Fitness · Teaching

Control what you can control

Today’s workout focused on strength training with a Core and Body Pump class at the gym. The Core class was a first for me, but it was a good one! The instructor chose several different exercises to do for 30 seconds each, before moving on to the next one in the set. Each set lasted for 6 minutes… but when we were doing burpees and mountain climbers, it felt a lot more like 60 minutes! No drama here.

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This popular saying has been on my mind a lot lately-”Control what you can control.” The nature of my job requires a lot of planning, yet also much flexibility at times. Since I am a Special Education Teacher, I take the material and activities that take place in the general education classroom, and modify or adapt them to meet my students’ specific needs. This can take a lot of time, but it is well worth the effort! Even though planning is an essential part of my job, I also need to be flexible. For example, the other day, I planned out a lesson for one of my reading groups. They didn’t fully grasp the concept by the end of the lesson to be able to use the skills taught independently, so even though I had a different lesson planned for the next day, I had to change those plans and re-teach the first day’s lesson in a new way, providing more practice and letting students approach it from a different point of view. I believe that being flexible like this is just a small part of being an effective teacher. Or if a student is sick or has to go home early, sometimes the lessons I have planned out have to wait until another day. Not getting lesson plans finished was something that stressed me out a lot more in the beginning of the year, especially as I was just learning how to do everything. It definitely still can be frustrating or stressful sometimes, but I am trying to remember that I can only focus on what I can control. Don’t waste time worrying about things that you have no control over.

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If a student comes into school hungry because they didn’t eat breakfast, or tired because no one made them to go to bed, I can’t control that. If a student comes into school upset because of a hard situation at home, I can’t control that. If a student misses a day of school or has to leave early, I can’t control that. If a parent isn’t reading to their child at home or helping with homework, I can’t control that.

It’s important to take time to recognize what is out of your control. It might be helpful to write some things down that you’ve spent time worrying about, that you know are out of your control. You can also talk with a friend- sometimes I check with someone else and say, “I really can’t change this right; it’s out of my control so I need to stop worrying, right?” I am so thankful and blessed to have wonderful friends and amazing co-workers in my life who are there to listen, offer support, and remind me what I can and can’t control when I’m feeling frustrated. There are numerous factors that occur in a given school day that I can’t control. However, I can control what I do as a result, and how I respond. I love this quote- “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to it” (Anonymous). If a child comes in upset, the factors that affected their emotions are out of my control, but I can respond with a listening ear, a smile, and reassurance that everything will be ok. If students didn’t understand a concept or are absent, I can take time to re-teach the skill- maybe from a different point of view to help them understand in a new light.

Another key part of being a Special Education teacher is leading IEP meetings on a regular basis. If a student has specific educational goals, it is my job to make sure that student is being given the correct supports and services that they need to be successful. After one meeting this year, I was feeling pretty stressed and overwhelmed. Another teacher from my school came in just to chat, and I remember pouring out all of my frustrations and thoughts to her, saying things like, “I wish I could fix this…” or “How can I change this?” She said, “You can’t. And that’s okay.” At one point I even said something along the lines of, “I just wish I could change the entire world!” Again, no drama here. She then gave me a piece of advice which I absolutely loved: “You can’t change the world, but you can change your part of it.” As soon as she offered that advice, it was like something clicked for me, and I realized that I needed to focus on what I could control. I found myself filled with motivation to get to work right away- to work on the things that I could do to make my classroom environment a more positive place, to help that struggling student, to work towards my goals.

Instead of focusing our efforts on situations that we cannot control, let’s take that energy and pour it into the things that we do have control over. If we committed to doing this on a regular basis, how much more productive would we be? How much more positive would our lives be? So I’m challenging you tonight: Don’t try to change the world- change your part of it.

Summer 2013 009


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