Some days in the classroom can be exciting, filled with happy “lightbulb” moments, laughter and love. Other days can be trying, tiring and tense. This ebb and flow of emotional energy is natural, and some days will seem more demanding than others. To help combat the less-than-lovely moments, here are 8 mindful mantras to keep your teaching on point and your mind in the game, even on the toughest of days.
1. Stay the Course.
This is my number one, go-to mantra. When you stay the course, you persevere, you have grit, you see things to the end, you DO NOT GIVE UP – on yourself or others. When I realize that I am losing sight of the forest through the trees, I take a few moments to repeat this mantra. See the bigger picture, and know that one bad lesson, bad day or bad week will not ruin your year.
This is an often quoted mantra, and for good reason! Taking a slow, deep breath helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (thank you EMT class for this factoid!), which in turn helps us feel calm, quickly. Even just one inhale-exhale cycle can help us to reduce our immediate stress responses. This is why I like to play YouTube videos of breathing exercises like this one when I need a minute. I also like to play that video for my classes before assessments or when they need to “collect” themselves… I teach middle school, so their ability to self-regulate needs some encouragement from time to time.
3. Tie a knot.
Patience is a virtue, right? Our profession is a demanding one. We give so much of ourselves to others, that having an abundance of patience can be difficult to maintain. On the days that you feel your patience wearing thin, do as Franklin Roosevelt famously said, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” If Franklin Roosevelt held on through all he had been through, we can hang in there, too!
4. Give me strength.
Fortitude is important and it is plentiful, I promise you. When things just seem to be out of your control and there aren’t any fixes on the horizon, ask for strength. There are educators who will ask God for strength, the universe for strength, or ask of themselves for it. You may ask for strength of conscience to do the right thing [i.e. reporting wrongdoings in your building to your union or administration], or strength of self-discipline to keep choice words in your head from coming out of your mouth. No matter what type of strength you feel you need in the moment, ask for it, and it will be yours! There is plenty of strength in this world to go around for all of us!
5. Choose kindness.
We all know the saying, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” So in short, choose kindness. If a student, administrator, colleague or parent takes out their bad day on you, you do not need to respond back in kind; it may mean a deep breath and repeating this mantra in your head a few times. This is easier said than done. However, it’s always better to be level-headed, calm and composed, and respond with kindness, rather than rudeness, irrationality or rage.
6. Change is constant.
Change is the only constant in life, but that does not mean it is an easy stone to swallow. When you need to be *extra* flexible (we are teachers, so we are already flexible), having this mantra in your back pocket can help keep things in perspective. Change is not always easy, fair or timely, but it is forever present in our lives as educators. Seeing your ability to be flexible through the constant change is empowering. Let the realization that change is coming sink in slowly, take control of it, and act on it.
7. Let it go.
Elsa from Frozen sang it best, “Let it go!” There are times when it does more good than bad to just let things roll right off. Keeping pent up anger and frustration within yourself isn’t healthy, for you or those around you. Finding a way to “let it go” will help to reduce the building up of stress. Envision balloons encapsulating your problems floating up and away.
8. Do it for the kids.
Sometimes you need to remind yourself of why you went into teaching to begin with, and most of us went into it for the kids. Did you have a great teacher and now you want to inspire future generations? Did you realize that public school systems can be unjust and you want to fight the good fight? When obstacles are in our way (people or events), reminding ourselves to “do it for the kids” can be a saving grace.