Twas my first year of teaching, and all of my interest
Was on creating a classroom straight out of Pinterest!
My lessons were written, my files were in order,
Name tags created, and bulletin boards had border.
When what to my eager, excited eyes should appear?
But a room full of children… I had nothing to fear!
Yet as I studied each one and looked at each face,
I suddenly worried… “Am I in the wrong place?”
They weren’t what I’d pictured, nor what I had planned.
Some were naughty, and sassy, and had dirt on their hands.
I looked up with fret, and cried, “Lord, help me, please!
How can I teach and love ones, such as these?”
Then gently He whispered, “Child, here’s what you do…
Give them grace, love, and mercy, just as I’ve done for you.”
Each year, we teachers enter a familiar classroom and greet unfamiliar faces as we welcome in a new batch of learners. But what happens when those new students don’t measure up to our expectations, don’t match our preferences, and present us with challenges we weren’t prepared for in college?! As I reflect on my past first days of school, would you allow me to offer you some tips for “loving the students you are stuck with” this year?
- Words --- There is power in words! As the teacher, my words set the tone for the day --- I can choose positive or negative words --- I can choose words that build up or tear down --- My words can be many or few and they can bring hope or defeat. As the leader of our classroom ( or our business or family), we need to choose our words carefully.
- Needs/Concerns --- Regardless of how much time we have spent planning our lessons, our students may not care what we know. Their immediate needs are not academic --- they need to feel safe, loved, accepted and they need to know that we are for them, not against them.
- Respond/React --- When medicine works, your doctor says your body is responding --- when it doesn’t work, your doctor says your body is reacting. Our attitude toward our students is the same --- are we responding or reacting?
- Your presence --- Your students need you to show up every day. Even difficult coworkers need to know that you are committed to them and to the goal/mission.
- Forgive – Our students need to know that when they do something wrong, they are going to be held accountable, but they will also be forgiven. They don’t need a lecture each time, they need to know there is grace and a second chance.
- Say I’m Sorry --- Students need to HEAR remorse and SEE it modeled before they can feel their own remorse. Our students may have never heard the words I’m sorry or they may have been required to say it so much that it has become a flippant phrase with no meaning. It’s our job to give those words meaning and validity.
- Let it go….. Don’t hold students’ offenses against them --- refusing to let go and forgive doesn’t change the offender, it changes us. We are the ones who become bitter, angry, and resentful. What a student does on Monday cannot be held onto until Friday….. Start fresh each day.
- Clean up your language --- My mom always said: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”. Lose the sarcasm, arguing, lecturing, and yelling.
- Thank you --- People need to feel appreciated. They don’t care what you know until they know you care. Our students need to know we appreciate them, even the smallest act – showing up, showering (especially those jr highers), doing homework, helping another student.
- Take an interest in others --- Our students need to know that we are interested in them outside of the walls of our classroom. Attend their soccer games! Wave to them at the grocery store! Sit by them in church!
In his book, Just Like Jesus, author Max Lucado reflects on the 13 th chapter of John where we find the story of Jesus and His disciples. Lucado explains that if anyone felt stuck with other people, it had to have been Jesus. He hung out with the same crew for three years and, let’s face it, His disciples weren’t exactly first round draft picks. They were misfits and trouble-makers. Yet, Jesus didn’t give up on them. He loved them. In fact, He loved them so much that He washed their feet. By performing this selfless act, Jesus not only showed them mercy, He also gave us an example. He wants us to do the same.
Are any relationships in your workplace in need of mercy? Are there any in your classroom who need assurance of your grace? Be encouraged today to follow the example of Jesus and LOVE the students you are “stuck with.”
This week is American Education Week and we have much to celebrate! We celebrate educators who are working hard to meet all levels of student need. You can multi-task to create rigorous curriculum opportunities as well as plan empowering social-emotional learning activities. The care you have for students drives positive relationships. You realize that students come from all different circumstances, and every student needs someone who believes in him. You are TEACHers! If you agree, do you feel like celebrating or do you sometimes feel like you are losing steam? You may sense that teaching is always changing, and you feel swept up in an unfamiliar dynamic.
Balancing curriculum and social-emotional learning
This is unfamiliar territory for many teachers as we are not used to teaching social-emotional skills. We all agree though, that it is essential and even fun to do so. Why the worry and why the resistance? Because change is difficult, albeit inevitable. Our resistance is not so much about the assumption that social-emotional learning is a vital new component of teaching than it is about our own feelings. Thankfully, we can change the way we feel. We need to realize that our role is a helper role. When we help learners, we are fulfilling our destiny. Be happy, grateful and thankful that we are exactly where God wants us to be at this precise moment.
