A Healthy Outlook to a New Year
By Heather Kohnen
It’s no secret that one year in the classroom brings about many emotions. According to researcher Ellen Moir, during a typical year, we begin with feelings of anticipation and positivity as we engage with a new group of students. As we get through the next couple of months we enter “survival mode” as the pace increases and we dive into instruction. In the months of January and February, we find ourselves in a period called “disillusionment.” It is here where we might begin to question the impact that we are having in our classrooms. We may feel frustrated by the lack of student progress, behavior, etc. If you have found yourself feeling that way lately, that is perfectly normal.
As we navigate through this season, we don’t want to camp out in feelings of discouragement. In Phillipians 4:8, Paul gives us guidance on how to stay focused during the ups and downs of life. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Let’s become more proactive, so we can thrive instead of just surviving the next couple of months. This is the time to be intentional about self care and reflecting on the work that God is doing through us. There are three areas to focus on that will give us fresh perspectives.
1.) Gratitude — Gratitude leads to optimism. Since you are focusing on what is going well in your life, self-esteem increases. It is also proven to be good for your health. Gratitude improves sleep, increases energy levels, and helps you relax. Gratitude also increases productivity. Obstacles that get in the way of us getting things done can be reduced through a grateful mindset. Grateful people see increases in goal achievement, improved decision making, and minimize distractions. According to Shawn Achor in the book, “The Happiness Advantage,” writing three gratitudes at the end of each day over a three week period will impact your outlook on your current stage of life.
2.) Truth — A daily dose of truth from God’s Word is just what we need to navigate our day-to-day challenges. According to the Jesus Film Project, reading, memorizing, and applying truth in our daily routines leads to more joy, feelings of acceptance, and a deeper friendship with God. What is a truth that you need for your life today? Find a scripture to memorize, or post in your classroom to help remind you that you are not alone.
3.) Kindness/Acts of Service — The Mental Health Foundation states the benefits of service to others include increased feelings of well being, keeping things in perspective, and these tend to have ripple effects. During the months of January and February keep your eyes open for opportunities to bless others. Write notes of affirmation to students and staff. Deliver coffee or a treat to a colleague who is discouraged. Ask the Lord to give you His eyes and ears so that you can be used by Him to express love and care to others. Often your acts of kindness will produce acts of service in others. Kindness is contagious.
Remember, disillusionment is temporary. As educators move into the months of March and April, we experience rejuvenation and end the year with anticipation. With God, we can navigate the emotions we face throughout the year. Included in this post is a tool to help you stay intentional through any season of teaching. It is a 21 Day Mental Health Challenge for Educators. I hope that this will be a fun way to bless you so that you can be a blessing to others.
Heather Kohnen is a wife, mother, and educator. She has enjoyed teaching elementary students for 27 year and has a heart for ministering to educators. Along with teaching, Heather is the Director of the Daniel Project with CEAI.