Monday, July 11, 2011

Awakened: Change Your Mindset To Transform Your Teaching

I recently finished reading Awakened by Angela Watson the other day and I loved it. The back cover explains the book, "Awakened provides simple steps to help you feel peaceful and energized, no matter what's happening around you." This perfectly sums up everything I read.

The book is broken up into three parts:

Part One: Setting The Foundation For A Healthy Mind
Part Two: Breaking Free Of Destructive Habits
Part Three: Cultivating A Positive Frame Of Reference

Part two really stood out to me because I feel there were many examples of things I do on a daily basis as a teacher. Here are a couple of examples,

Habit 3: Replaying and rehearsing conflicts - I go over issues over and over in my head. Some of them might actually be years old. I would replay the situations over and over again looking at what I did or what I could have done differently. I truly have wasted so much time on this practice.

Angela writes about reframing the incident after it occurs. Take away the best from each situation so you do not have to dwell on the negative aspects of events. It seems like a simple solution, but it was nice to read. Instead of focusing on some of the stressful situations I've dealt with over the years, I'm going to focus on what went well and the best way to deal with similar situations next time. Learning from the past is important, but it is bad to dwell on it too much.

Habit 5: Taking things personally - I am very guilty of this habit. When a student chooses not to do their work or a colleague snaps at an idea I present at a meeting, I take it personally. What is wrong with me that made these things happen?

Angela offers 4 steps to evaluate situations to help deal with the self blame. One is simply working on being more self-aware. Sometimes we say or do things that might upset others without even knowing it. By being more self-aware, we can avoid potentially hurting others who might respond by hurting you back.

In total, there are 10 habits Angela writes about and provides excellent ways to deal with them. These destructive habits can eat away at a teacher's positive attitude and motivation. Even the best teachers are guilty of these habits. It doesn't make you a bad teacher, it makes you human. Angela helps teachers further by giving advice in Part three of the book.

In "Cultivating A Positive Frame Of Reference", Angela provides some excellent advice on setting yourself up for success. My favorite tip is "Accept you will never get it ALL right". I wish someone would have told me this when I started teaching. There is so much pressure to be the best teacher out of the gate. I would best myself up over every little mistake or a lesson that did not turn out perfectly. Nobody is perfect, but you don't always hear that when you start teaching.

I still strive for perfection when I create lessons, but I don't beat myself up anymore when I fall short. I know that I put in my best effort and the lesson, project, assignment, etc is the best one I could have created at that time. Angela's book does an amazing job sharing these ideas. Angela also focuses on a few more tips that can make a teacher feel better about the work they do.

"Train yourself to be difficult to offend" is something I've learned to do as a high school teacher. High school boys can say some very mean things when angry and I've learned to let those things go. Angela does an excellent job explaining this important idea for teachers.

"Practice forgiveness when you don't feel like it". Holding a grudge is not something a teacher should do. There are times when it is easier to stay angry and students or co-workers, but forgiveness can help you move on from problems. There have been times I've stayed angry with a class and it just creates a sour environment to learn. Dealing with the problem and forgiving the mistakes of others helps a person move forward.

I really enjoyed reading Angela Watson's book. It was a nice read that let me evaluate my own experiences and think of the different ways I will approach similar situations in the future. If you are interested in picking up a copy of her book, you can go here. You can also follow Angela Watson on Twitter @Angela_Watson or check out her website.

I have an extra autographed copy available to a person who comments or tweets about a time when they let the past get the best of them.

- @TheNerdyTeacher