Let’s be honest: Teaching is not easy. And being a teacher? It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
Laura Thomas knows this well. The school change coach, staff developer, author and blogger was a high school teacher before she joined the faculty of Antioch University. And, as the director of Antioch’s Center for School Renewal, Thomas’ job these days is to help teachers overcome their daily challenges and become the best educators — and people — they can be.
Over her career, she has learned that the teachers who thrive both inside the classroom and out have a few things in common.
“It is not easy to be a teacher right now,” Thomas admitted. “So those of us who stick it out, we’ve got to reclaim our inner badass.”
If you don’t think of yourself as a badass, don’t worry! Thomas says it’s a skill you can learn. Here are her top five tips for becoming the fearless teacher you were meant to be.
Step 1: Get a life.
According to Thomas, all badass teachers have fulfilling lives outside the classroom. They maintain close relationships, and they engage in hobbies and activities that help them unwind, cultivate their creativity and develop a strong personal identity.
“They know that there are things that feed you and things that feed on you,” said Thomas, “And you’ve got to keep those things separate if you are going to avoid being overwhelmed and exhausted all the time.”
Step 2: Get connected.
Thomas says that badass teachers have strong networks — personal, professional, online and face to face. And they make a habit of reaching out to those networks to learn new things, get the emotional support they need and build relationship skills.
“They know you have to have a community if you’re going to do this and do it well,” Thomas said. “They stay open to all kinds of people, because you never know where the next good idea is going to come from.”
The good news? If you’re a member of the ISTE Community, you’ve already got a ready-made network waiting for you.
Step 3: Become a lifelong learner.
In addition to working on their personal lives, badass teachers never stop their professional development.
“They are also masters of the craft of teaching,” Thomas said. “They know what they’re about in the classroom, so they’re not threatened by people who do things differently, people who think differently. In fact, they’re actively curious … They are always open.”
Although many of us have heard the true definition of courage, we often forget that it doesn’t mean going through life sans fear. It means feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
Thomas knows firsthand that teachers are often afraid. “But they know that being afraid isn’t the worst thing,” she added. “You’ve got to keep taking the risks, because these kids, this education thing, these people who’ve trusted us with the hearts and minds that they love most — it’s too important not to.”
Step 5: Find your sense of humor.
Finally, badass teachers know when to laugh, and they do it often.
“They know that you often have to make a choice between laughter and despair, and the former is infinitely more powerful than the latter,” said Thomas. “So they stay open to the joke at any moment.”
Watch Thomas’ ISTE Ignite talk from ISTE 2016 to hear more of her inspirational lessons for developing your own inner badass.