Instead of focusing on the circumstances that you cannot change – focus strongly and powerfully on the circumstances that you can.
Years ago, I was awarded a summer externship at the Wendy’s corporate headquarters. I was teaching middle school language arts at the time, and the company had looked for a teacher willing to work for them during the summer. I was paid to work with the company’s public relations department and assist them with some of their advertising ideas.
Not long into the work, I realized how terribly stressed the employees all were. There was constant hurried, worried talk of sales and numbers. How to get those numbers up… what areas in the country were falling behind…. which franchise owners were refusing to follow corporate initiatives…. and so on. There were weekly meetings in which everyone had to report what they’d done to increase sales; the department leader was anxious and twitchy as he questioned the work of the others. He had a perpetual pained look on his face; he often paced and muttered to himself throughout the day. He seemed to spend most of his time fretting. They all did.
Except one man. He was calm and confident. He had a playful grin he’d shoot my way when tempers flared or his colleagues said something ridiculously paranoid. He sat back in his chair and rested his fingers together in a steeple. He rarely spoke unless he had something calming to say. He sauntered around the office with his hands casually in his pockets. He took time to really talk to his colleagues and ask about their lives.
As my externship ended, I finally mustered up the courage to ask him. “Why is it you seem so calm?” I asked. “Everyone around here is uber-stressed, but you don’t seem to let it get to you. What’s your secret?” I was hoping for a few tips to handle the stress in my job.
He laughed. “It’s easy,” he said. “Every time things seem to get out of control or I feel myself worrying about our company’s progress, I think about that building over there,” he said, nodding his head over to the window. There was a Wendy’s restaurant across the street from the headquarters building. “Look at that drive-through. Look at that parking lot. Look at those cars. And I ask myself, ‘Wait a minute. Are we still serving hamburgers?’ The answer is always yes, which means we’re doing something right. As long as we’re still serving hamburgers, it’s all going to be okay. It puts all this in perspective for me.”
I’ve used his wise words a lot as a literacy leader. With the constant talk of data and assessment in education, teachers can easily become anxious and stressed. It is worse in states passing legislation that pressures teachers to have all our readers and writers at or above grade level at all times. In short, teaching has become more difficult than ever. I’m certainly not above it; at times it seems my job is tied to teacher effectiveness, too.
But then I’ll stop. “Are we still teaching kids?” I ask myself. “Do we open the doors every morning, invite them in, and teach them to read and write? Do we care for them and give them our best? Are we still serving hamburgers?”
Yes, yes, yes. We are. We are teaching. We’re teaching, we’re inspiring, we’re taking care of the young learners as best we can. We need to remember this when the stress seems overwhelming. As long as you’re still serving hamburgers in your classroom, things are going to be okay.
This week we look at summer reading. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio. She also blogs about her personal pursuits at http://jengoingbig.blogspot.com/.
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Here are two features from the archives to foster more summer reading in students.
Cathy Mere has creative suggestions involving technology for Staying Connected with Students All Summer Long:
Franki Sibberson shares fun Books to Get Us Ready for Summer Vacation:
The Lit for Kids blog has a round-up of new series books for early readers:
How was your year? Elena Aguilar explains how the story you choose to tell about your teaching year shapes who you are:
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Franki Sibberson designs a lesson cycle to prepare students for summer reading:
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan have advice for Making Summer Reading Plans with students. This is the next installment in their summer reading series:
In The Gifts of Literacy, Kelly Petrin reflects on what she values most in the final days with children in her preschool program, and what she shares with parents:
Interviews at the end of the school year can help students consider their growth as readers and writers. In this week’s video, Ruth Shagoury interviews sixth graders about their reading. This is the first video in a three-week series:
We’ve also posted video of Ruth Shagoury interviewing sixth graders about their writing:
That’s all for this week!