today we will be discussing Key #1 to prosperous teaching… (T) – A prosperous teacher Takes care of themselves.
As a teacher or home educator we teach out of who we are. What that means in essence is what's in us, comes out of us and spills onto our teaching practices and the people we serve-our students and kids.
Teaching is one of the few professions where we are on stage 6-8 hours a day with a very captive and easily influenced audience. Unlike some professions where one can hide behind computer screens, telephones, or desks full of paper work, teachers have to have constant interaction with their students in order to effectively teach the material.
Let's be honest. You can't fool kids. If you are having a great day, they know it. If you are having a difficult day, they know it, too. Children and teenagers tend to have this innate ability to discern our moods and know just which buttons to push, whether good or bad.
I remember times during my teaching profession when I stepped into the classroom feeling, “tore up, from the floor up!” I was tired, things were not going well in my personal life, my desk was unorganized…
You get the point. Just going through the motions. It was during those days or seasons of my teaching profession where it absolutely had a direct effect on the students in my classes and my job performance as a whole.
But, I also recall times when I felt like I was at the top of my game. Lesson plans were more creative and engaging, I brought more energy to the classroom, papers were graded, my files were in order, and I was all around less irritated.
Guess what? The students responded to the engaging lessons, my energy level, and the structure of my classroom and it motivated them to do their best. Kids don't model what you say, but what you do. That is why prosperous teaching key #1-taking care of yourself is so important.
Here are 5 key areas of our personal lives that are important to address in taking care of yourself.
Spiritual Life-I don't know what your religious or spiritual background or beliefs may be, but all are welcome here. I can only speak from what has been my faith background because it has impacted every area of my personal and professional life in a positive way. My beliefs stem from a Judeo-Christian worldview. In a nutshell, I'm a Christian.
When I take time to spend time with My God daily through prayer, reading what I consider the greatest success book every written, the Bible, and journaling my thoughts from time to time, I feel connected to a power much greater than myself. And if the God I serve is omnipresent (everywhere), omnipotent (all powerful), and omniscient (all-knowing) then He knows the challenges I may have to face in the classroom or in my personal life.
In John 15:5, Jesus, the master teacher, states, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit (NIV).” I want my life to bear fruit to the students and parents I serve in the classroom and to my family at home. Abiding in Christ continually produces this fruit that I want to last in my life.
My favorite scripture comes from Jesus in Matthew 6:33 as He addresses the topic of worrying about the provisions of life. He says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (NIV).” Spending time with my personal God daily takes my limited resources and connects me to his unlimited supply of resources. I have an inner security and confidence to take on the challenges of the day and be emotionally available to my students and others when I am spiritually grounded.
What keeps you spiritually grounded? Feeding your spirit is crucial in taking care of yourself.
Mental/Emotional Life- The greatest war we face as educators is fought right between our two ears- In the Mind. Often we want to blame some external force like our spouses, students, kids, principals, the government, or even the devil himself as the Enemy of our soul. These individuals or unseen forces appear to be the ones that are making our lives miserable. However, in my experience it's not these external people or forces that are the Enemy. The “enemy” is really the “Inner Me” that we carry around with us everywhere and can't get rid of even if we try.
That's why taking care of your thought life and emotions is so important. Who or what are you allowing to enter into your life on a daily basis? Are these people or ideas helping you grow personally and professionally or are they making you passive, bitter, and lazy? Take an inventory from time to time on your mental and emotional life. I do this often. And if you don't like what is coming out of you, then change what you allow to come into your life.
Physical Life- To teach or work in any capacity with students, youth and kids, you need a lot of energy. So often teachers, myself included, are exhausted and lack sufficient energy to do our job effectively. By the middle of the school year many of us are like turtles trying to reach the finish line, which appears miles away.
As teachers and home educators it is so important to do what is necessary to take care of our bodies physically so we can be on top of our game consistently in the classroom and when we are at home with our families. What are some of the ways that you can take care of your physical life? Many of the answers are obvious, but executing them is the key to success in this area. Exercise, proper diet, adequate sleep, and nutritional supplementation with multivitamins, etc.. are all ways to improve your physical life.
I personally start each day by drinking a glass of SPARK, which gives me a boost of energy and sustained mental focus that I take into the first half of my day in the classroom. I also eat a light breakfast and snack regularly throughout the day with fruit or nutritional bars, since I don't always have time to sit extensively during lunch. One area that I continue to need to improve in is consistently getting to sleep at a time that will allow me to get adequate rest. Like all of us, I am still a work in progress.
How do you take care of your physical body and keep your energy levels up during the day?
Relational/Social Life- There's a saying, “No man is an island.” We were meant to exist in the context of relationships with other people. Often our social life is one of the most neglected areas that teachers tend to nurture. It's important to work hard, but then as teachers and home educators, you have to learn how to play hard as well. All work and no play is not healthy.
There needs to be times when you step away from the lesson plans, preparing for IEP meetings, grading papers, and calling parents and do something that nurtures your soul. Go to a play or concert with a friend, go to the local bookstore and purchase a fiction book, or do some karaoke. What's the point of gaining the whole world and prospering in your career, but disconnecting or losing the people closest to you in the process.
Learn to walk away from the academic arena for a while and just play. I guarantee you that the work will still be there when you come back to it. However, you can attack it with fresh eyes and with a new energy because you nurtured your soul and brought some balance to your life. Will there be seasons when you may have to burn the midnight oil and work longer and harder? Of course, but strive to make those times the exception, not the norm.
Financial Life- Money is always a difficult subject to discuss as educators because we all know that we tend to work much harder than what our biweekly or monthly paychecks reveal. One way to gain control of your finances is to create a budget if you don't already have one. Know where every penny of your money goes so, you can know where you may be spending in excess. Pay yourself first and save a little each paycheck for emergencies.
Our paychecks are not always the best indications of what we are worth as teachers and home school educators, but ask yourself this question, are my spending habits making my financial situation worst? There's a spiritual law that says, if you want to be entrusted with more, then be a good steward with what you already have. We are in 100% control of how we use our money.
So, in which of these areas are you doing well? Which area(s) do you need to improve?
Prosperous Teaching Key #1 – Taking care of yourself is an area we can control and with some major or minor adjustments it can increase your teaching effectiveness and personal life exponentially.
Prosperous Teaching Application Exercise:
Identify 1 of the 5 areas (spiritual, mental/emotional, physical, relational/social, and financial) that you need to address the most.
The area that I need to address the most right now in my life is in the ___________________________ area.
One action step I will begin to take today to address this area is _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.
Now get to work in addressing Key #1 of being a Prosperous Teacher-Taking Care of Yourself.
I'll see you next time for part 2 of this 7 part article series.
Antoine McCoy is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher as an Exceptional Needs Specialist working with children with mild to moderate disabilities. He has taught children in all grade levels (K-12) in Public and Private Schools (general education, inclusion, and self-contained classes) and worked with homeschoolers. He currently is working as a Learning Resource Specialist in a High School Setting.
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