I've been asking others for ideas on boosting school morale and +Shelli Temple suggested the book Unshakeable by Angela Watson. I read it and highlighted a lot of stuff. I really feel like I learned a lot of this already in my last years, and especially the last year. During the middle of last school year I was really close to a point of wanting to quit and find a different job. Which turned into a lot of personal growth on my part.

Now I think my school would benefit greatly if every other high school teacher in my school actually read and applied these but there were still some good reminders.

If it's not on the Internet then it didn't actually happen! Bold are the chapter titles and yellow are my most favorite highlights.

Preface: Can anyone really enjoy every day in the classroom?

When you continually make a series of small positive choices, they eventually become strong, unshakeable habits that are an essential part of who you are.

The goal we keep striving for is to become unshakeable: so resolute in our determination to enjoy our work that no outside circumstance can steal that joy away.

1 Share your authentic self to bring passion and energy to your teaching

The real you is memorable.

Don’t try to turn off your “teacher brain” when you leave the school building. Be on the perpetual lookout for new stories to tell your students and consider how you can use your daily life experiences to make instruction more relatable and meaningful. Allow yourself to draw inspiration from your outside interests, and take those experiences back to the classroom to enhance your lessons.

Though you may be required to implement some lessons you dislike, always look out for opportunities to integrate activities that you do enjoy.

Variety is not the most important factor here—your enthusiasm is.

With unshakeable enthusiasm, you have to develop that trait in your whole self, not just the one compartment of your life that is devoted to work. You have to consciously make the choice to surround yourself with people and influences that inspire you to be a passionate person.

Energy is one of our most important resources, but most of us give very little thought as to how we manage it and produce more of it.

Firstly, passionate and accomplished people make time for things that replenish their energy levels.

Secondly, accomplished people tend to be extremely driven by a greater purpose.

2 Allocate your time and energy wisely through productive routines

Go to school each day with the mindset that you’re there to work.

Don’t start off your day by doing anything that puts you in a bad mood.

The other thing you should never do in the morning is any task that’s absolutely essential to the rest of your day.

Use your time before the first bell to do things that get you excited about your day and make you feel prepared for your lessons.

Lesson learned: planning time is not guaranteed, and if there’s a task that must be done in order for me to teach a lesson after my planning time, I’d better handle it the day prior!

It’s very important to decompress if you’re in a bad mood during the school day, because if you don’t, you’ll take your bad mood out on the kids and be too exhausted to teach the way you need to.

Alternatively, choose two specific times during the school day to look at work email, such as 10 minutes before school starts and 10 minutes before your planning period ends. That should be ample time to read and respond to anything that’s urgent and you’ll have no choice but to logout after a few minutes because students will start arriving.

3 Establish healthy habits for bringing work home and decompressing

Decide before the week starts what your game plan will be so when Friday comes, you don’t end up completely overwhelmed by all the things you didn’t accomplish.

Frame the task so that it gives you a meaningful payoff, whatever that might be.

4 Determine how to do what matters most and let go of the rest

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

There are many things you need to get done, but chances are, there’s one thing that’s more important than everything else.

Build faith in yourself that you can do hard and unpleasant things.

Whenever you are unsure of your priorities or unable to make a decision about how to use your time, ask yourself, Which of these tasks will benefit students the most? and dedicate more energy to those tasks. You can always feel good about time you spend helping kids and meeting their needs.

5 Go the extra mile for families (but don’t take forever to get there)

Remember, the objective here is to enjoy teaching every day. It is not to teach parents a lesson or make people behave the way they “ought to.” You can fight a battle without letting it consume you mentally, and you can also let things go for the sake of having peace. Sometimes the choice is to be right or to have a right relationship with someone else, and it’s worth considering which one is the case for you.

7 Do your part to create a positive school culture

It’s impossible to be happy during a moment in which you’re complaining. Impossible.

Complainers get irritated by people who continually find the good in things, so they tend to avoid optimistic personality types at all costs.

Refusing to listen to complaints means that those negative words will have no effect on you. Other teachers will be drawn to you as they witness how you manage to shut down complainers. Although it can be somewhat therapeutic for them to have someone to vent with, it is also a relief to be around a positive person who lifts them up.

Always keep moving the conversation forward.

You are too busy to waste time complaining, and there’s no need to hide that in order to appear friendly!

