Written by Gen
In August I, and almost 700 other educators, had the opportunity to see Principal and YouTube star Gerry Brooks speak in Waterloo, New York. Known for his hilarious YouTube videos about what it’s like to work in public schools, Brooks also has very serious advice on how to survive in education. With the new school year upon us, here are a few of his key points that resonated with me:
Simply put, it’s your own fault. You are not in control of everything around you, but you are in control of yourself and how you react to what is around you. A few ideas for decreasing the stress of school:
Surround yourself with people like you: Brooks emphasized the need for camaraderie for all positions in education. Seek out support from those who do precisely what you do because those are the people who truly understand the challenges unique to your position. Are you the only one in your school who does what you do? Seek out those who have your position in other buildings and schools. Are you the only one in your whole district who does what you do? Reach out to other districts!
Don’t meet negativity with negativity: When confronted with negativity, such as a complaining colleague, respond with a positive comment rather than participating with negative talk. Can’t think of a positive way to respond? Change the subject!
Accept Personalities: Come to terms with the fact that you will not be able to change someone else’s personality. Whoever they are, they are a product of their unique set of lifetime experiences. Trying to change the personalities of the people around you will be stressful-don’t do it! Instead, seek to understand what makes those around you tick and change how you respond to those personalities.
Don’t Stress About Things That Will Never Change: Brooks shares a few things that will never change in education, and therefore are not worth stressing about.
- Decision makers
- Age appropriate behavior of students
Watch this to see what Brooks recommends for helping yourself when these things get too stressful!
Climate & Culture
Brooks’ message about a school’s climate and culture was clear: help it, don’t hurt it! Here are a few ways to help grow a positive climate and culture:
More Mentors: Most districts supply new teachers with a mentor teacher during their first year. Someone who is in a similar position, who has been teaching for a while, who can answer questions and give support. Brooks suggests that all teachers, from first-years to veterans about to retire, should be seeking out mentors throughout their careers. “There is something that someone does better than you,” says Brooks. He encourages us to seek that person out, whether it’s someone who knows exactly how to keep their class quiet in the halls, or someone whose student writing samples are exemplary. If you’re struggling with something, find the person in the school who does it better than you and ask for help, because guess what? YOU are that person to someone else. If we all subscribe to this practice, then we will have what Brooks calls, “A school of mentors.”
Stick Together: There are countless decisions that need to be made specific to each group within a school or district from grade-levels to special areas to support staff. Brooks lets us know that if you allow your group to be divided and conquered then someone above you will be the decision maker for your group. This is a powerful message from an administrator! His advice? When you are individually confronted with a question from the powers that be regarding a decision that has to be made for your group, avoid the pressure to answer! Instead, say something like, “I appreciate that you came to me with this question, but I’d like to confer with my colleagues before I give you an answer.”
One is a confidant, two is a crowd…: Brooks understands that working in education is tough. We all need to vent sometimes. He encourages everyone to find that one trusted friend that you can say anything to in confidence when you’re having a rough time, but he adds this warning: telling one person is having a confidant. Telling two people is gossip. Telling three or more people is bullying. On this same note, Brooks shares the slogan, “Share it or Shut it,” which means if you have a problem with someone or their actions, go to that person first before seeking help from someone higher up.
There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk, by Portia Nelson
Brooks concluded with the poem, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self Discovery, by Portia Nelson. He encouraged us to self reflect and answer the question, “What is the hole in your sidewalk?” In order to have a great school year, I encourage you to listen to the poem, figure out the hole in your sidewalk, and make a plan to keep from falling into that hole.
And if any of you have the chance to see Gerry Brooks yourselves, I would highly recommend that you do!
Have a happy school year with less stress!
Did you like this post? Then you might enjoy these: