How to Love Your Job (10 tips on how to make it easy)!

Love your job with these 10 tips.

Dear Aimee,

I really need to learn how to love my job.  What advice do you have for me today?

Dear reader,

I used to be in your shoes.  I remember feeling very exhausted, under-appreciated and having zero balance on my personal time and my work schedule.  I felt I had no say at work and nothing changed.  I felt back-stabbed by co-workers who constantly gossiped and I wondered for the thousandth time…why oh why did I become…a teacher.  Then one day something changed.

I decided to love my job.  Here’s how:

  1. I started posting morning mantras << on my personal page for everyone, including the co-workers who followed me.
  2. I took a more active role in meetings and volunteered to head up committees.  As a chair, they had to listen to my ideas.
  3. I did not do 5 things at once.  << This one took some time as I thought I worked better that way, but I really didn’t.
  4. I made sure I was clear on what was in my job description and what time constraints looked like and where my job ended.  Seriously.  I didn’t want to be taken advantage of over and over.
  5. I did not stay late anymore…where I once worked so hard I made myself ill.
  6. I gave myself breaks.  There was actually time to go to the bathroom in my damn and I made sure everyone was aware that breaks were important.
  7. I created a “let’s not talk shop” lunch policy with my close friends.  Let’s talk life.
  8. I started doing brain techniques, meditation << and mini-yoga breaks at work…with my tiny people.
  9. I had everything picked out the night before down to my shoes and didn’t rush in the morning.
  10. I decided to have a great day and give it my all, and when that appeared to not be good enough after doing all of this, I would leave if need be or change schools.

That was the year was one of my best years ever.  I really put everything I had into loving my job dear reader.  Was the job the thing I had romanticized in my head?  No, it was not.  Was the job harder than I thought?  Yes.  Yes it was.  I just knew that I had made a commitment and I was going to do my best to change my way of thinking and see what followed.

If you are interested in learning more about what we are covering in the Club << this month (by the way, it will help you with your feelings around your job as well as life), here is my video.

>>> We would love to have you in the Club this month for our theme of Letting Go with Peace.  <<< Learn more here!

3 Lessons Rejection Teaches You

Admit it.  We’ve all faced some sort of rejection in our lives.  Sometimes, it feels a lot like failure, but in reality, it can be a blessing in disguise.

I never really liked paying attention in school.  I tried…I really did.  Honestly, there were just too many distractions.  But by the time I got to college, I knew I had to buckle down and so, I decided to graduate at the top of my class.

However, the truth is, none of that stuff matters if you get a degree, go out into the work place, and decide after doing this job for x amount of years, that underneath it all, it was definitely not what you thought it’d be. 

No one ever tells you about all the red tape associated with being a teacher.  There really should be classes on handling policy changes, curriculum changes, then going back to the old way you taught, then handling the parents, and, well you get my drift.  It wasn’t the teaching that I didn’t like.  I loved the learning and the beautiful children I taught.  It was the fact that I had absolutely no creative control what so ever.  Period.

It didn’t matter if I got on the curriculum planning committees, which I did, if I went to all the meetings on “brainstorming” new ways to teach this material, which I did, if I became a chair of a few teams, again, did that.  Nothing seemed to change.  Year, after year, after year.

So the same thinking was yielding the same results and it really was very difficult to live in this situation.  I decided to take a year off, and by that time, I was already dealing with health issues, so it really seemed a good time to think about what was happening in my career.

