Spread Encouragement: 3 Empowering Things to Tell Your Students (and Yourself) Every Day

December 04, 2018

Brynne Mattson

M.Ed. in English as a Second Language and Bilingual Education


Teachers, I feel you. The fall semester is nearly behind us, and we are tired. Not just hit-the-snooze-button-a-few-times tired, but put-the-coffee-creamer-in-the-oven-and-the-dog-in-the-car-seat tired.

Believe it or not, our students are, too. The novelty of the new school year has worn off, and the stress of balancing academics, home life, and friends weighs heavily on many of our students. The realities of school have begun to set in, and we could all use some encouragement as the mid-year mark quickly approaches.

Take some time to remind your students (and yourself) of three important truths to stay afloat when you feel your ship is sinking. After all, we’re all in the boat together.

You are trying.

Student, it is so easy to boil down your academic achievement to a number or a test score. I’m here to tell you that your efforts are so much greater than that. I see how you’re trying to implement the new skills you learned in class, even if you still make mistakes here and there. I watch as you painstakingly raise your hand in class, knowing how scary it can be to participate. Yesterday, you remembered to write your name on your paper for the first time in two weeks! No effort, no matter how small, is unworthy of celebration.

Teacher, it can be all too tempting to compare yourself with the teacher down the hall, or beat yourself up when a lesson didn’t go as planned. You’ve missed yet another deadline and it feels like you can never catch up. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Think about all the ways you’ve grown as a professional this year, the hours you’ve invested and the risks you’ve taken to be all you can be for your students. You’re not perfect — who is? — but you’re trying, and that counts just as much.

You are not alone.

Student, school can be a lonely place when you feel you are the only one struggling. I’m here to tell you that you’re not. Our school exists for you, and whatever you need, we will find a way to get it. Asking for help is a sign of courage, and I know just how courageous you are! Whether it’s linear equations or rejection from peers that has you feeling out of place, please reach out; we will work together until we find a way forward. No burden is too small that you should have to carry it alone.

Teacher, it’s easy to believe the lie that you are in this job alone. The late evenings, the early mornings, and the mounting pressures on educators can be crippling when you feel that no one has your back. So, find your support system.

Is there an administrator, an instructional coach, or a teacher-leader who can hear you out when you feel overwhelmed? What about a parent or community volunteer to help lighten the workload? Can you join an online community of teachers or connect with others through a blog? Teaching was never meant to be a one-man show. Find your teammates and remember, you are not alone!

You can do this.

Student, remember that time you had a challenge to conquer, and you did? You learned to read words for the first time in kindergarten and, soon after, you began to write in full sentences! You studied your heart out for a biology test, and you passed with an 81. You took a risk trying out for the football team and ended up finding your niche as the kicker.

Life is made of small victories, so which one is waiting for you next? Instead of seeing the present challenge as a mountain to summit, think of it as a series of small, gradual steps that get you to the top. Nothing is impossible for you.

Teacher, remember that time you thought you could never make it to the end of the semester (or the school day), and you did? You were too discouraged, too exhausted, too out of ideas, but you dug deep and pushed through. You remembered the commitment you made to your students, and chose positivity at the beginning of each day until you believed you were exactly where you needed to be.

You took one long, hard look at the classroom around you — the grade book full of complete assignments, the anchor charts lining the walls, the smiles of students engaged in meaningful learning — and remembered the critical role you played in all of it. Ready or not, you are moving toward becoming the teacher you always knew you could be.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Brynne Mattson
Brynne Mattson, M.Ed. in English as a Second Language and Bilingual Education

Brynne has dedicated her career to teaching elementary English language learners in Texas and Georgia. She currently teaches third grade dual-language immersion.

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