Finding Sunlight Even When It’s Cloudy Outside: Recharging to be the Fabulous Educator of English Learners that You Are!
Sarah SaidChicago, ILJanuary 23, 2018
One thing I learned to do before I even begin to take a break and seek sunlight, is “reframe” my thoughts. We have to remember that we are fabulous educators. We are not victims and we need to understand that when there is a struggle we need to look for good in it. Reframing has its roots from cognitive behavioral therapy which stems from the teachings of a psychiatrist named Dr. Aaron Beck.
Reframing is really a way of how you cognitively digest a situation or thought, reflect on it, and search for positive in it. It’s really restructuring the negative within your day. Think of it this way, a picture on your wall can look different depending on the angle you hang it on, the frame you put around it, or whether or not you frame it at all.
Having worked in schools in a variety of capacities for almost 15 years as an EL teacher, ELA teacher, building administrator, and now as a district administrator, I learned to reframe the negativity of my experiences and turn them into positive action plans. It’s easier said than done. As a teacher you will encounter a variety of conflicts within a school year. On your end, a positive mindset and proactive game planning is important. The challenges of this role will create learning experiences that will help you and your students in the future.
In the field of English Learning, you are constantly adapting to rapid change, needs of students and fellow teachers, and school climate and culture issues. In a sense, in our field, we are chameleons who always have to blend in with new visions,initiatives and ideas. Over the years, we become very skilled at this. But, it can take a toll on us emotionally. That is where we really have to learn how to use logic when thinking and planning in order to advocate for our students and at times ourselves.
The following scenarios are examples of how teachers have had to reframe negative thoughts of issues during their day into a positive outlook for solutions.
You have been working with a pull out group of three students in the second grade who have been in the country for less than two years for months. The second grade classroom teacher has mentioned that you are pulling his students out for 40 minutes a day from his classroom and he still doesn’t see growth. Through your small group interaction with students, you do see their growth. You have also collected samples of student work and have test scores for those students that have proven growth. How do you plan to reframe this situation and work with the teacher?
“I know that the teacher down the hall may think that the students I pull from his class aren’t growing enough, but I will communicate their growth through our data and he will understand that they have made progress. He will be my partner in teaching our students.”
Like everything else in your world, your schedule is constantly changing. You are not teaching English Learners in a Middle School English Language Arts classroom anymore. You were told that due to a new style of scheduling within your building, you will now co-teach in a Social Studies classroom and the students you are servicing will not have support for ELA. Your principal also feels that your students are better off being supported in a Social Studies classroom. You typically service a large volume of newcomers who really need support in a language arts setting. How are you going to work with your principal to resolve this?
“My principal may not realize how much a different schedule would benefit our English learners, but to find common ground, I will sit down with her and explain why a different schedule would benefit English learners more than the current schedule. I will even create a mock schedule of how I can support my students in English Language Arts and Social Studies. I will be proactive and she will be happy with that.”
As you can see, the teachers in these scenarios found ways to have a better outlook of their situation and plan to resolve their issues. It just takes sitting down and really dissecting the issues you are faced with and then seeking avenues for improvement.
Here are ways to help you focus and reframe your thoughts:
Journaling: In a journal, you can really write out and analyze the events of your day. You can then go back and look for patterns of issues within your day. By looking at these patterns, you can ask yourself questions on why certain events happen and find ways to resolve conflict.
Finding Times of Silence: Finding a place where you can be alone and silent for part of your day will help you process your thoughts better. In our discipline, we are constantly around multiple people because we share spaces or we are in a small space with lots of noise. When I was in the classroom, I got to school at 6am every day. People thought it was ludicrous that I got to school so early because I didn’t need to be there until 8am. But, the silence of the school building in the early morning helped me process my thoughts to prepare for the day.
Running or Brisk Walking During Downtime in Your Day: There were times while I was in the classroom where I would take a portion of my duty free lunch to take a walk. There was a small park next to school that I worked in and it took three minutes to get down there from third floor classroom. I would quietly walk the perimeter of the park within ten minutes and just process events from the moments before. I would then run up to my room to eat my sandwich in time before my students came back upstairs.
Reframing your thoughts and creating an action plan to resolve your issues will help you mentally put away stress. After you have cognitively been able to work through problems, you will feel more at ease to relax in order to begin to find sunlight and recharge. This will help you better support the students that you care about.
Can't wait to find your sunlight? My next blog post will discuss ways to find your sunlight before, during, and after your school day.