Listening to the Most Important Voice: Yours

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How many times have you been affected by somebody who has said something to you either in person or on social media that went against what you thought was the right thing? Somewhere along the line, it no longer became okay to have a friendly debate with someone who thinks differently than you.

It must be black and white, right or wrong, and we see this all the time now. 

These external voices start making your internal voices question themselves and that’s not okay. There is no wrong in the classroom when your heart and your head are thinking about what is in the best interest of your students.

Obviously common sense is a factor and of course, there are rules that we need to stick to, but if you’re making decisions based on what is best for your classroom, it isn’t wrong.

Closeup portrait senior strict teacher holding book and pen, looking very serious, unhappy and grumpy, isolated gray wall background. Human emotion facial expressions. Education concept

Somewhere along the way, we turned into a society where it’s acceptable to say the meanest thought that you had if you had the opportunity to hide behind a computer screen or behind a phone screen. I don’t think that’s beneficial to anyone’s mental health.

If you feel the need to disagree with somebody…and we’re human beings were supposed to be able to disagree with one another…you need to be able to do so in a respectful manner. Intensely going at someone and telling them that they do things is wrong without having a dialogue about it it’s just not appropriate.

It doesn’t matter what works in somebody else’s classroom if what you’re doing is working in your classroom and it’s in the best interest of your students. Sure, you can take ideas and suggestions from others and of course, you can listen to other people’s viewpoints. but that doesn’t mean what you’re doing is wrong. 

We need to start doing a better job at lifting one another up. The concept of the negativity of the teachers’ room has always been something of a bit of a joke in the teaching circle. We know that some people go into the break room to vent.

It’s normal, human nature and you have to get it off your chest sometimes.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, especially when you’re in a place where you know other people understand your predicament you’re talking about, but when you have people who go back at what you’re saying in a negative light and aren’t trying to find ways to help you remedy the situation, that’s where we start having issues. 

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We have these external voices who may be colleagues or parents or administrators or even our friends and family, but their negativity has us start doubting ourselves and our abilities in the classroom. If you’re like so many of us, it’s refreshing to hear nice things, but the negative comments allow your mind to wander to places it should not go.

We’re in a really tough time in education right now and we should be surrounded with external voices that help lift us up instead of adding fuel to this negative fire that really needs to be put out.

The fact of the matter is that this is the society that we live in now. People post whatever they want to post on the internet and the negative is starting to outweigh the positive. We stopped remembering the saying we all learned his kids…

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”

…and that’s part of the problem.

People shouldn’t be afraid to voice an opposing viewpoint if they do so factually and respectfully. It’s time that we stop saying it’s okay to be attacked for having different viewpoints. We are literally all in this together we’re all teachers because we want to help our students excel.

By going at one another were doing the exact opposite of that.

male hands typing on a laptop

I get that this all sounds really nice in theory, but it’s difficult to shake off because these people exist all around us. What can we do as individuals? Again, you can’t control what other people do and what other people say or what other people think. The only thing that you could truly control is yourself, but some people have thicker skin than others.

If you’re a person that doesn’t just let it roll off your back, it could really start weighing on you mentally.

We’re always talking about the support that our students need; well what about the support that we need? Why is that support missing? What can we do to help keep ourselves up?

I recently talked about an activity where you sit down and you start writing out your thoughts to help clear your mind. When you’re in the moment of feeling sad or angry or frustrated, this activity is a great first step in organizing your thoughts and making it so it’s not overwhelming you. Sometimes even the smallest thing that’s under our skin can become a huge deal.

If we can pinpoint those triggers and we can help pull ourselves up and move forward, it will change the balance of stress in our lives.

male with beard and blue tie sitting at desk, gazing into the distance, with hands behind his head

So how do we do that? It’s a matter of trying to figure out what you can do to make the situation better for you. Do you have to rethink how you approach a particular situation? Do you have to limit your interactions with certain people?

For example, if a person always has something negative to say, of course, you could just not have conversations with that person anymore (if you can help it).

I had one particular coworker that used to come to me often to talk about student-centered learning and how they could incorporate that into their own classroom. I would spend a lot of time sitting down with this person and trying to explain to the different concepts and ideas that they could easily do.

Every single time I tried, the response back to me was some type of negative thought along the lines of, “it wouldn’t work” or “it’s too much to get it all together”. At the end of the day, I was doing my best to help this colleague, but they didn’t want to help themselves and they were trying to bring me down with them. 

I will never turn someone away if they come to ask me for help…not a colleague, not a family member, not a student. My administration was very aware that I would stop and help a student at any time they walked through my door. At the same time, I had to take this particular situation into consideration for future conversations.

My time is valuable and if you’re going to come to me and tell me I’m wrong every time I’m trying to help you, then I’m not going to give you suggestions anymore. 

Smiling female teacher holding a chalk and writing on the blackboard

It was hard for me because I’m a natural helper; I want to help people. I want people who look at my classroom and want theirs to be the same way to make that happen, but at the same time, I have to look out for myself.

We only have so many hours in a day. We only have so much brain capacity for what we need to do to. If you’re a helper like me, you certainly want to help others the best you can, but know that you can’t save everybody.

There are going to be people who disagree with you and even though sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow, it’s not your problem if somebody doesn’t want to listen or somebody wants to look at the glass is half empty.

It’s okay to be frustrated sometimes; that’s normal and it’s okay to have happened, but how you deal with it personally is more important than how the people around you are dealing with it. Let your inner voices stay positive and stop listening to the negative external forces.

Just remember, we’re all doing the best that we can. There’s always going to be people out there that are trying to drag others down with them; I don’t understand why that is and maybe one day we can find a way to help raise them back up with us as opposed to having them drag us down.

At the end of the day, we all have to make sure that we are doing what is best for us. I know we always talk about what’s best for our students and their well-being and what needs to go on in our classrooms that’s obviously our number one concern as teachers, but we also have to make sure you step back and take care of YOU.

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