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Back to School When Last Year Didn't End Well

I know I am not the only one. There must be thousands of teachers in my district, in my state—in America—who are just like me. We did not end last school year on a positive note. Some of us had clashes with parents, with other teachers, with administrators, or all of the above.

But we made it. We managed not to get fired or to quit. We remained committed to our students and our professions despite some of the crazy working conditions we are forced to endure.

We ran out of the school building singing "hallelujah!" for summer break, but now the question remains: are we truly over the pain? And if not, how do we mentally reset and start again? How do we move on from the trauma and drama of last year? How do we go back into our classrooms with the optimism that is necessary to get us through October, when even the cheeriest of teachers often hit the lulls of exhaustion and disillusionment?

Well, the answer lies in identifying what exactly went wrong and clearly articulating it to the individuals who can influence whether or not it happens again. But even before we do that, it takes some serious introspection to figure out what role we played in the debacle and to openly confess that to all parties involved.

Honestly ask yourself, "What did I do to escalate the conflict?" "What could I have done to stop this problem from reaching the mountaintop?" For me, this self-examination process took place all summer long. It was mixed in with a whole lot of tears and hours of prayer.

One thing was for sure, there was no way I was going to allow myself to enter a classroom full of children who desperately need me in the emotional condition I was in! And that was true no matter who I concluded was to blame for my dissatisfaction. Schools need the unity of all staff to function at maximum level.

After all, I see my role as a teacher in the same light that I see those in the medical profession: we have to be highly skilled, highly focused and professional, and ready to provide quality "care" to heal (teach) every patient (student) who has an ailment (their specific learning needs). I do believe that what we do every day is a matter of life and death. No, I'm not exaggerating. (Perhaps that's why I get so passionate about treating kids right.)

So I strongly suggest that if you are still crestfallen about what happened last year on the job, you step out of your comfort zone to try to make things right. Even if nothing changes as a result of your intervention, you will be able to walk into your classroom with a clear conscience knowing that you tried to make things better at your school. A healthy dose of forgiveness is also in order.

That's what I just did, and that's what any good teacher should do.

Happy Back to School to All Teachers, Administrators and Staff!

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