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Encouraging advice from Alana Stanton. How to let the ‘real you’ shine and to begin the new year feeling confident and ready to take on anything.

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Being an educator is one of the most rewarding and challenging careers. It is often what teachers call a calling or a mission. I often refer to educators as soul pourers because they are constantly giving it their all every day. It is definitely not for the faint of heart, especially if you want to be exceptional and do what is best for kids every year.

It is a career where you find yourself surrounded by others including your coworkers, students, and parents, yet it can also be one of the loneliest jobs, especially for educators who challenge the status quo, try new things, and make it their motto to be what is best for kids every single day.

Today I want to encourage you, I want to encourage you as an educator to Be YOU. Often as educators, we find ourselves needing encouragement to do something as simple as being ourselves. It is when we are true to ourselves in the classroom that we can do amazing things for our students.

If you are finding it hard to Be YOU this [school] year, I hope something here can inspire you to see YOU is who we all need you to be, right now.

When you allow yourself to take a risk and Be YOU, great things will happen in the classroom and amazing things will take place in your life.

Find a Champion, Be a Champion
It is important to find a champion to help support you through your adventures and your tough times in the school year. This can be another staff member, a teacher leader, counselor, parent, or person on social media.

No matter who your champion is, it needs to be someone you can be real with. This person will help remind you of who you are and your purpose.

Make sure you take time to share with them your ups and downs. Tell them about that amazing lesson that rocked your students’ socks off, share with them the student who said, “I love school because you make it fun!”, tell your champion about the disappointment you felt when that amazing lesson took place, where you dressed up, but someone tried to knock it down, or the meeting that was tough as nails and when you walked out of it you went to the restroom to cry your heart out, but quickly wiped the tears to greet your students at the door.

You need a champion, we all do, who not only cheers you on, but also coaches you on being your best. This will keep you encouraged, inspired, and continuing to be on a mission for kids.

While you have that champion, you also need to find someone who needs You to be their champion. This is key in giving back to education, but also encouraging you to keep focused on staying positive.
It will take bravery and courage to be what is best for kids, but keeping a champion in your corner and being one for someone else will help sustain you through the good times and bad because I assure you they BOTH will come. When you have someone to support you through these times it will keep you grounded, helping you to never waver in what matters most.

Know Your Why
Knowing your why will help remind you why you became an educator in the first place. For me my why is showing students they matter. They matter to me, their community, and the world. I want my students or any child to know they are fully capable of anything they set their mind to with hard work and perseverance. I want them to leave my classroom more confident, independent, kind, and creative than when they first entered our door. I have to constantly ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” I ask this question with my weekly lessons, the classroom set-up, the way I talk to my students, and the professional development I participate in.

Your why is one of the most important words in your life. Your why will help you be the bravest person you can be, allowing the real YOU to shine out.

If you continually know your why, it is easier to Be YOU and be the teacher you desire to be. It is much easier to do those adventurous lessons you have dreamed about, turn your classroom into a magical place, or invite parents into your classroom, as at times you will be questioned by others as to your reasoning. You need to know your why, so when the day comes when someone questions your ideas or practices, you can be confident to know that what you are doing is best for kids.

Education can be tough at times, so remember that when you do something new or creative even if it is best for kids or your school there may be someone who pushes back or puts a negative spin on it. You may have some put you down, but when you know your why, you can confidently Be YOU without fear.

Speak and Hear Positive Truths
Being an educator, no matter what grade or subject takes courage and bravery every single day. In order to be your best and be YOU, you must speak positive truths daily. This can be done by speaking out loud using I am statements such as:

I am courageous, I am kind, I am positive, I have passionate, I am strong
When you speak these positive words, over time you will start to believe them and then you will start to live them. When the going gets tough you will be able to remember these truths over your life. If others speak to you negatively, you will have these truths to remind yourself that you are being YOU and doing what is best for children each day.

It is also helpful to pick a quote or verse to speak daily and to have written somewhere where you can see it. One of my favorite quotes I love to repeat is from the movie, A League of Their Own. During this movie, Tom Hanks tells one of the team players wanting to quit, “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” This quote always reminds me that it is difficult to live out your beliefs, but they are only beliefs if you don’t live them.

“It is difficult to live out your beliefs, but they are only beliefs if you don’t live them.”
There is so much power in keeping your mind and heart filled with encouragement. Find books, picture books, podcasts, Ted Talks, songs, and videos to encourage you before, during, and after your school day. There are days you will need to reset, so find something that makes you feel uplifted. Once you find what works for you, you will have something available at all times to keep your spirits lifted, so you can do the same for others.

Share with Others

It can be challenging to Be YOU and share yourself with others, especially when you may feel or think differently than other educators in your school community. Many times we feel when we try new things they are not received by others as we would like them to be received. This can be difficult as our instinct is not to share anymore but to keep quiet and only share our ideas with our students or friends, but we can’t do that if we practice being ourselves. We must find a way to share what we do, even when it is difficult. The things you share may not be picked up by everyone, but someone will notice what you’re doing and try something inspired by your courage. They may finally take that risk they have wanted to take for years because you simply shared something that worked in your classroom.

Never underestimate the power of sharing. There are so many ways to share such as simply hanging work outside your classroom, or in an empty hallway somewhere in your school, or with your grade level casually at lunch/recess, or in your grade level meetings. You can also share on social media, in a blog, or with parents through email, or apps such as Seesaw, Remind, or ClassDojo. When you share your ideas and actions with others you become a wave that moves the waters even if you are a quiet wave you still make great change, I encourage you to find a way to share yourself and your classroom. We need your voice and your students need you to help them find theirs.

Be YOU, Do It Well

You were set apart to do great work and you can only do that if you are YOU. So remember, Be YOU and do it well. Being different is challenging, and feeling different is even more challenging at times, but remember to be our best and make school what is best for kids we need to be who we are and help our students be who they were meant to be.

In being our best we can bring out our students’ best. When you take a risk to Be YOU, everything changes. It is a risk I challenge you to take!

How can you take a risk this year to Be YOU and make your students shine?

I know it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

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The author

Alana Stanton is a kindergarten and technology teacher at Mulberry Elementary in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She has taught several grades over her 14 year career including K-3 literacy special, first grade, and second grade. Alana believes that relationships always come first in the classroom and the classroom should be a place where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. She currently writes for her blog, More Than A Lesson where she shares the stories of her classroom and her heart.

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