Remind yourself that rude and negative comments are usually not personal. Criticism is more of a reflection of the person who is saying it than the recipient. So if a colleague criticizes something about your teaching or tries to make you feel inferior, let it slide off your back. Tell yourself, This is his/ her problem, and it’s not about me. I refuse to allow people who dislike their job to make me dislike mine, too. I’m not permitting those rude comments to take up any more space in my mind. I’m dismissing them, and I’m replacing them now with thoughts about something that worked well in my classroom today.

You can suggest starting every staff and/ or team meeting with a couple of positive anecdotes so teachers can share classroom successes.

Another idea is to coordinate with your colleagues and send a weekly or monthly accomplishments email. Create a shared Google Doc or form where any staff member can quickly type in something that worked well in his or her classroom, and the person in charge just copies and pastes the text into an email or other newsletter which gets sent to the whole staff. bulletin board or dry erase board in the staff lounge and write notes about your accomplishments on it: Sam learned 10 new sight words today! We finally finished our holiday project! I figured out a system for handling make-up work!

You can also try a Teacher of the Week trophy with your entire faculty or just your grade level team. This should be done on a scheduled, rotating basis so that no one is left out. Announce at the beginning of the meeting who that week’s honored teacher will be, and make small pieces of stationery or notepads available for other staff members to write encouraging messages on. Collect the notes, place them in the trophy, and at the end of the meeting, award it to the teacher.

9 Let your vision define your value and measure of success 

Define your value as a teacher. Your worth does not come from someone else’s approval, and it does not come from how many kids you can get to pass a standardized test.

Each challenge you face—no matter how frustrating or mundane or impossible—is a chance to work toward a greater purpose that matters deeply to you.

Your vision must compel you to expend your most precious resource, energy. It must compel you to put your heart and soul into your work so that you get intrinsic satisfaction from completing it.

My personal vision for teaching (and for life) is to create things that are valuable for as many other people as possible.

I choose to view every aspect of my life as an opportunity to create.

Creating things of value is how I serve others and serve God. No matter how tired I am, if I view the task at hand as an opportunity to create, I can summon the energy to keep going.

You cannot allow other people’s actions to determine whether you feel good about your work, and recognition cannot be your primary motivation for working hard.

You must learn to reflect on and recognize your own work. Practice setting goals and rewarding yourself when you meet them. Build your personal learning network so that you have a group of educators to celebrate your accomplishments with. Don’t be shy about sharing your successes with your educator friends, and help them celebrate their small wins, too.

There is very little immediate gratification in our work, and we have to learn to live with that. Teaching is very much like the sowing of seeds… it takes months or even years to see the fruit of our labor at times. Often the payoff from our efforts won’t be evident until long after a student has left our classrooms.

Trust that your hard work will manifest in positive ways for a very long time to come. Stay focused on your vision. When you teach, you don’t always get a short term reward, but you do leave a legacy. You have a choice about what that legacy will be.

10 Uncover the compelling reason for every lesson you teach

Placing a problem in an artificial context for kids doesn’t necessarily mean the kids are going to think the work is relevant and important.

We make the mistake of believing that learning must be fun when in fact real learning is often hard work.

Figure out what students will gain from completing the task and stay focused on that as you plan and teach. Then share with students the benefit you’ve uncovered. When we truly believe in the purpose of an activity, we enjoy teaching more and do it with greater effectiveness.

I absolutely love this quote from Krissy Venosdale: “Posting a lesson target before teaching a lesson is like announcing what a gift is before it’s opened. Post a question. Bring curiosity and thinking back to the classroom!”

11 Create curriculum “bright spots” you can’t wait to teach

Don’t wait for something enjoyable to happen: plan for it! Be intentional. Create bright spots not only for your students, but also for yourself.

12 Incorporate playfulness and have fun with learning

No highlights here. :|

13 Build in periods of rest and downtime throughout your day

Sustainability is key, so always view your choices within the framework of what you can maintain over the long haul. How are your instructional practices right now going to affect your energy level later in the day? The week? The year? 5 years from now?

Remember: energy, not time, is your most precious resource.

Put simply, the person doing the most talking is the person doing the most learning. So if you’re spending almost your entire day at the front of the classroom leading a discussion or activity, you are the primary beneficiary of all that effort, because you’re the one doing all the work.

If you’re feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed, many of your students probably are, too!

Take time to think about your own limitations and plan around them. Experiment with different class time structures so that you can allow for low energy periods without sacrificing instructional quality.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to be constantly stimulating kids’ minds and pushing them to work harder. Often they, like us, will perform better when allowed to have a few moments to decompress, unwind, and regroup.

14 Construct a self-running classroom that frees you to teach

When students understand and follow predictable routines, you are free to become creative with your instruction.

