Other Stuff, Teaching

If I Could Turn Back Time… Lessons Learned In Twenty Years Of Teaching

Do you ever wish that you owned a time machine? You know, a way to go back and give yourself sage advice. Maybe you want to stop yourself from making a decision that you know would help avoid pain and trouble along the way. Perhaps you want to tell yourself to avoid taking that job or not to engage in that conversation? I know I do.

Twenty years ago, I stepped into my very own classroom for the first time. It was completely terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I was armed with my degree and a head full of dreams about how I would change the world. It wasn’t long though, before reality set in. Students challenged my authority. People questioned my ability. I doubted whether I had chosen the right path. Some days were great successes, while others felt like getting smacked in the face with a dodgeball. There were days… weeks… years where I wanted to completely give up.

Concert performances allow me the chance to express myself through fashion.

But here’s the thing… during the past twenty years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to relate to others. I have learned that teaching really is my calling, and that encouraging youth is my passion. I have made some powerful connections with students and their families. I’ve had moments of unspeakable joy and experienced moments of devastation that have brought me to my knees. I know that it would be easier if I could just go back and stop myself from making some mistakes or allowing people to make me feel bad. However, the lessons I learned along the way have made me a force to be reckoned with! I know who I am, and I know what I want. 

One of my greatest joys as a teacher is the lifelong relationships I build with an incredible group of young people.

No matter what industry or career that you find yourself in, gaining a foothold in your job is going to take time. It just will. Sometimes you will feel like you are moving uphill. There will be people who try to tell you which lane you should stay in and situations that make you question if you are doing the right thing at all. You will learn your own ways to carve your path as you go. These are the things I wish I could tell that idealistic 22 year old when she started. Maybe they will help you too. It might be painful at times, but what a warrior you will be. 

  • Not every day is going to be a winner, but keep going

There have been days that I have straight up cried the whole way home from work. I put together an angry girl playlist for days when I want to punch the world in the face. Do it! Cry and scream. Then adjust your crown, get up the next morning, and remember that the day is fresh with no mistakes in it!

  • Do your best to avoid the gossip mill

Trust me on this one. Yes, getting the juicy scoop seems fun for a minute, but it’s not worth it. Gossip makes you look catty and will come back to bite you in the end. (Lesson learned!)

  • Wear what makes you happy

Every business is different, and some have stricter dress codes than others. However, find a way to incorporate something into your wardrobe each day that makes you feel happy and powerful. Maybe it’s a pop of color or a pair of amazing shoes. Feeling good about yourself makes you feel confident and gives you a boost to face the day ahead. For me, I feel most confident when I am wearing a lovely dress and something with a little twinkle. 

  • Find a network of colleagues you trust

It’s important to have a group of like-minded people at your job that you connect with. These are the folks you will have lunch with, share genius ideas, and celebrate professional triumphs together. These trusted friends will also be the people who help you get through difficult days. My husband and I have both been fortunate enough to find a little family at our jobs. Even though we don’t all work together now, we still make an effort to be part of each other’s lives.

  • A cup of tea can solve many hurts

I mean, I am all for a glass of wine (or bourbon) after a rough day at work. There is just something healing about a steaming cup of tea that nothing else can do. Sit quietly, sip the tea, and let it slowly warm you up like a hug. It’s cheap therapy.

  • Remember YOU are your own best advocate

Unfortunately, no one can stand up for you like you can. Don’t expect someone else to have your back or speak up on your behalf. Only you know your passions and your strengths. Be confident, find your voice, and let it be heard.

  • At the end of the day, stay true to yourself and your professional ideals

Don’t let someone else define who you are supposed to be. Take up space and don’t apologize for who you are. Know what you are all about, and define your own story. Be passionate about what makes you tick, and don’t let anyone stop you from being who you were born to be.

These tips might not help you avoid every hurdle, but I hope they help you with a few. I can’t go back in that time machine and stop myself from tripping over those hurdles. All I can do now is use those bruises to help me put on my power lipstick, adjust my posture, and kill it like the warrior I am.

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