5 Habits of Heart for Teachers

Tuesday is for Teachers

Way back in 2003 I began writing a curriculum as part of my dissertation that I continued to develop until I retired in 2010. I always loved to integrate skills and themes into units, and for my research I used critical thinking, character education, and language arts for thematic units. I taught students the importance of good habits and integrated these ideas:

  • Habits of Mind
  • Habits of Heart
  • Keys to Success
  • 7 Hat Thinking

Today I begin a series of posts to share some ideas of how to teach students the concepts of patience, courage, responsibility, tolerance, honesty, compassion, and generosity. I called these the 7 Habits of Heart. But before I share teaching strategies for students, this is a good time in the school year to encourage teachers to focus on some habits that will help you “keep on keeping on”.

5 Habits of Heart for Teachers
  • Habit of Courage
  • Habit of Balance
  • Habit of Encouragement
  • Habit of Empowering Words
  • Habit of Modeling the 7 Habits of Heart

In my first post for teachers (Aug. 14, 2012) I promised to pray for teachers – that you would have hearts of courage. Courage to give yourself a break. Courage to keep your heart open. .

Courage takes many forms in the teaching life. A teacher fresh from the university and a veteran teacher of thirty years require different kinds of courage. Some days it takes courage to just get up and drive to school, to unlock the classroom door and face 1st period. A daily dose of angry, broken, traumatized, or bored students can eat away at the most positive and upbeat teacher. Some days end on such a frustrating note that all you want to do is drag yourself home, crawl into bed, and pray for a snow day.

I don’t want to give you platitudes or trite solutions that brush aside your genuine feelings when you need the will to face serious issues. I faced many days, multiple classes, and countless moments when I needed courage in my teaching career. Those “movie of the week” shows that depict a courageous young teacher who faces a tough inner city classroom with tenacity and wit seldom portray the reality of the teaching situation. Loneliness, fatigued, desperate, and disheartened come to mind when I think of some of the tough places I’ve taught. My suggestions here will probably not lift you out of extreme burn-out or pick up your bruised ego, but if you are at that middle of semester slump, maybe some little things will help.

Be sure you have a teaching buddy you can call or pop in to visit before you go home. You don’t need to hear more negative; you need a friend who will tell a funny story to give you a laugh. If you can’t laugh at the end of the day, find someone who can take your mind off school. You have to find a different perspective. Tell your husband or wife you need to go out for dinner or go see a comedy. Treat yourself to a favorite candy bar and watch “Funniest Home Videos” (only if you think they are funny!).

But maybe you need to pray and seek wise advice from a trusted friend. Teachers face children with serious issues, life-changing problems, and some things are just too big to face alone. If you follow this blog, you know I believe that counting your blessings each day in a journal actually brings joy.

Perhaps you can relate to Ann Voskamp’s question from one thousand gifts:

“How do I see grace, give thanks, find joy in this sin-stinking place?”

When we are out of courage, are dis-couraged, we have to change the way we see our students, our administrators, our school.

“You can’t positive-think your way out of negative feelings. The only way to fight a feeling is with a feeling. I may not FEEL joy. God asks me to give thanks in all things. He knows the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.”  (Voskamp, one thousand gifts)

By giving thanks daily for the gifts God has given you as a teacher of children, children with

  • hearts broken by abuse, depression, homelessness,
  • hearts broken because of abandonment from parents in jail or in addictions
  • heart broken from parents who’ve given up or run away
  • children who are bleeding inside

Giving thanks for moments when your heart is asked to hold more than it is able takes uncommon courage and is truly a gift from God. You can only give thanks for those moments with practice – practice daily writing down the joys of your day; that’s the way you can see the minute changes of an adolescent, changes in maturity, changes in their own hearts.

I thank God for the hearts of teachers willing to arm themselves emotionally with courage to meet the needs of so many when pockets are empty and no one seems to care.

Take heart, teachers. More trust in you than you know. Treasure the positive notes of your day. Thank God for them.

“The joy of small things makes life large.”  (Voskamp, one thousand gifts)

Counting the joys of teaching and for noble teachers throughout the world.



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