3 Lessons I Learned:

  1. Sometimes, rejection is a new lesson in what you don’t want.  I decided that I wanted to help a non-profit in some sort of form…at least I really thought I did.  As I looked at tons of job listings, I found one that looked “too good to be true” as it appeared made for me.  After applying, I thought to myself, why did I just do that??  I panicked.  I wasn’t ready for this big job.  I was actually called by a head hunter and had about 3 interviews, before the 2.5 hours interview in person.  The head hunter loved me…and at least one of the ladies in the panel seemed to love me.  The two who I would be working with; however, did not.  My ideas were too radical, except for the part where they were taking notes and saying “I’ve never thought about it that way.” I got a gut sensation that for whatever reason, the head lady instantly didn’t like me.  I was much better off as this job was actually 40 minutes from my home.
  2. Trust your gut feeling.  So I wish I had just turned around and walked out upon shaking the CEO’s hand, but I was actually invited to a lunch after…when I knew that I would never want to work there even if they offered me the job.  Energy never lies to me.  I stuck it out to make a good impression, and because honestly, I have manners.  Just because she was a prickly witch didn’t mean that one day I wouldn’t run into one of those people…somewhere down the line.  I knew it wasn’t right for me, but I stayed for my peace of mind.  Not theirs.
  3. Turn the lesson into a positive one.  Do NOT think about what you could have done differently.  That is what you are doing, isn’t it?  Instead, think about the ways in which this has taught you something.  For me, it taught me that I was actually one of the top three with almost zero experience for this really high-powered job, because I believed I could do it.  I had some of the qualifications and a true passion for what the organization was about.  That didn’t actually turn out, but to be a top three, the head hunter, who does this type of thing all the time, said my answers were the best.  I was still proud of myself.  And ermmm to be honest, I was proud of myself for not answering snarkily to the really dumb questions that I was being asked.  I could tell they were trying to catch me off guard, but I just kept on answering.  Two and half hours.  <<< I can’t get that back, but it taught me to stay cool.

I hope whatever your rejection is, that in the end, you see it really is pointing you in a better direction!

Rejection Note:  You might like this post on using gratitude to move forward.

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The ghetto…

I’m a 5’2 white girl.  What do I know about the “ghetto” you might be thinking.  It’s cool.  We’re all good.  You can think that way.  By definition, the “ghetto” is a part of the city in which members of a particular race or group live, usually in poor conditions.  Weird fact, the word was first used around 1611.  From Venetian dialect, where the Italians made Jews live on a ghèto island.  Outcasts.  Now, let’s get back to “modern-day.”

Police tape.  Dark shadows in alleys where you do NOT want to go.  Trash littering the ground.  People hanging out on the corners in broad daylight…shaking hands while passing things off.  Run-down buildings and tenements that need to be condemned, but folks call that home.  Crack houses.  Shots fired.  Police on the scene.  Made the news for another murder, but folks around these parts just think it’s another day.

My first job as a teacher was here.  That’s right.  Because I “survived” student-teaching in the east-end, I was offered a job there.  I accepted.  The above was what I passed on my first day student-teaching.  No lie.  Police tape on the ground.  I still went back.

The first year I was a teacher, I was so full of hope and excitement.  I was going to change the world.  I just knew it.  I will never forget that year, or the next, or the one after that.  I was the one who was changed.  Not the world.

I was the new “white” teacher.  I didn’t think it mattered what color I was.  Apparently, I was wrong.  I made some great friends with the other teachers, but I truly was different.  I was white, married to a white man.  Couldn’t get any whiter.  I was a newlywed, with no children of my own.  My principal was a short, stout, black woman who had a smile I was drawn too when I interviewed for the job.  She hugged me on my first open house and could tell I was ready.  I looked like every typical teacher vision you could imagine.  I had on ahem, a dress with teachery things all over it.  I remember that night.  I only met about 6 parents.  I had 15 on roll because it was a Title 1 school.

To tell this correctly, you would have to know that most phone numbers didn’t work.  I still had not met some parents by January.  The guidance counselor became my friend and we talked about home visits.  I became a mentor to a child from another room, and the other “white” teacher and I signed up to take the boys we were mentoring on a school sponsored bowling event.  At night.  You see, I didn’t think that the time of day mattered.  All I knew was we were taking the kids somewhere they probably never went.  We had pizza and sodas. And my little boy had a great time.  We took him home first, it was getting pretty dark.  I walked him up to the door, and knocked and someone let him in.  They waved at me, but didn’t say anything.

I got back into my new white SUV.  It was my dream car, by the way.  It had just come out.  It was an Xterra.  Up until that point, I had always had small cars.  So my friend and I went to take the next child home.  She knew where he lived, but for some reason she said she wasn’t sure anyone was going to be home.  It was a pretty scary drive down a back alley to this place.  She jumped out and went up to the door.  I was looking around…with the child in the back.  Next thing I know some young men come up to my car.  I only had two seconds to ponder what they wanted.  He knocked on my window and flashed me the…peace sign.  I rolled the window down a bit.  He said “Peace, I like your car.”  I’ll never forget it.  I said thanks and my friend jumped back in the vehicle.  No one was home so we had to try a babysitters.

