I recently had a conversation with a colleague about mindset and how mindset can affect many aspects of a school community. In Alberta, it feels as though we are going through a troubled time. Teachers feel unappreciated and overworked. There have been many conversations about Teacher workload and what we can do to help our hardworking teachers. How has teacher workload changed? Here is why I ask…
I began teaching in 1997. My first class consisted of 29 grade two students. There were 19 boys and 10 girls. Within this class I had 4 severe behavior students. One of those four would later gain educational assistant time as he had beaten me black and blue. In addition to those students I had 8 that required specific interventions for behavior needs. I had 3 students with diagnosed learning disabilities that required accommodations. I also had 3 students who required challenge and enhancement. It was an extremely difficult year. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I remember leaving school on the last day of school going home and telling my husband, “I will never teach again!” It took until the middle of summer to change my mind.
For the next seven years I worked in the same school. There were challenges and blessings. The school had a low achievement rate, we worked hard to help our students achieve. We worked hard to meet the needs of the students, families, administration and school district. We worked hard and we loved it.
Fast forward to 2015, we are still working hard, very hard. But what has changed? Our class sizes are similar (if not smaller) than 1997. The complexities of our classrooms are similar to what I experienced. I had to complete IPP’s and Action Plans for each student who required accommodations. I had to plan and re-plan. I had to assess and re-assess. I was continually looking for new ideas, strategies and lessons. So, what has changed?
I wonder sometimes if it is our mindset. Are we stuck in cycle of speaking negatively about our workload? Are we stuck in a cycle of complaining? If we don’t begin looking for the good in what we do, we will burn out.
In my recent conversation, I asked those questions of my colleague. Not to be accusatory but just a reflective question. She came to me a few days later and said, “Thank you Shelley.” As I had already forgotten about our conversation I asked, “For what?” She said, “I thought about what you said the other day and I have been trying to make some changes in the way I think about things…it’s making a difference.”
Do I think there are changes that we can make? Absolutely! But I think we need to begin with a shift in our mindset.