There are times when teacher me fights against Missy me. See folks, something you might now know about me is that I am stubborn. And I like to be in control. Not all the time, but definitely when it's something I care about. I care a lot about writing and my classroom, so that stubborn and bossy nature is something I'm constantly battling. My natural personality traits are not always conducive to a positive student learning environment, so I find myself at war against my nature.
It's not always bad. My personality traits make classroom management pretty simple. I don't have issues with kids acting out or off task after the first few weeks of a new year because they simple don't mess with me. They respect my authority and don't test my boundaries very often.
But today was a day where my stubbornness would not have worked. Trimester 2 rough drafts were due for all 7th and 8th graders today. They've had two weeks to work on them. How many do you think were burning the midnight oil last night? How many only had one sentence written? I don't even want to know. And I dreaded it. I thought about it as I did my yoga this morning. How many students will I have to give a late assignment to? (My school records late assignments as a data collection point.) How many kids will be upset or angry because of that? How angry will I get from spending all day focusing on those who didn't do their work?
And that's when I decided to let go. Two days ago I shared one of the mantras (fromYoga Journal) that starts many of my mornings: "Today I will do all things with love." What's the most loving thing I could do today? I could pretend that late assignments don't exist. I could go against my nature to stubbornly point out that they earned late assignments because they didn't use the past two weeks wisely. I could love my students by showing them mercy. I could love myself by refusing to allow my Friday to be consumed with negativity.
One thing I couldn't do was do this quietly. I'm just too much of a sucker for attention. So I stopped every class at the door (where they usually show me their papers as a ticket to enter on peer response days) and I announced that they should love me today. Because I love them today. And part of that love is that I wouldn't be giving any late assignments today.
The difference between what today could have been (had I counted the lates and made life miserable) and what it has been is astonishing. Instead of creating a negative environment, the kids have come in happy and relieved, which makes them better peer responders. I'm glad I made the conscious decision to create a positive environment. I need to remind myself in the future to evaluate when my stubbornness is making things toxic for me and my students, and to avoid those situations when I can. Part of being in control is knowing when it's okay to let things slide and move on.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.