A question I’m often asked is “Where do you get all of your enthusiasm from?” In the ever changing world of education with its various pressures people can perceive my seemingly mindless enthusiasm as either something wonderful or some form of derangement. I normally don’t go into the huge list of motivators that drive me but give the more palatable ones. Today I’m going to try and share as many as I can recall…
It seems an obvious one but I try to keep in mind why we’re doing what we do. The most important reason is giving young people a better chance in life; something I genuinely believe we as educators are providing. It doesn’t mean they’ll all grab that opportunity as enthusiastically as you offer it but we need to keep in mind the huge impact we have as a profession on the hard days.
Look around you at work; don’t be trapped in the box that is your classroom. (You’ll have plenty of time to be in a box later.) Talk to your colleagues, notice the difference they make, take an interest in their lives. Being inspired by the good things you see and feeling like part of a community are vital to sustaining long term enthusiasm.
Search it out
Sometimes you need to make an effort to feel enthused; I know a lot of people don’t like that idea, they just want to be inspired and excited. You still need to go out there and find people who inspire and excite you, it’s unlikely when an unrecognised number calls to be someone wanting to fill you with passion for life. Use the Internet to find interesting people and ideas, talk to people about things that interest them, read good books, go to a Teachmeet, or a training course. There’s a huge amount to be enthused and inspired by out there; make an effort to find it.
Build your own climate
Being enthusiastic can be a choice; there will be a lot of opportunities to have your enthusiasm crushed, start making opportunities to build it up. Act in a positive way towards others, thank them and let them know they are valued and appreciated, let your face know it’s ok to smile, share things that you are passionate about. It’ll change the way people around you respond which means that you’ll experience more positivity and reap the benefits of your actions. It can take time and some people will talk behind your back because being positive and openly praising isn’t the culture in some places. I’d rather people talked behind my back about making to much effort to be nice to others than about me being a gloom mongering assassin of hope. The easy bit is just
smiling and saying hello; it’s surprisingly simple.
Understand the reality
Sometimes you get busy, sometimes you’re distracted by issues outside work, sometimes you just don’t have your mojo. We all have bad days, it’s not nice for the ego to admit that every day isn’t an all singing, all dancing performance of wonderment; but that’s the reality. The trick is to understand this, not dwell on the negatives but try to make you on a bad day a little better.
Know what you want
If you want to be enthusiastic you need to be working towards things that matter; whether those are small goals or working towards something truly epic if you don’t feel what you’re doing matters it can be difficult to maintain enthusiasm. We’re in a profession where we change lives; sometimes in small intangible ways we’ll never know about, but that’s what we do. How do you want to make a difference? That should be something to be enthusiastic about. What do you want to achieve?
Be more than just a teacher
I know there’s an army of passionate workaholics in our profession, however I still believe you need to be more than a one dimensional teaching machine. If teaching is all you have the difficult parts of the job will seem harder and you can easily find yourself feeling isolated if you change schools or colleagues move on. It’s good for your health to find time to do things other than work and that benefits your school and the students you teach. You’re less likely to get ill (I did read it in a study but can’t remember where, so since this isn’t a research paper you can choose whether to believe me or not;)). You’re likely to be happier at work, thus more pleasant to be around for students, colleagues and those in your personal life. You also become a more interesting person; I know I talk about teaching too much but it would be worse if I didn’t have other interests too; my wife would probably have been driven mad by now too.
A healthy dose of cynicism
Sometimes you just need to shake your head and carry on. We’re bombarded as a profession by media sound bytes, sensational stories of when things go wrong and political machinations as part of the ongoing negotiation of the status quo by those vying for power. Most of us, as individuals, can’t control the mass media or political parties; remember to see them for what they are (they are just humans after all) and try to keep your focus on the differences you can make.
We only have a certain amount of time and I personally believe we should spend it doing things that we enjoy and things that are worthwhile. If it seems a long time since you did either of these you need to either change what you’re doing or who you are. A change in focus to an exciting project or taking on a little extra that still excites you can really make a difference to your feelings of fulfilment and enthusiasm. Making an effort to notice positives and share them will also make a difference to you and others around you. Make sure you enjoy as many of your days as you can.
Some days enthusiasm just doesn’t happen, try to fake it. I’m not supporting the idea of intentionally deceiving others, just saying try not to take everyone else down with you on your bad days. We all have a moan and a whinge sometimes, I’m guilty of that too, but minimise the damage you do by being aware of it. (If it’s something more serious than a whinge, talk to someone you trust or seek professional help; look after yourself.) When all else fails…good coffee.
In honesty, I should probably put good coffee at the top. Keep smiling (they’ll never know).
Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE