Intuition…it is this magical force that can lead you in a direction you need to go. Depending on your belief system, you may credit a higher power for these gentle nudges. Whatever you believe causes you to have the intuition to move in a specific direction, intuition can be our best guide as a teacher.
In today’s teaching world, it is easy to lose sight of that small, quiet voice that tells us which way to go. Schedules, parents, paperwork, daily grind, school initiatives, and so much more can cause us to turn off our voice and follow somebody else’s expectations for our students or ourselves. Generally, I find that when I do this, I am the least successful as a teacher. An earlier blog post discussed the art vs. the science of teaching: https://authenticteaching.blog/2019/08/03/the-art-and-science-of-teaching/ This concept is easy to lose sight of at this point in the year.
I taught for many years in high poverty Title 1 schools. There were so many families just like mine, struggling to do the best for their children they could. For some parents, their own personal demons and issues prevented them from being the kind of parents they needed to be. One year, I had a student who was a strong, smart, capable student. She could have an attitude, but I quickly helped her see the benefit of treating people with respect and care. She became one of my proudest success stories of that year in the fall. Then, in February, it was like she became a different person. Angry, volatile, unwilling to try, and worst of all treating me like I was the enemy. In spite of my desire to be the best teacher I could be for her, it all came to a head one day when I could not tolerate her disrespect another minute. I marched her to the office and brought her to my principal explaining the decline in her behavior and attitude. He took her and I went to class feeling frustrated with myself for not staying as calm, cool, and collected as I wanted to be. So that night, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about her. Wondering, what could have caused the change and what could I do to help her? Then, my tiny voice (which is annoyingly loud at 3 am) told me to just be there and be consistent. Whatever was wrong, she needed me to just stay consistently in her corner and keep trying. So, I talked with her the next day and told her just that. I was in her corner and on her side. She cried, I cried, we apologized, and slowly over the next several weeks and months, she started to go back to her old self. On the last day of school after the promotion ceremony, we were saying goodbye as a class in my room. We were taking a group picture and her mom came in. Her mom was loud, wild, and clearly not fully with us when she entered the room. She ran up and slid across a table to lay on her side in the picture. My student was mortified. As the kids were leaving the classroom, her mom came to me and loudly said “Thanks so much for helping her when I went to jail in February. She was all alone taking care of the little ones and she said you helped her every day.” It hit me like a freight train….she had been a terrified little girl thrust into a situation beyond her years and she was mad. She had to know that I would take that anger and still keep trying (because ultimately I am that stubborn). So – that voice, that intuition, led me in the right direction. Be consistent and keep trying it had said. Because I listened, I made a terrible time for her a little bit better. Throughout our day as educators we can listen to our intuition for both big and small situations and we can move in the direction that can make a real difference. Here are some ideas to help you “trust your gut” and move in the right direction.
- STOP – just stop and give yourself some time rest, rejuvenate, and relax. This may only be one planning period where you quietly sit and reflect in your room or stopping at a coffee shop for one hour before you head home or on the weekend locking yourself in a room you like for a few hours. Generally, we are unable to hear that tiny voice if we are going full speed. So, just stop.
- Make a list – I love a good list. Often, when I am the most overwhelmed, I make a list of things I need to do. Just making the list makes me feel better. Make a list of the issues as a teacher that you need to focus on.
- Now – look at that list and listen… As you look over the items on the list think to yourself “What would I do to fix a concern with a student, my schedule, a co-worker, a parent, my instruction, my test scores, etc??? What would I do if there was nothing standing in my way to solve the concern?” Listen…what is your intuition telling you?
- As you listen to your inner voice, you will often see a pathway open up that you simply did not know was there. Now – purposefully and intentionally take that pathway.
There is a classic story about starfish that reminds me of why we should trust our gut. Hundreds of starfish had washed up onto a beach. An old man was walking down the beach, when a saw a young girl picking up starfish one by one and throwing them back out to sea. He came up and asked what she was doing. She replied “I am saving these starfish”. He said “There are too many, you will never make a difference for all these starfish.” The girl smiled, picked up another starfish and tossed it back to sea. She looked at the old man and said “I made a difference to that one.” Your gut will help you make a difference one small step at a time. Trust your gut, intuition, small voice, higher power….whatever you name it…it will help you make a difference for yourself and for others.