Teach students to have confidence in themselves and be independent thinkers—if they’re not sure what to do, they should try to think of the solution first.

When giving feedback to kids, try turning your statements into questions and prompts. Instead of saying to a group, Nice work over there, I like the strategy you used for ___, ask the kids to reflect on their own work: Tell me how your group has chosen to solve ___. Instead of telling a child, Take a look at #3—that answer is incorrect, say, Would you tell me how you got the answer for #3? Not only will these questions get students talking instead of you, kids will also have the chance to reflect on and articulate their learning.

Always be on the lookout for moments when you summarize or review for students, and make a conscious decision to get their input instead.

Perhaps most importantly, don’t steal the struggle. It can be uncomfortable to watch passively as kids figure out an answer, but they often need time and silence so they can think. Resist the urge to talk students through every step of a problem, and instead just observe.

When our goal is constructing a self-running classroom, we must resist the urge to lecture students every time someone forgets their materials, interrupts, or makes an inappropriate noise.

My absolute favorite question, which works in just about any situation, is: What should you be doing right now?

Why are you sitting there doing nothing? becomes What should you be working on?

15 Motivate students to take charge of their learning

Any topic instantly becomes more fun and meaningful for everyone involved when the kids are given some ownership of how they learn.

I remember being incredibly anxious about one particular conference because we were going to have to tell a parent that her child was in danger of being retained because he wasn’t putting forth any effort in his work. My co-teacher said to me, “What are you nervous about? We’re not telling the parent that, the kid is!” And she sat that child right down at the conference table with us and proceeded to ask him questions like these: 
  • How do you think you’ve been doing in class? 
  • What areas do you think need improvement? 
  • Why do you think that? 
  • How has your homework been going? 
  • Can you explain why you haven’t been doing it? 
  • What about class time—can you show your mom your notes? 
  • I see very few notes—would you tell us what’s happening with that? 
  • How is all of this affecting your grades? 
  • What do you think will happen if your grades don’t improve? 
  • What needs to change in order for you to do better? 
  • How can your teachers help you be more successful? 
  • How can mom and dad help? 
  • What is our plan moving forward, starting today, to help you improve? 
Those are pretty deep questions for an eight-year-old, but the child did a remarkable job responding. I remember sitting at that table absolutely astounded that neither I nor my co-teacher had to say anything negative about the child to his mother. We did not criticize, shame, tell on, or scold him. The whole conversation revolved around the child reflecting on his choices and then determining what he would do to improve… in front of three witnesses who were going to hold him accountable! 

We made no accusations and said nothing that the parent could throw in our faces later or complain to the principal about. Instead, we’d learned a lot about how the student viewed his school performance and the things that were distracting him and holding him back. We were able to end the conference with a firm plan for improvement that everyone present was fully invested in.

One way to tell who owns the learning is to observe who is asking the questions. If the teacher is doing all the questioning and the students are just answering, it’s possible the kids are being busy or compliant but are not truly taking ownership of what’s happening in the classroom.

16 Connect with kids and gain energy instead of letting them drain you

*******The kids have to be your greatest source of enjoyment as an educator.******* {I cannot stress this enoughhhhhh....why are you teaching when you don't like kids?}

Here’s what you do: download my free Daily Connections form from unshakeablebook.com, or just divide your class list into fifths. Each group of students will be assigned a day of the week. If you have 25 kids in your class, that means you’ll have 5 targeted kids for Monday, 5 for Tuesday, and so on. Each day, look at your list and see which kids you need to pay extra attention to that day. You could even pray for those students or think positive thoughts for them, if you choose.

17 Choose to love kids most when they act most unlovable

Here’s the conclusion that I finally learned the hard way: the teacher is always the most influential person in the room. It’s true! The teacher is the deciding element.

We as teachers have the power to balance out kids’ negative energy with our own positive energy

For the sake of the kids as well as your own sanity, students’ moods cannot be allowed to control your day.

If you help someone feel better, they will behave better.

As I relinquished control, I found that it was much easier to keep my peace and not take offense when dealing with defiant student behaviors.

I needed to spend more time identifying and addressing the reasons why children were acting out in the first place. Identifying kids’ triggers often tells me a lot about why they are misbehaving, which means I can then put supports in place to prevent problems from occurring.

So we need to understand that we are creating our own stress and unhappiness by comparing reality to our ideal.

Sometimes there is nothing inherently wrong with the child’s actions; it’s only their timing that’s inappropriate. 

