I learned a tough lesson my first year in the classroom – left to its own devices, my mind would focus with laser precision on my mistakes. Instead of celebrating the things that went well, I’d find myself sitting at my desk after dismissal stewing over a lackluster explanation, some mishandled mischief, or poor planning.
It’s good to be critical. It’s natural. In the big picture, it’s how we as humans evolved over the years. We’re the descendants of those cunning enough to survive long enough to have descendants themselves. But as a teacher, with all the challenges we face every day, an unchecked critical eye can become defeating.
A few weeks into that first year, I bought a fat stack of Post-it notes and started spending the first 10 minutes after school jotting notes to kids who had a good day, made a contribution, or conducted themselves with kindness. I chose to focus on the good, and it did me a world of good, too.
Last year I found myself, and many of my friends, caught up in the tempest surrounding the teaching profession. From viral resignation letters, to magazine covers, to court cases, our vocation seemed to be in everyone’s crosshairs. And for many, those narratives crowded out the joys, the laughs, the hard-fought victories, and the heart-wrenching challenges that give us such a deep love for teaching.
So last February a few friends and I decided to try to shine a light on our love for teaching. We asked our friends to join in. We also asked a few organizations to participate in the project. Those who were asked connected with others and pretty quickly there was a full-on campaign united by the #LoveTeaching hashtag. There were Twitter chats, and school “photo booths” and a flood of tweets and posts and pictures and blogs. Even Secretary Arne Duncan posted a video to say thank you and talk about what he loved about teachers. In the end, five million people interacted with the campaign—because, for all its challenges, there’s just so much to love about teaching.
This year, until Monday, Feb. 22, teachers – and friends – across the country are invited to join the #LoveTeaching campaign. I’ve used it as an opportunity to share a story about a student who changed my life. A Kentucky English teacher put together a list of twenty reasons she loves her work. What’s your story? Search the hashtag to gain inspiration from others, or just jump on and join in the love.
The teachers I admire start their day by thinking how they can do better for students. I urge you to take the opportunity to pause and remember the kids and colleagues, the personal champions and persistent challenges that make us #LoveTeaching.
Sean McComb is a high school English teacher in Baltimore, Maryland, and was the 2014 National Teacher of the Year.