With all the complex challenges facing teachers in today’s educational environment, it is easy to become very negative towards your job. If you have passion for what you do, you will want to be able to build on your instructional knowledge and pedagogy to create highly effective lessons through the sharing of best practices, which will hopefully meet your student’s needs. Gaining information from networking and collaborating with some of the top teachers in our profession is great, but you have to understand everything will not always workout in your favor depending on the environment and demographic of the community you are serving. Just because something may seem to have worked so well for others, does not mean it will work for you. I know this first hand, many times over. This is what leads me to write on, “Staying Positive in Stressful Situations.”
I’d like to share a little about myself before we get into to the heart of things. For those who do not know me, my name is Gustave Karagrozis. I grew up on Long Island in New York. I went on to study Physical Education at SUNY Cortland and then pursued my Masters in HPER at Emporia University. Right out of college I was offered a coaching job at my alma mater high school for Volleyball and Badminton, two sports I had more passion for than some people do for cake and ice-cream! Substituting and coaching where I grew up was deemed to be a blessing at the moment, but ironically it was more of a downfall for me as I started my full-time teaching career in Harlem, NY, located in the big city of Manhattan. I secretly always feared teaching in the city. I was very successful coaching and even won a county title. My athletes worshiped me and they wouldn’t blink twice before doing what I asked them too. Could my whole teaching and coaching career be this great? Well, it was too good to be true…
I ended off on an extremely high note on Long Island and came into Harlem with a big smile ready to start my true career. My energy and body language attracted my co-workers and administration. We grew bonds immediately and I was ready to make a difference in the community. I thought it was an easy task just like Long Island was but that thought faded away...fast.
Teaching in NYC can be daunting and challenging due to the behavior the students have learned from their environment outside of school. The school I work at is a renewal school which means it is a low-performing school. There are currently 86 schools on that list in the NYC DOE, but a few are closing down next year. My students come from all over and their families’ lives are way different than mine and I am sure yours as well. I found coming to work that first month miserable. It was dreadful, quitting even popped into my head. I refused to give up though. My motto for my successful badminton team whom won the county title
was “W.I.T” – Whatever It Takes. These 3 words are what still have me going and working here today.
How I stay positive!
1. Breathe, it really can always be worse
2. Why did I pursue this career? What’s YOUR Why?
3. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” –Theodore Roosevelt
1. Breathe, it really can be worse – This is one statement that is 100percent true. I can not have a job, I can not have a backing admin, I can have more students at once, I can have a further commute, I can be terminally ill, and the list can go on forever.
2. Why did I pursue this career. What is your why? - They say when you find your why, you find your way. Well, I know my why – My why is because I am passionate towards movement and seeing growth in others. I love being active and I am into fitness and sports. There is no better job in the world to have so many opportunities to impact children than becoming a teacher, that is why I did. If I see my mood and attitude changing for the worse, I think of why I came into this field and correlate it to the quote, “if it was easy, everyone would do it.”
3. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” –Theodore Roosevelt - Once I saw this quote I immediately smiled because it now became my mantra. It is easy to gain knowledge from social media, but it is also easy to get discouraged. I say this because I see some amazing lessons and activity ideas that I want to do with my
students. They say it is better to try and fail than to fail to try so I give it a try…. but more times than expected many things seem to not work. The problem is, I compare what I have done to what others have done, but this is not fair. It is not fair because the environments and students are completely different. When you hold a lot of expectations, you tend to get hurt and bothered when you don’t reach them. I am by no means saying I do not expect things to go bad. I am happier when things go amazing, but I tend to not be so hard on myself all the time. I understand my situation more and more as my teaching career goes on and I just keep striving to do what I can, with what I have for where I am. It is a marathon, not a sprint!
4. W.I.T - 3 letters than mean more to me than one can imagine. If you do not know already, it stands for whatever it takes. It is that simple. When things go down the wrong road or deep in the gutter, what are you going to do to get out and back on the right track. You must do “whatever it takes” and keep taking those little steps forward. Little by little, one walks far. Keep going and adopt this motto and you will forever change your life.
As you can see, there are copious amounts of challenges that arise daily
in our profession, but there are many ways to stay positive about the situations. When push comes to shove, it is your own attitude that you have that will make the ultimate end decision. Always remember, every bad situation will have something positive. Even a dead clock shows the correct time twice a day!
Find Gustave at @karagrozispe for regular PE tweets or check out his "Fitness Journey" as an obstacle racer on Instagram at G_fitness_k.