Saturday, September 24, 2016

Don't Quit on the Bad (Hard) Days

Well, the honeymoon is over at school.

Three weeks in and challenging behaviors are emerging. Conflicts between kids are rising. Difficulties are everywhere.

In a way, it's kind of a relief.

Let's just get on with the issues, so we can work on them and find a way through.

On Thursday, we had one of our administrators come in and do a presentation on rules, rights, and regulations.  We go over rules and expectations the first week, but we mostly get the "deer in the headlights" look from the kids because they are just so overwhelmed  by everything.

So, the third week is about the right time to have an admin come in and go over it all again so it can really sink in.

The presentation went beautifully.  We had bilingual specialists there interpreting.  Kids were attentive and super engaged- answering and asking questions.  Being their lovely, charming selves.

"Just look at them", I thought to myself. "They are so adorable, so good."  I was really quite proud of them.

At the end of the presentation, we dismissed them.  We all agreed it had gone really smoothly and all the adults were thanked and congratulated on a job well done.

This was 2nd period.

I can't be sure but I'm pretty confident that they had a meeting between 2nd and 3rd period.

And, that the verdict was unanimous.  The decision?  They had been SO good 2nd period they would give us hell in every imaginable way the rest of the day.

Really, it was unbelievable how many problems we had the remaining five periods.

I heard myself saying things like:

"Did you learn NOTHING from the morning presentation???!!!!"

"Ugh, REALLY??!!  Didn't we just talk about THIS?!"

"Okay, THIS?! THIS is play fighting!  Which is NOT allowed!  REMEMBER??!!"

My teaching partner and I discussed the payback at the end of the day.  And, we laughed.With our heads in our hands.

Teaching, like life, is a series of ups and downs.  And, I've learned that over the years, that you should never draw too many conclusions or make any big decisions on really difficult days.


Don't quit on the bad days.  

I heard this advice listening to my current favorite podcast this week:
Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette

Nicole just completed a 460 mile solo backpacking trip on the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

She said one piece of advice she got was to never quit on a bad day.  To not abandon your entire goal and hike because of one horrible day.

Nicole said that on one of her worst days she just sat down in the middle of the trail and started sobbing.  An older day-hiking couple came upon her and they were understandably concerned.

"Just go around me.  I'm fine.  Go around.  I'm okay," she sobbed.

Don't quit on the bad days.

Nicole didn't quit that day and she finished her hike, accomplishing an impressive goal.


I have a dear friend from college who is also a teacher.  She lives in a state with deserts.  Many years ago, we were talking about bad and good days in teaching and how challenging it all is.

She told me that there is a big saguaro on the way into her neighborhood that she would pass on the way home from work every day.

If she had a good day, she would imagine the saguaro raising both its hands in the air as if to say, "Wow! Way to Go!  Touchdown!  Goal!  You did it!"

On the other hand, if she had a bad day, she would imagine the saguaro giving her the middle finger as if to say, "You suck!  Your day sucked!  Your job sucks! Your life sucks!"

This story really sent me into hysterical laughter.

And, I like to think that some days, she gave the finger right back to that saguaro and the bad day.

I don't have any saguaros where I live, but I sometimes visualize one, and even if it's the middle finger one it makes me laugh.  Don't we all sort of feel like flashing the middle finger at a bad day every now and then?

Don't quit on the bad days. 


Years ago when I was first out of college I had a job working with homeless youth. I was part of opening a new drop-in center for them that provided food, resources, and someone to talk to, a respite from the streets.

I had an awesome boss at that job who is still a friend.  We had a lot of time to talk as we built that program.  I remember him being very philosophical about a lot of things.

One thing I remember clearly that we discussed after a really difficult day.  I was referring to it as a "bad" day.  And, he said that he had a conversation with his boss recently and she had challenged that notion of "bad."

She questioned him, "Was it necessarily a "bad" day or was it just a "hard" day?

Maybe if you can reframe a "bad" day and think of it as more of a day that was hard, difficult, and challenging, your perspective on the day will shift.

One thing I know for sure is that with some students it often takes a lot of challenging and difficult interactions with them before you get to the good days.

And, with teaching, it often takes a lot of horrible lessons and activities that bomb, before you find your groove and a class flows.

For whatever reason, I've tried to stop calling days "bad" and it makes me feel better.  If a day is bad, it sounds so negative, so final, so unworkable.

But if a day is "hard", I kind of feel a little stronger at the end of the day, even if I'm exhausted.  I didn't quit.  I persevered.  I got through something hard and difficult.

And, this is how we grow, by the way.  This is how we stretch and become better.


Nicole eventually stopped crying and got up and kept hiking the PCT.

My teacher friend keeps driving by that saguaro.

My former boss and I both eventually left our jobs at the drop-in center for homeless youth.
But not on a hard day.  And, I know we're both proud of what we did to create and build that space for kids who really needed it.

And, I'll go back on Monday.  Ready for whatever the day brings.

Don't quit on the hard days.  

No comments:

Post a Comment