We were driving down small roads, and we went to a group of  tenements that had lights on.  My friend got out and went up to the door of this place.   She knocked and someone yelled and the door flew open.  I couldn’t really make out what was going on, but she came back and got him.  When she got back in the car, she said, um, I have to leave him there because his brother is there, and that’s where his mom will look, but after the cloud of smoke rolled out, I could see a bong on the table before they pulled the door to.  I asked her if she was crazy to leave him there, and she said that’s what she was supposed to do.  There were no numbers that worked, and this was 16 years ago.

I’m not sure what kind of mentors we made, but eventually, the parents stopped thinking of me as that “white” teacher, and started thinking of me as their child’s teacher.  I was requested even.  I have 3 girls on my social media site who sent me FR after they graduated High School.  I kept in touch with one family all this time and check on those girls, and they know they better behave or I’ll have a talk with their momma.

There are so many stories like this that I could tell you.  But that will have to wait.  Do what you can.  It does matter.

Empty Pockets

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Motivational Monday…code of conduct

One of my biggest faults, or one of my biggest assets depending on how you look at it, is my inability to keep quiet when wrongs are being done.  Whether it would cost me my job or not, which by the way it never has, but I’m just saying it could, I have made it a point to share the things that go on behind the scenes.  Why do I do that?  Because quite simply it boils down to a code of conduct I think human beings should personally hold themselves accountable to whether or not anyone is looking. 

This includes e-mail messages, private messages, cyber-bullying, phone conversations, texts and the like.  Just because you can’t see someone, does not mean they don’t have feelings.  I honestly wish I didn’t have a hard time with people being nasty…maybe I could be like the see no evil monkeys and just sit there and pretend it doesn’t happen like so many people.  But you see, that’s why the world is in the mess we are in now.

As a teacher, the desire to teach tiny people social-emotional skills was very important to me.  We are losing our HUMANITY as sure as I sit here and type this.  Parents were not showing respect to teachers, principals and other school staff.  They were not showing respect to other parents, and they sure weren’t able to teach respect to their children.  This week alone I saw friends post about children doing horrible things out in public and the parents were…on their phones ignoring the children.  The children then acted out more, etc.

So adults have taken on a kind of behavior that was not seen 20 years ago.  They think they can say anything on Facebook, post anything on social media, and it is okay.  We need to bring back social skills to our children.  We need to teach interaction with other human beings and we also need to learn the word “NO”.  No, you can’t treat me that way.  No, you can’t act a fool in public.  No, you can’t come in here on the first day of school and kick your momma.  I am going to have something to say about that.  Just as you can’t “cuss” at folks.  So teachers, hold your ground.  Hold.  Your. Ground.  As you prepare for this year, do what you know is right.  It’s okay to take time to teach social skills.  It’s okay to say no, you can’t act that way in my room.  Period.  Maybe, just maybe, the tiny ones will go home and show some of these very fine social skills to their folks.

CriticizeHold. Your. Ground.

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Motivational Monday…teaching

A long time ago, in a hood far, far away, I was a teacher.  During November, I talked about a few of the hard stories.  I had a student once who had “selective mutism” in first grade.  His parents didn’t act concerned at all and were wonderful and very supportive.  They said, “Oh, he talks up a storm at home.”  The problem was, that didn’t help me in the classroom because I knew I was going to have to do oral exams such as this new test called Phonological Awareness.  It’s kind of hard to hear the phonemes when someone won’t speak. 

I had “G” team up with this other child I thought would be a good role model.  I had the moms exchange phone numbers and I told them what I was doing.  Little by little “G” began to talk.  At first, it was in a whisper.  Then he whispered to his new friend.  He would whisper to me when people didn’t look at him.  The first time he raised his hand to answer a question I almost cried.  I stayed very calm and pretended I wasn’t going to call on him so I didn’t scare him.  When I saw he was ready I said his name.  He answered and the whole class stopped and looked at him.  They gave him words of encouragement.  I almost cried.  Ahhh.  Little “G”, you kind of still are my favorite story to tell.

I just looked through my photo album tonight.  I see you and your friend in almost all of my photos.  I was probably a tad bit obvious that year about favorites, but who could blame me.  It was my very first year and I managed to do something right.  I was a wee bit proud of myself.  Plus I made it through the year without quitting AND the next year, I came back an entirely different teacher; however, that’s another story.  So for my room One first graders, ummm you might be in college, but you know, I am still the same age, anyway, I love you guys and hope you are doing well.  Three of my girls are my Facebook friends so I do check on some of you.  You just don’t know it.

Difference

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Narrow-mindedness…

nar·row-mind·ed (năr′ō-mīn′dĭd)

adj.  Lacking tolerance, breadth of view, or sympathy; petty.  Sometimes you find this word with intolerance – unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in opinions or beliefs.

When I was teaching, I could always tell which children were told that not everyone is alike, and therefore, you shouldn’t treat them the same.  I don’t know if parents mean to do this to their children, or if it just comes from years of being told the same thing.  Their parents did it to them, so therefore, it must be the way that children should be raised.  However, at some point, your inner voice starts telling you that maybe it’s okay to make friends with people who are not like you.  As a matter of fact, not only is it okay, but it is good for you.  You become a more well-rounded person and your view of the world starts to become smaller actually, as you realize that on the inside, we are all the same.

Teaching tolerance will always be something I value.  Like Daryl Davis.  If you are unfamiliar with this man, let me tell you a bit of his story.  Daryl is a black musician and in 1983, well after the Civil Rights Movement, he was playing in a all-white (informally of course) lounge.  A man approached him after his set, and said he liked his piano playing.  That started a relationship between the two…the black man and a member of the KKK.  This was one of the coolest stories I had heard in a long time.  I wish this story was made part of the curriculum in high schools all around the country.  You can read more about Daryl Davis: A Black Man Amidst the Klan or in this interesting piece here.

Of particular interest to me is how he was brought up:
I was raised overseas in integrated schools. I had had a racist experience already but I didn’t know people organized into groups whose premise was to be racist and exclude other people. It seemed unfathomable to me. My parents were in the Foreign Service and I was an American embassy brat, going to international schools overseas. My classes were filled with anyone who had an embassy: Japanese, German, French, Italian. It was multicultural but that term did not exist at that time. For me it was just the norm. Every time I would come back (to the US,) I would see people separated by race. When my father was telling me about (the KKK) at the age of 10 it didn’t make any sense to me. I had always gotten along with everyone.
With a diverse background, he came to the United States.  He had some pretty funny conversations with one of his friends in the Klan about the brainwashing prejudice causes.  When people are confronted with images of something they don’t understand, be it other religions, race, or ways of life, they react as if they are brainwashed.  This is another line I like from one of the articles I read above: When asked about the fear many people feel when confronted with images of KKK members, he says “It’s just material. You have to address what’s in the person’s head and in their heart.”
Indeed you do.  Preach it.
ignorance

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Safe…

This month, I opened up about some of my teaching experiences.  Those stories are just some of the many I have had over the years.  There’s the year I helped two families find new homes with my friend’s help at school.  That was a really good year because the students were resilient and felt safe.  They were clothed, fed, and warm.  They had loving parents who had, through a series of events, lost their homes for one reason or another.  The years that were the hardest were when I didn’t know if I would ever see a particular student again.  Would he or she be safe?  Would they graduate?  Go to college?  That was not for me to determine.

Throughout the years, I have always told my students the same thing.  You are safe here.  That changed the day of the Sandy Hook school shooting.  I briefly wrote about it back then, and I will only briefly touch on it here.  I could not even begin to process the information that night.  I cried for so long my soul hurt.  I thought about things that I don’t want to think about again.  When we got back to work, we did not feel safe.  We had meetings and were told to lock our doors.  We had more drills called lock downs and we didn’t smile for months.  I got worse off because of stress and felt paranoid at being so far away from my children’s schools should someone need me.  I was, quite literally, a nervous wreck.

When you lose the feeling of safety, it’s like something has shattered.  A writer/blogger/page owner friend of mine wrote a post the other night that really resonated with me.  She doesn’t know I am going to share, but I am.  Here is her post called Living with the Stress of the World.  I knew she was right.  For many years, I felt the same way after Columbine, 9/11 and Boston.  I began to feel less safe.  For me, there were lots of prayers in the months to follow these events.  There were hugs, and nods of understanding to other teachers after every single shooting we heard about.  And we prayed it would not happen to us.  We began to feel a spark of hope.  As each year fades into the next, we gain some bit of safety back until we feel whole again.  Let’s move from the old to the new, as one community.  Let’s learn to trust each other a little bit more and heal our old wounds.

Safe

P.S.  To this day, I do not watch the news…I read about the events when necessary.

The homeless…

You see them on the street.  You grab your child’s hand and whisper “Don’t make eye contact” and you hurry by.  They are on the corners with their signs and you say “I bet they make more money than I do.”  They come to your churches, and the smell, oh the smell, you can’t wait for them to leave.  I wonder how many people have ever sat down and talked to them.  I wonder how many people ask them how they got they way and what can they do to help.  I am lucky to know a few people who do that.

Over the last 15 years, I have taught mostly lower socioeconomic children.  Some years past, “T” was in my class.  He was special needs and perhaps got that way by his mother’s use of various drugs and/or alcohol.  He had a smile that could light up a room and I loved him, as I do all my children.  He was a handful to say the least and required constant, constant, attention.  He would always be somewhere he was not supposed to be, and would “bother” the other children.  The lady I worked with had a hard time with him as well, so she would have to take his hand when we went anywhere as a class down the hall.  I had to do what is called a child study on him.  We did lots and lots of paperwork and I worked with the school counselor and social workers as well as the psychologist.  One day, we found out T’s mother had been evicted from where she was living.  He had a sister that I knew of and I went to that teacher to find out what had happened.  She knew even less.

I went to my good friend next.  A man who had worked on a committee with me to try to help the teachers with behavior problems in class.  He worked closely with the families and he knew of my struggles with T’s situation.  We did everything in our power at that time to speed up the child study, but sadly, T was “not in our district” anymore and somehow was going to be removed from school.  To this day I am still not even sure how this happened.  Both administrators at the time were well aware of my work with this family.  I have never seen my normally mild-mannered, doesn’t use a curse word, heart of gold friend stand up to the administration like he did the day I begged them to help me keep T at school.  I told them if he wasn’t in my class, I was afraid of what was going to him.  I said his child study was coming up, please let him stay until then.  Somehow, it didn’t matter.  That was the year I lost faith in the system.  That was the year I cried and told them he had no other place to go, but they didn’t budge.  That was the year I went to people above them and started letting them know what was going on.

That was the year my friend said I was right.  There were some things that might be worth losing your job over.  Miraculously, one of the administrators was moved to another school over the summer and no one even saw it coming.  Well, there might have been a few who saw it coming.  I told my friend I didn’t know how much longer I could keep doing this.  I was drained.  We started talking about other jobs for me, and I said I loved his job.  He gave me the eyeball and said that my strengths could also be my weaknesses.  I always got too close.  He’s right.  I do and I would probably lose my job over it or quit (true story).  I have been told that over and over again in my professional career.  I cared too much.  To this day I still don’t believe that is possible.

If you would like to be one of the few who care too much, here are some resources for you:

Homeless Shelter Directory  Currently 3,355 shelters in the U.S. on this site  The food bank listings are there as well.

Veterans Affairs Department  No one should be homeless that served our country.  Help your community.

The National Center on Family Homelessness  The National Center merged with American Institutes for Research and this site has comprehensive resources for families.

35 ways to help the Homeless  One tip that was truly helpful, was to develop a list of shelters that you can hand out to the homeless on a small card.  I also have bought extra gift cards to Starbucks, and have been known to hand those out.  I could tape a handy list of soup kitchens to the card as well.

Lastly, I would encourage you to get to know your local shelters and food banks.  We don’t know how they got there, but we can help them move on.

Truly Give

Lean on me…

Some of you might not want to hear this kind of message, so you can move along if you are looking for something uplifting tonight.  Imagine you are 4 years old and your father is in jail.  He came at your mom with a knife…well, he actually wounded her.  In the neck.  I have 3 more stories like this, but each gets worse.  So I want you to look at this:

I wish that man had given this speech to the parents of the children I taught this year.  I wish he had told them that they were demoted and he was in charge.  From now on they had to do what he said.  The majority of my motivational posts this year were to help me work through some of the things I so often would like to say, but can’t.  I have worked with many families over the years.  Some of them requesting me for siblings, some of them wishing they didn’t have someone like me telling them the truth.  In the end, the majority of them seem to understand that what I do, I do for their children, not for them.  This year was one of the hardest classes I have ever taught because of the lack of parental guidance.  There were a few parents who cared, but most seemed unaware I existed.  Manners seem to be a thing of the past.  Not in my room.  I teach social skills, manners and politeness.  So my tiny friends who have witnessed so much in so little time, please remember what you learned.  To my little helper, I am counting on you not to be a gangster when you grow up.  Please don’t break my heart for you have so much potential and will do great things.  To my angry child, thank you for hugging me when you were mad.  Remember to use your words.  Lastly, to the family I have been part of for two years, your mom is watching over you.  She hopes you know that.  It is time for all of us to move on.  Including me.

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.