Want to be a Teacher? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

Teaching is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl I had a chalkboard in my room and would “teach” my younger brother, along with all my stuffed animals and cabbage patch dolls — who I’d line up seated in a horseshoe shaped-U, in front of me as I lectured them on reading and writing.

blog4I was also an avid reader and writer myself and kept a number of composition books and various notebooks filled with short stories that I wish so badly I still had today. My dual passions for teaching and writing were always at odds and for most of my life I thought of as two separate entities pitting themselves against each other. I had to choose — be a writer, or be a teacher.

Writing won out at first as I spent most of my high school and college years dedicated to writing for and acting as editor for my school newspaper, respectively. Although teaching seemed to always be calling to me in the far ends of my mind, studying Journalism and ultimately landing a career in communications seemed more natural — at first.

When my family embarked on our cross-country move to the San Francisco Bay area from New York City back in 2011 I took the opportunity to go back to school and study education. Before committing to any program I spent a year volunteering at my son’s preschool, and visited many elementary classrooms as well. Once in my Masters program, I excelled – A’s all around!

I thought I was prepared, but very quickly realized once in the classroom that there was so much more that I didn’t consider, or think to ask myself ahead of time. One of my most recent chat with teacher podcasts with Danielle David, educator in the East Bay for over 11 years, touched on three questions any person considering a career in education should ask themselves. At about the 48:55 mark, you’ll hear Danielle suggest asking yourself the following:

  1. Do I really like kids?
    Danielle admitted that while this may seem like a no-brainer, that it is very important to consider your feelings about children. Whether you’re considering early elementary, middle school or High School — do you like being around young children, adolescents or teenagers. Your love of math may not be good enough to qualify you for being a math teacher in a room full of around 30 teenage students if you can’t stand being in the room with them in the first place.
  2. How am I going to balance the workload and my life?
    “I know that seems like putting the horse before the cart,” says Danielle, “but at the same time, it’s really important to have a work/life balance. Being a new teacher, it’ll eat you up if you let it.”
    Thinking about how to honor all the parts of your life that are important to you is good  advice in any career you choose, but as Danielle says, as a teacher “there will always be work, there will always be lessons to write, but you’re not always going to have that time to be with your family or that you could go and take an exercise class and you don’t want to lose yourself to try to get ahead.” If you’re not putting your best self forward, you’re not going to be able to forge long lasting relationships, a part of teaching that is extremely important, and often goes overlooked in teaching programs.
  3. How am I going to prepare myself for feedback that maybe isn’t so great?
    During our chat, Danielle shared a personal anecdote from her earlier years in the classroom. She talked about how an administrator once said “I don’t like your voice.” Danielle shared how hurtful that felt at first, but after some thought and reflection was able to figure out that she had been talking loudly over her students. She was able to take, what she referred to as badly worded constructive criticism, and turn it into a teachable moment that taught her to slow her pace and be more aware of her students engagement during lessons.
    “It is a very personal profession. You are out there on stage,” says Danielle, “people are going to come in and they’re going to have things to say about it [your teaching], it’s going to happen.”Danielle went on to say that despite the comments anyone gets, “people are going to get feedback that they don’t want to hear.” She suggests asking yourself, how will you be able to respond to that? She also recommends not being reactionary, and instead consider where the observer is coming from? How truthful are they? And, are they someone you trust?

Teaching has so far proven to be a profession that definitely requires one to have patience with children, and adults! It has also taken more of an effort to balance my life as a mother, wife, teacher and now blogger, than ever before. In a separate podcast with 16 year teaching veteran, Melissa Ascencio, we chatted candidly about what balancing her life as a teacher/mom meant to her — understanding that nothing can be equally balanced at the same time, that sometimes certain parts of your life required more attention than the others at any given time, but that as long as it all evens out in the end you have achieved some sort of balance.

And lastly, one thing I am so grateful to have learned as a teacher so far, has been this idea of tackling everything life throws my way with a growth mindset and willingness to improve for the betterment of myself and for the sake of my children…both my children at home and in my classroom.

by Jennifer Khadir

Teachers: 3 Tips for Keeping Your Cup Full

“Be yourself; everyone is already taken” ~Oscar Wilde


Some of my recent podcast interviews have touched on how important it is to get to know yourself, take care of yourself and ultimately “be yourself” for the sake of you students… and your sanity.

blog3As a parent and a teacher, I for one can vouch for how your own needs can very easily be pushed to the back burner in these such roles. Therefore, I wanted to take a moment to sit back and reflect on the importance of self-care in order to be the best to the children who need me in all the roles of my life.

Admittedly, I do not have all the answers, which is why this podcast and blog came to be in the first place. It’s been amazing getting to talk to professional educators and take bits and pieces of what they’ve shared and try to figure out ways to incorporate it into my classroom and life.

Running on an “Empty Cup”

When I began teaching I threw myself into it, as most teachers do. The summer before my first day as a second grade teacher, I lived and breathed classroom setup, poured over lesson plans and things like classroom jobs. I also had a 7-month-old at the time and a 5-year-old son getting ready to start kindergarten himself.

I was tired and overwhelmed before the first day of school even started. I was running on an “empty cup,” as they say. I didn’t realize how all the stress I was putting on myself was actually setting my students and myself up for failure. I’ve since been on a quest to ask other teachers how they keep their cups filled and prioritize self-care in their lives.

Three Tips from Professional Educators to Keep Your Cup Full

  1. Set boundaries, and don’t take work home
    In recent podcast post, both Dana Graham and Elizabeth Isralowitz, both educators for ten years in California, talked candidly about how when they began teaching, they would leave work every day on, or close to their end of contracted hours — which resulted in often taking work home and working late into the night. They’ve both since learned that taking the time at the end of the day to unwind briefly once the students were dismissed and then use their time more efficiently to prioritize and get any necessary paperwork done, even if that meant staying a little later some days, helps them manage setting boundaries easier. For Elizabeth, making a clear and distinct separation from her work-self and home-self — where she says she no longer takes home to at the end of the day — has been an important step in her own self-care.
  2. Laugh at yourself
    Melissa Ascencio, who has taught in North Carolina, New York City and now in Virginia over a course of 16 years, says she is able to keep herself, and her students successful and happy by always using her sense of humor in any and all situations. Melissa says that a huge part of teaching is building relationships with your students and one of the ways she does that is by being her true self. One value she holds true as a teacher is that if you want your student to open up to you, that you in turn need to open up to them first.
  3. Calendar time for yourself and find ways to combine your passions
    She doubles as a full-time public school teacher and a part-time spin instructor! Danielle David, educator for 11 years in East Bay, CA, says she’s been fortunate enough to combine her love for exercise and teaching by becoming a spin instructor at her local JPower Studios in Benicia, CA. Danielle shared how her love for exercise came about as a means to manage her high anxiety. She recommends finding ways to incorporate self-care by doing things that make you happy, and to remember all the roles you play in your life – teacher, spouse, dog-owner, etc… and to not forget to calendar time for yourself, even if it’s to spend that time reading a good “non-teacher book.”

Whatever you find works for you, these tips are great starting points as you begin to think about how you can prioritize self-care in your own life. While teaching is such an important job, we teachers can only give our best-selves to our students, if we remember to give to ourselves first. As for me, Danielle’s tip of finding ways of combining your passions rings true as I work to build this very blog and combine my own passion of education, writing…and chatting!

By Jennifer Khadir