You can avoid losing your cool every time the kids act out by reminding yourself, This is normal behavior for them, and needing more practice is normal! I can handle this!

Students often learn a lot more from practicing the right behavior than they do from being punished for the wrong behavior. Give them many, many opportunities to internalize your expectations.

Tell yourself, I will not let the out-of-control emotions of a child create out-of-control emotions in me. I will act and not react. I will not carry this incident with me all day long. Once it’s over, I’m letting it go.

A student might be acting out because she or he is: not clear about the expectations, wanting attention, bored, expelling excess energy, meeting a need for power or control, or trying desperately to avoid failure.

Always make it your goal to respond in love.

When you correct or respond to a child from love, your intention is completely different than if you respond from anger, annoyance, or disapproval.

Kids do not control your behaviors and emotions. You can choose to react to difficult students out of anger and spend most of your workweek in a rage, or you can choose to act from a place of love.

Never lose faith in your students and assume they are incapable of change. They must sense that you believe in them and their potential to improve.

These students are yours: take them as they are, and love them through the unlovable parts. Your patience and compassion has the potential to influence them for a lifetime.

18 Be truly present and look for the light bulb moments

Each time you’re pulled away from the physical or mental task you’ve decided is your most important focus right now, you're going to get more frustrated. You’re then going to take that frustration out on your students and anyone else in your path, creating more negativity as well as guilt.

When you’re fully present with kids, you process interruptions and unwanted behaviors differently in your mind and attend to them rather than your own agenda. Choosing to be present will create a level of patience that softens your mood as well as your words, body language, and tone.

Practice thinking only about the thing you’re supposed to be doing right now.

So, I’ve had to retrain myself to think of every plan I make as a simple guideline or outline that will be adjusted. In other words, I now plan to be flexible with my plan.

When you are focused on being tuned into kids, listening to kids, and responding to kids, they will learn naturally. Students will sense that they have your full attention and that you’re enjoying interacting with them, and their engagement (and achievement) will increase as a result.

Having someone’s time and energy, their full presence in both body and mind—is one of the most precious things you can offer to your students and other people you care about.

******A person with a blank or neutral expression could be hiding any emotion or be a million miles away mentally. But it’s nearly impossible to smile genuinely at someone if you are concentrating on something other than them. So if you want to try being more present with your students, just smile at them, and presence will naturally follow.**** {I soooo have to work on this. I suffer majorly from RBF. I did better last year but I still have so far to go.}

Project the energy to your class that you believe they are going to say something highly intelligent or thoughtful in response. I think you’ll notice immediately that some of your hesitant students feel more comfortable participating when they see a warm, welcoming smile that communicates, You have something important to say and I want to hear it.

You show up, day after day, and work these little miracles all day long without even realizing you’re doing it. You’re probably so focused on everything you didn’t do that you don’t realize how much you’ve actually accomplished. I am urging you—stop for a moment. Be present. See what you are doing. Really, truly, see it. Your work is important.

19 Re-write the story you tell yourself about teaching

If the story is not producing the results you want—peace, fulfillment, enthusiasm, and happiness—you cannot keep telling it.

I can’t keep a good attitude because I’m surrounded by negativity. New story: I choose to seek out people who inspire and uplift me.
New habit: Join a Facebook group for positive teachers who enjoy sharing ideas. 

I can never achieve a work-life balance.
New story: I manage my time and energy well, and create effective schedules.
New habit: Schedule time in the evening for family first, and use the leftover time for work.

I don't have time for getting the sleep I need.
New story: I make time for sleep because I know it creates more energy the next day.
New habit: Go to bed at 11 pm every night, regardless of what’s done or not done.

20 Innovate and adapt to make teaching an adventure

Most of us are too busy to regularly—or ever—step back from our daily routines and reflect on what is and isn’t working.

See if you can create a habit of reflecting on your work for just a few minutes each day. Ask yourself,
  • What was the best part of this day? 
  • What did I do to create or contribute to that success? 
  • What was something I’d like to see go better next time? 
  • How did I contribute to that obstacle or setback? 
  • What can I do to improve? 
  • What is the biggest lesson I learned today? 
  • What am I most looking forward to tomorrow?
And when faced with systemic changes that are clearly bad for kids and teachers, your ultimate goal must be to maintain your enthusiasm for teaching. Complaining all day and obsessing all night does nothing to help you or the kids. It only creates burnout, and a burned out, jaded teacher is of no value to anyone.

You cannot make instructional decisions based on fear. You must be motivated by what is best practice and most effective for kids.

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