Building positive relationships
Certainly, 100% of teachers would agree that positive relationships are key, but many students who need us most are the most difficult to reach. This requires a teacher mindset that is willing to reflect and change. Change is difficult, and people resist it. If you are using a student’s bad behavior as the reason you cannot develop a positive relationship with him, then you are only seeing the behavior, not the student.
We cannot develop a relationship with a behavior; we can only develop a relationship with a person.
Do you know what that student likes or is passionate about? If you don’t know, then you haven’t yet begun the work of developing a positive relationship with him or her. Give yourself and your student some time, and cultivate the relationship just like a seed in a flower pot.
Students come from all different circumstances
Every student needs someone who believes in him. This is a call is worth celebrating! God has put us in charge of carrying this out for our students. Of course, it may be difficult to believe in a kid who doesn’t believe in himself, but this is our greatest calling and it is our highest honor.
Teachers do have a lot on their plates, it’s true. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by an ever-increasing variety of challenges. But we also have an excellent sense of what we need to do, how we need to do it and why we need to do it. We have an important mission for every student in our care.
Remember - we have the brains, power and creativity to succeed!
All too often, we face life looking forward or looking backward. We forget about the moment that we are in.
I remember as a new mom, looking forward to having my children develop and grow because I was excited to see them enter the next phase or leave that ugly phase of something like teething or potty training! What I often had to tell myself is to just enjoy the moment that is right in front of you today. I had so many people tell me that it would go by fast and that I would want those days back. Guess what? They were right. Now that I have one in college, two in high school, and one in elementary, I find myself thinking about how quickly life has changed and that it went by way too fast!
I have found that as I grow older, that I need to find joy in each day and enjoy the moments that are right in front of me. It’s not always easy; because let’s face it, some days are just not worth repeating! However, remember that God has a purpose for trials and joys we face. It’s not always clear at the time, but we are learning and growing in our faith.
I lost my mother-in-law and three grandparents all within a span of two years. Each one of them had a special place in my heart and always took the time to enjoy the people that they were with each day. They had a wonderful way of listening and being focused on the conversation with those around them. Too often our schedules and technology distract us. Perhaps we could learn how to seek out time like this? After all, how do you want to be remembered? As someone who was always appears stressed and on a tight schedule or as someone who took the time to enjoy the people around them?
Whether you are looking forward to a vacation, being done with classes, or even the end of this day; take the time to reflect and find the blessings and joy you encountered today. It might have been a smile from a student or patient, a phone call from a friend, or a hug from your child or spouse. Treasure those moments and thank God that it was part of your day. The more you seek out these moments, the more joy fills your heart and you will soon find yourself filled with blessings each day.
Rejoice in each day of life - and choose joy.
I have worked with adult learners for over twenty years. During my time as an instructor, mentor and advisor, I’ve found the importance for adult learners to remember that it is not always possible to do everything. The below list is meant to lighten your day and to help keep an open perspective that you are not alone. We acknowledge that balancing a job, your family and now your studies, is not easy and that you can give yourself permission not to get all items on your to-do list done.
5 Things That You May Not Get Done On Your To-Do List
- Cleaning your closets. Many of you clean your closets once or twice a year or refer to spring cleaning as a national holiday. Be prepared - you may not get your closet cleaned this year. Remember the rule that your children may have used on you, “as long as I can shut the closet door, it is clean.” Yes, we all want clean and organized closets, but it can wait until you have that research paper handed in by 11:59 pm on Sunday night or a break between the terms.
- Laundry. Many of you may be like me, it is a rarity if I do not do at least one load of clothes a day. A family of 6 seems to create a load of towels daily. You can lower your standards and do a load of laundry on days that your posts or responses are not due. On the bright side, laundry is also one of those tasks that allows you to read a chapter or two between the washing and drying cycles. Multi-tasking as an adult learner is an essential survival skill.
- Grocery shopping. Yes, we all need to eat. Consider this time while you are going back to college as an opportunity for your family to eat those items in the pantry, you know the ones pushed a little further back. However, I would still check the expiration dates. Who knows, you and your family may have a new found love for green beans and a can of cream of mushroom soup. However, don’t skip on your meals. You still need the nourishment for your body and mind to assist in your learning.
- Present shopping and celebrations. Life should be filled with little celebrations, and you don’t want to forget anyone’s special day. Don’t forget the convenience of online shopping. Amazon Prime delivers free in two days. Gift bags are an easy way to make any gift look great. Have a few gift bags and tissue on hand and you can have a gift wrapped as you are walking out of the door. Amazon Prime is not only great for saving time, it is also a great source to purchase textbooks with free shipping. It only takes a few textbooks and your membership before year pays for itself. As an adult learner, you also need to celebrate the little things. Refrigerators are not just for grocery lists and kids projects, they are a place to celebrate your A on that research paper!
