Comparison is The Thief of All Joy

Comparison is The Thief of All Joy

All during the month of March on my social media channels, the focus was on #makeitpersonal, a campaign I decided to start after an experience I had with my daughter and her school. The focus was on seeing that every child feels safe, comfortable, accepted and welcome in the classroom. As March comes to a close, I couldn’t help but think about how this applies to teachers as well. Yes, it is important to build community, see students as individuals, but what about the teachers? They are an important part of the school equations, and we have to build school community among staff and also within the broader teacher community itself. It is so important for teachers to build each other up, help each other out, support and be there for each other. We cannot fall into the trap of comparison.

My friend Rachel Perry has an amazing podcast called Making the Leap, and when I heard her episode about comparison being the thief of all joy, I couldn’t help but relate it to teachers, and new teachers especially. Rachel shared a story of being newly married and wanting children right away, then feeling very upset and jealous when she would get Christmas cards from other friends who had already started their families.  She talked about feeling inferior and referenced the famous quote from Eleanor Roosevelt about the fact that no one can make us feel inferior without our permission. This is so true.

WE are the ones who decide that whatever it is that they have (and we don’t) makes us inferior—no one else can do that.  If you focus on what they have (and you don’t), nothing good can come from that because it begets negative energy and then you get stuck in that negative space. She reminded us that we need to focus on our story and our truth and where it is that we are going. This spoke to me so much, I am surprised I didn’t wreck my car!! (I was listening as I was driving to work).

When I first started teaching, over 25 years ago, there was no social media, but there was a Sue Strauman, a Debi Cunningham, and a Phyllis Pederson. Now, if you don’t teach where I teach, those names might not ring a bell, but if you do; well, then, you know EXACTLY who I am talking about. Sue, Debi, and Phyllis were the respective “rock star” teachers in the three buildings I taught in. You know the ones—the teacher everybody wants, that have gorgeous classrooms, cool learning experiences, and killer class management skills.  If I had allowed myself to compare where I was when I met each of them, I would always feel defeated and unworthy. But if I learn from them, and glean all the golden nuggets of education that I can from their experience, then that is a different story.

And, now you, my dear early career educator who is just within those first few years of teaching, you have so much more pressure—you have your school’s rock star (every school has one) but also all the teacher social media communities hurling hundreds (if not thousands) of new, beautiful images and stories every day.  All I have to do is open Instagram and I can feel this. I have taught for over twenty- five years and have more than a few tricks up my sleeve, but I don’t have to get very deep in my newsfeed before I see teachers that are seemingly teaching circles around me. There again, our mindset comes into play. If we look at it from the perspective of “Oh wow, they are so amazing… why didn’t I come up with that lesson, decorate that space, design that cool resource, (fill in the blank with a dozen other possible things),”  we will always come up short.  However, if we flip the switch and think, “That’s a great idea. I could make (this tweak) or (that change) and it could really help me with (whatever classroom issue it addresses),” we go from negative comparison energy to positive growth energy. We have to use what we see on social media and our own colleagues as advisors not benchmarks for where we should be at that moment. Don’t try to make someone’s else’s story your story, because all too often we are comparing our beginning to someone else’s middle or even final chapters. Because here is the thing, no matter how much we admire and try to emulate someone else, our story will never be the exact same because we have different behavior issues, curriculum challenges, and administrative mandates so comparison is futile. Learn, ask for advice, observe, or in the case of social media, follow, comment, post questions, but don’t ever compare. As the saying goes, “You do you, boo.”

Relationship Building 101

Relationship Building 101

Organization & Behavior

By now, most teachers have been in school for a while.  I did a Facebook live recently about problems/issues that tend to crop up at this time of the year.  You can watch that here. The two main issues that seem to be the most pressing for September (assuming an August start date for school) are organization and behavior. While I would never say I solved both issues with 100% success, I do think I have at least a few good insights for each one.  In my opinion, getting behavior under control is the most pressing of the two, so it is the one I decided to focus on first.

 

Two by Ten Strategy

One of my favorite behavior strategies is the two by ten (2 x 10 for short) strategy.  One of the reasons that I like it so much is that it is not some quick fix for “xyz” behavior problem (i.e. talking out, unkind to others, etc.) Rather, I see this as more of a preemptive move to help derail problems before they start.  The reason behind my feelings about this is because not only because it doesn’t address one specific behavior issue, but also because it is just good practice for all teachers.  I did a Facebook live on this strategy as well, but we were having some major technology issues that day, so I wanted to go into more detail here.

 

“No significant learning takes place without a significant relationship.”

~ James Comer

One of the basic tennets of this strategy is based on a famous quote from James Comer that you’ll hear me say often—“No significant learning takes place without a significant relationship.” I believe this statement wholeheartedly.  Kids just won’t learn from people they don’t like.  Oh, they might get something here and there, but for true learning to take place kids must feel respected, at ease in their environment and engaged in the work we ask them to do.  This strategy helps with relationship building, which is a key factor for creating an environment kids can thrive in.

 

Do it 2 minutes a day for 10 days

The strategy is called 2 x 10 because you do it for 2 minutes per day for 10 consecutive days. You can pick one child, multiple children or your whole class.  Here is basically how it works: For two minutes a day, you have a conversation with the child about anything non-school related you can.  You could talk about their hobbies, their interests, their family, or what they watched on TV last night—anything that helps you get to know them as a person, most importantly who they are outside of school.  You repeat this activity for 10 consecutive days. At that time, you can decide to move on to a different student (or group of students) or stay with the same child. I think this decision will be based on the results that you get in that first round.

For some kids, it is going to take several rounds of practicing this strategy before they feel comfortable taking risks (which is essential to learning) in the classroom.  Other kids will warm up quickly and be right at home in your classroom.  Only your professional judgment can determine how much to interact with a child.  The 2 x 10 strategy is not a magic formula, but rather a guideline to help you as you get to know your students.  Some kids will need significantly more interaction, and some will want less.  You will be amazed at how well you can get to know your students in just this short time.  There are plenty of opportunities in the day to squeeze in two minutes: arrival, dismissal, waiting in line, restroom breaks, going into lunch, during center time; really this list is endless and up to each individual teacher.

 

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If you try this strategy, I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below to let us know how it went.

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