I remember when Oprah premiered on television, somewhere around the 2nd grade. I grew up watching Donahue at 3:00 and Oprah at 4:00 with my grandmother after school. I watched for many years though I started to lose track somewhere around high school. I must confess that as I got older I found the show alternated between fascinating and grating.
However, I rediscovered the Oprah show after freshman year in college just in time for her launch of “Change Your Life TV.” It may not have changed my life but it did provide some needed emotional support as I was still figuring out the world and discovering my place in it.
A few years later I found my place teaching kindergarten as a long-term substitute. I became a full-time teacher soon after and that was the end of my Oprah watching. Full-time teachers’ hours were not conducive to watching a show at 3:00 in an era before Tivo and DVR.
But I caught up one last time to watch the Oprah finale which was broadcast last week and I think that she had some profound lessons for the lives and careers of teachers. She didn’t give away any cars or offer any big surprises, she spoke from the heart about the lessons she learned and expressed her gratitude to her audience.
“…you are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself
and you are responsible for the energy that you bring to others.”
All life, from plants to animals, is made up of energy and we give that energy off every day. Our friends and family are recipients of that energy, of course. But to a large extent, our friends and family get to choose how much time they want to spend with us. Our students are receivers of our energy and they have no choice.
What kind of energy do you give off to your students? Are they happy to be in your classroom? Or do they hate being there? A teacher’s positive attitude, forgiving smile, and unconditional support goes further in creating positive energy than a pizza party and a Friday movie treat.
You don’t have to like all of your students but everyone has a human need to be seen and understood. The “bad kids” have this need even more than the others. Do you understand all of your students and believe they have the ability to become better students and better people? Do you put forth that energy or is it the energy that keeps them stuck in a cycle of misbehavior?
You Are Responsible for Your Life
Teaching is a rough career. Your students, full of possibility, graduate year after year but you stay in the same place. You’ve already made it. How does that feel?
I know a lot of teachers who resent their districts, their professions, their students because of choices they themselves have made that have led them to become teachers.
We became teachers because we wanted to teach. And if we didn’t, or don’t, then we are able to make choices to do something else as well.
Find Your Passion
Teachers need to be passionate. Some are passionate about teaching but some are passionate about something else that fuels their souls. If you are not passionate about something you’re as good to your students as an empty shell. You do not need to love the same things your students do but you do need to love something to be an interesting teacher and not be someone who’s full of bitterness.