- Sleep. I cannot lie, you may get a little less sleep than you’re ordinarily accustomed to receiving. By far, many adult students state that their best and most productive work is done after everyone in their home is in bed or early in the morning when no one is awake. Taking time to sleep and take care of yourself, is important for your academic success.
Being an adult learner is not always easy, but the rewards far outweigh the “not dones” on your to do list. At Northwestern, we walk alongside students in support of their academic pursuits. We admire your diligence and tenacity to improve your life by continuing your education. We are proud of your accomplishments – we’re with you every step of the way! Connect with Kaylyn or Crystal if you're interested in more information about the Northwestern online programs.
For adult students, there can be a big time gap between completing one degree and pursuing the next. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve been in the academic mode, or maybe you’re continuing right after a semester of classes. Either way, it can take time to adjust to new paper deadlines and adding one more thing to the busy-ness of life. We have found 3 keys to success to creating your personal “class time” - a consistent study time, location, and environment.
Here are 3 tips to help you be successful in your adult learning and academic goals:
- Set a routine
Develop a routine of studying in the same location, approximate time, and even day. Find where you work best and can feel distraction free. This doesn’t have to be one sole space, if you can focus at a favorite coffee shop, your kitchen table, or empty classroom, it will establish a routine for motivated work time. You don’t have to pressure yourself to finish everything in one sitting. It can be helpful to break up the class assignment across the whole week with at least one rest day. Some students segment their homework time into 20-minute sections, which means you focus your attention on one item and then take a 5-10 minute break to stand up, go for walk or drink water in between your next 20-minute work session. Be creative with your daily "in-between" free times. You may have a few minutes during a prep period or work break that you can check discussion questions; this way you can think about your answer on your drive home and be ready for your established study time. An academic routine integrated into daily life will help you meet your goals.
- Create study rules, and follow them
If you sometimes struggle with not feeling productive during your personal class time, set a few ground rules that you stick with. You might make sure you have a comfortable environment in your study area. It can be as simple as making sure that you’re not having any back or wrist pain, have good lighting, and all your materials ready before you start. Your study zone might be sitting down with a cup of tea after the kids are in bed. Whatever you decide as your rules set them and stick to them. A structure lends to success.
- Build a support team
Having accountability and support in pursuing your academic goals will help keep you on track. Share your routine and rules with your family, friends, and kids - so they can help you not only stick to it, but it also allows them to assist in creating the positive learning environment. Share with your classroom or co-workers about your academic pursuit. It will create mutual encouragement, and give them an opportunity to share in your accomplishments. What better inspiration than to show you’re always learning too! You may be an inspiration for others to pursue their goals.
At Northwestern, we are your first academic support team. We are here because we want to make a difference in your life and walk alongside you to achieve your academic goals.
For more information, Take a look at Northwestern's adult learning online programs.
I’m excited to write my first blog for NWC! What’s even more exciting is that I can write this about a fun topic that we all enjoy – FOOD!!
My goal in this particular blog is to give you some helpful hints in trying to manage your family schedule, homework, household chores, etc. while feeding your family. I know that there are some weeks it seems I especially fail, so don’t feel that this is by any means the best method. Make sure you give yourself some grace!
So how do I figure out what meals to make and when? Well, there are a couple of methods I use:
- Look in your cupboards and freezer to see what should get eaten or has been sitting there for awhile. If it’s not expired, determine what you can make with it. You can do this by looking for recipes that contain a few of your ingredients. One of the best websites I have found for this is
- Take out one of your cookbooks each month and view recipes you think your family might like. Lay them out on a calendar according to your schedule. Make sure you write down any ingredients you might need for your next shopping trip to the grocery store.
- Once a month sit down and plan your meals according to the family’s schedule. Make sure to assign crockpot meals for those nights you are super busy! Also, build in some leftover days. Make sure you take advantage of tailgates and fundraising meals at various churches, schools, and other community events! It’s a great way to ease the stress and mess!
- Look at Pinterest for Meal Planning tips and tricks. Find one that best suits your family, food preferences, and lifestyle.
- Cook some meals with friends! I love to get together with a group of friends and set aside a day to make meals! You can also participate in meal exchanges too!
Ultimately, you need to do what works for you and your family’s lifestyle. No matter what or when you eat, I would encourage you to enjoy your family meals together! Ask each other about your day.
Remember some of the fondest memories are made around the table together!
Meet the Author
Crystal is the senior enrollment counselor for the Graduate School and Adult Learning. She works especially with our Master of Ed. students in preparing to begin the program, advising on classes and registration, and walking alongside as they progress to graduation. She also completed her MBA online all while balancing work, family, and life commitments.
When Crystal is not helping students register for classes or building programs of study, you might find her training for a half-marathon, cheering on her kid's sporting events, volunteering at church or cooking meals with friends.