Me, in 2008, in my first classroom ever! Yes, I was barefoot. We weren't in session yet, I was just setting up!
Teaching is an incredible job; it's all-life-consuming. You deeply care about your students, your colleagues, your school. However, sometimes, that other life, your real life, sneaks into the classroom and can shake you to your core. Sometimes we all have bad days. Sometimes we leave the house in the morning a mess, crying, or so exhausted we can't even think straight. See, when you teach, you have to, well...put on a show, in a way; you have to be with-it, on top of things, and normally, in a good mood. Normally speaking, this isn't hard for me, or most of us; we chose teaching because we love teaching, we love being in front of the classroom, and we love the kids. However, sometimes the skies open up and rain on every parade we're marching in. So, how do you stand up there in front of the kids and teach when you feel like your world is crumbling? In terms of years, I'm still a newbie teacher (5 years), but in terms of experience, I've been there, I've had my days (or as I like to say, "It's been A DAY.") I've picked up a few things along the way, so I thought I would share; but, please, any teachers out share how you get through the rough days while still teaching, I'd love to hear and learn!

  • First of all, kids* are very knowing creatures, they immediately pick up on the fact that you're not yourself. Not only that, but they will ask. I promise you. You come to school looking tired or you've been crying? They will ask. And, I also promise you, 9/10 times, it's because they care about you. I've only ever had students ask if I'm okay because they genuinely care. 
  • Now, if they ask if you're okay, there's two roads to take: if the situation is something really menial (and you're just having an off day), OR if the situation is incredibly private, I usually tell them "I'm just tired and didn't sleep well last night." (usually that's the truth anyway!)
  • However, if the situation isn't so horrible, or so private, or so silly (aka, a fight about the dishes with your significant other, or some sort), I usually tell them what's up. Some teachers are more private, and I am about a lot of things, but I'm also a human, and I want them to know that. So, I'll say something like, "Ugh, just dealing with moving" or "Ah, my tires needed replacing!" These are real life issues, and it's okay for the kids to know you're a real life person. 
  • Crying in the classroom. Ah. We've all done it. Don't lie. I cried in front of the kids (they were working on something and didn't know it however) when Eric and I were dealing with moving to a rental house about two years ago. One of them did eventually ask if I was okay, and because I didn't want to get into it, I said I was just not feeling great. If you're genuinely going to start sobbing in class, give the most responsible kid some directions (like an activity in the workbook, or something) and go to the bathroom. I'm lucky in that all the middle school classrooms are next to each other, so in a real emergency, I could always go get another teacher and bow out for a moment. But, let me get this straight: it's okay for the kids to see emotions, especially in a trying time, but don't let 'em see you sob. They look to you for strength, so the minimal amount of time they can see you cry is good. 
  • However, that being said, I am honest with the kids. I told them about when my dad was sick, I tell them if I'm not feeling well (as in "Let's do some classwork quietly today as I'm not on top of my game.") Like I said, I want them to know I'm real; and if it's an issue that I feel is okay to share with them, why not share? It doesn't make me less of a teacher to have feelings. I want them to know that their fears and anxieties are the same ones I have too. 

So, teachers, how do you handle bad personal days in the classroom? How upfront with your feelings are you with your students? 

*I teach middle school, and always have, so that's where my lessons were learned; obviously this is different for other aged students! Though, most of this could be applied to High School level too, I assume. 

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