The Three Little Pigs ranks way at the top of my “Favorite Fairy Tales/ Fables” list. I loved reading the story, in its many different versions, to my students every year. I especially loved the third little pig – his wisdom, work ethic, and courage to do things differently. I always believed that if everyone really paid attention to the morals of the story and learned from the third little pig, our lives would be a whole lot happier. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned about how to be a happy teacher from reading this book:
1. Remember that teaching is a journey. We never really “get there” as teachers. Each group of students brings its own challenges and rewards. The school year gets away from us so quickly and they’re off to the next grade level. As much as possible, live in the moment.
2. Take the road less traveled. There’s a lot of pressure to conform in education. Dig deep and find the courage to teach authentically. Do what works. Try new things. Be yourself!
3. Make wise choices. Do your best to make choices you’ll be proud of a month from now or even tomorrow! Sometimes that means biting your tongue when you want to snap back at a student or refraining from gossip. In making any choice, never compromise your integrity.
4. Plan. What’s the plan if the angry parent storms into your room? What’s the plan if the the majority of the class fails the science test? What’s the plan if you need to question an administrator’s evaluation? Get into the habit of thinking things through by creating “If, then…” scenarios when necessary. Of course, it is not healthy to assign a worse case scenario to every situation, but mental planning in certain situations will help prevent knee jerk reactions that you may regret later.
5. Trust your instincts. Sometimes other people know best. Sometimes you know best. In every situation, decide whose wisdom is required.
6. Build a strong foundation. Decide what your life will be like as a teacher. Don’t leave it to chance. It doesn’t have to depend on the group you have this year or the personalities of your administrators. When your foundation is strong, you’re house isn’t blown down when you have a challenging class or that parent has bad-mouthed you to the principal. You know who you are and what you stand for.
7. Be prepared. Think of the days when you’ve prepared top-notch lesson plans. You’ve really thought things through. Everything is in place and ready to go! Now think of the days when, for whatever reason, you’re scrambling to get it together. On which days do you feel the most confident and calm? Being prepared each day helps make teaching a little more relaxing!
8. Work hard, but remember to relax. This is a tough one for teachers. We’ve heard this so many times before, but we have a hard time giving ourselves a break. The more worn out we are, the later we stay up, the more stressed we are, the less effective we are as teachers. While it is true that teaching requires sacrifice, it should never come at the expense of your well being.
9. Expect the Big Bad Wolf. No matter how well planned you are, no matter how strong your foundation is, no matter how happy you are, the Big Bad Wolf is coming. He will huff and he will puff and he will try to blow your house down. The lesson won’t go as planned, the student will be disrespectful, the stack of papers to grade will pile up. When you know this in advance without allowing it to be a major source of stress, you realize that you are capable of dealing with difficult situations with ease!
10. Smile! In one version of The Three Little Pigs, the third little pig smiles as he waits for the Big Bad Wolf. As he smiled, he realized how dangerous The Big Bad Wolf was. But he also knew he was well-planned and prepared, and that he worked hard to build the house of bricks. So in spite of everything, he smiled! When you have done everything you can to be the best teacher possible, be pleased with yourself… and SMILE!