As an adult, like everyone else, I naturally go through my ups and downs emotionally. There are days when I am inspired and excited about everything going on around me. Other days I don't feel like I have the emotional strength to drag myself back into the classroom. I imagine that is normal and that most people can relate to it.
But, looking back on my teen years, I recall those emotional swings were much greater and those times when I was going through a negative phase were very bleak indeed. As adults we have the benefit of experience and perspective, so we know that we can and will survive the pain we are going through. We also have developed a "toolbox" of strategies that help us cope and get ourselves moving in a positive trajectory. But teens do not have that experience, that perspective, or that toolbox.
Why? Sometimes we are the only positive voices in the lives of our students.
It's tempting to make a quip, a joke, or to tell them to snap out of it. And, to be fair, if it's something small that might be an appropriate response to some kids. But most of the time, kids need someone to talk to and something positive to do with themselves. This is one of the reason I am such an advocate of the arts in schools, but I digress.
In the meantime, I believe we need to cultivate self-esteem and positive self-talk. And no, I'm not talking about the "everybody gets a trophy" sort of self-esteem training that gets such a negative response in the public arena. I mean, "You are a valuable human being and your talents, opinions, and contributions are worthwhile."
The challenge, and it's a big one, is being authentic and not some sort of talking doll at the front of the classroom. Kids know when you are being real and they know when you are being fake; they honestly do. So we have to make sure that we are speaking from the heart even if it makes us a little vulnerable and teary-eyed. It makes a difference.
Here are some thoughts you might want to share with your classes, but don't forget to make a one-to-one connection with those students who need a boost of confidence too.
And please, don't forget these lessons for yourselves too, amigos. Value yourself and your work as a teacher. The observations, the tests, the data mining, the portfolios, the evaluations . . . you are much more than all of that put together and your work makes a difference in the lives of your students.