So today I awakened at 5:00 a.m. with this thought: Today is another day for me to change a kid’s life!!!!!

Well, not quite. I woke up at 5:00 a.m., which was actually 4:00 a.m. my time, the shower at the hotel didn’t have much pressure, I forgot my toothpaste and it was so hot outside that I felt like walking from the hotel to my car steamed off all of my makeup and my hair started to wilt. And it was only 6:10 a.m. Needless to say, I was a little crabby and really felt like heading back into the hotel room and sleeping for another few hours and waking up on the RIGHT side of the bed!

But I didn’t have that luxury – about 50 teachers were waiting to listen to me speak for 8 hours today about getting geared up for the 2011-2012 school year. I could hardly show up in my crabby, melted make-up way! So, what did I do? I stopped by McDonald’s for my diet coke with extra ice, I cranked the A/C and boosted the radio and had a little talk with myself that went something like this: Jill Jackson, you better pull it together! By the time I pulled into the parking lot where the training was held, I was at about 70% energy and by the time I got set up, sucked down some diet code and had talked to some of the participants about the summer, I was at about 90% energy.

My goal was to start with a bang, with high energy and lots of information uploaded up front to keep people’s attention. When I looked up at the clock at 8:30 (we had started at 8:00 a.m.) I was at full tilt: 100% energy.

So what’s my point and what does this have to do with teaching? Well, we don’t wake up everyday thinking “Today is the day I’m going to change lives”, but it actually is. If we gear up for it. Whether you’ve had a bad morning, bad evening, an argument with your spouse, unexpected traffic on the way to work, two parent complaints in your box when you check mail in the morning or any of the other things that get in the way of teaching full tilt, it’s not the students fault!

Here’s what I suggest when you’re not firing on all cylinders for some reason:

  1. Take a deep breath. Or twelve.
  2. Avoid the teacher’s lounge – or at least the folks who will reinforce the negative feelings you’re having at the moment – it’s amazing how much control other people’s negative attitudes have
  3. Tell yourself this: “If nothing else, the first 30 minutes of this day will be great!” – and allow yourself the opportunity to fall apart after that (because you probably won’t!)
  4. Figure out one laugh that you can have with your class within the first five minutes. Who says you can’t have a one-minute joke contest, an impromptu “spelling test” with silly words or all-class yoga to remind you how kids can lift your spirits?
  5. Remind yourself of this one, most important fact: this is each students’ one run through this day in this school year so I better make it good!

To me, it’s not whether you have a bad morning – it’s how you manage it. Students come to us to learn, regardless of what’s going on in our lives and their lives, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that the learning takes place each day. Plus, if you’re focusing on the teaching, you can’t focus on the “what went wrong” stuff from the morning – it’s proven that we can’t focus on two things simultaneously.