career

Adopting an “It’s Not Personal” Philosophy
Teaching presents young people and second career adults alike with an interesting and rewarding option. However, one worldwide trend threatens many who choose this path. Present-day news and social media promote even the smallest issue with a personal slant. Many times, these reports become emotionally changed platforms drawing readers into taking sides on every issue.

While social awareness benefits many, a tendency to take a personal stand on everyday events has unique implications for first-time teachers. Adopting an “it’s not personal” mindset may be the key to cultivating a long and satisfying career in education. Consider these few paragraphs as a short course in perfecting a balanced and professional entry into teaching.

Create a Positive Workspace
More and more a problem in business settings, Forbes Magazine published How to Stop Taking Things Personally (June 29, 2018) in an attempt to highlight why employees take matters personally. The article lists self-doubt and poor communication as two of the most common causes but goes on to speak to a lack of quality personal connections and a defensive attitude as contributing factors.

Like any other workplace, schools operate for the purpose of education. New teachers who create a positive workspace for themselves have a greater chance of finding satisfaction over a thirty-year career. Setting a career goal of becoming a good teacher recognizes that personal ties with students and peers come as a result of good work.

Look at the Big Picture
Sometimes seen as a weakness in teacher preparation, school operations outside of the classroom take up little instructional time. Budgets, federal and state-mandated policies, and community values sometimes seem like two-headed monsters attacking the teacher in a very personal way. Too often, these decisions reflect the values of elected officials, community sentiments, and local spending priorities more than the viewpoint of the classroom teacher.

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The push to incorporate the latest technology and widest course offerings stress a school division’s fixed-income budget to the max. A recent posting by EdSource.org entitled California’s School Funding Flaws Make it Difficult for Districts to Meet Teacher Demands (Feb. 19, 2019) addresses the often convoluted and unequal funding system that leaves school leaders with few choices for improving teacher pay and classroom conditions. Understanding the budget process and accepting that teachers have only a small role in budget creation can keep feelings of personal responsibility in check.

In the same way, policy decisions appear unrelated to learning. New laws about teacher performance and working conditions find their way into law every year. The concept of unintended consequences has a seat at the table in any policy conversation. When well-intentioned initiatives cause complications, those who anticipate and deal with them accordingly have a greater chance at success than those who take a personal or defensive stance. A teacher who can adapt is a highly sought after staff member.

Remain Professional at All Times
As the Internet pushes the world to become a global society, awareness of different cultures surfaces. Expected to possess a good moral character, educators everywhere juggle their own values while respecting the values of others. That trend will not change. As diversity increases, the yardstick by which employers define such character shifts in response. At times, understanding what constitutes good character defies definition.

Summary

Success in education, like any workplace, involves more than being able to design and deliver a good lesson.  New teachers come prepared with techniques and knowledge that lay a good foundation.  And yet, soft skills such as balanced personal attitude and professional behavior more often predict success over the course of a teacher’s career. A teacher’s ability to see the school environment in a less personal manner goes a long way in increasing job satisfaction and improving longevity on the job. Success comes with a view of the big picture.

Bio

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Sarah Schrumpf-Deacon entered education in 1984 as a classroom Special Education aide.  Over the next thirty years, she earned a teacher’s certificate through James Madison University and focused mostly on special projects with underserved populations in public and private settings.  Before her final teaching assignment as a Career and Technical Education instructor, she held a seat on the Rockbridge County School Board in VA. She is now living the life of a freelance writer for organizations like Patrick Henry College.

References

EdSource.org – (Feb. 19, 2019)California’s School Funding Flaws Make it Difficult for Districts to Meet Teacher Demands

Forbes Magazine – (June 29, 2018) How to Stop Taking Things Personally

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