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March 2020

Education forever changed. The corona virus began manifesting itself upon the globe and changes were made to society. The change in education is still rippling across the globe. Teachers are being asked to go above and beyond a typical classroom role which is resulting in drastic numbers of retirements and resignations. Teachers are being overwhelmed with the kryptonite that drains the energy out of dynamic educators.

This kryptonite takes various forms, but in its essence, teacher kryptonite has one overarching concept, TIME. Since covid appeared more and more time is being added to teacher's roles with no balance in return. Then when you add to this the tremendous needs the students are coming to school with each day, teacher after teacher is experiencing burn out from the kryptonite that they are unable to get away from.

This will be my 32nd year to teach in a career that started in August 1990. I would not change my career for anything. I have been blessed to inspire child after child to BELIEVE in who they are through the power of my first rule, “Always Believe in Yourself.” My days are still filled with the smiles of my students in my classroom, but the effects of kryptonite still are with me. Each day I leave drained. I know I need to get some exercise after school to maintain my cardio, but the emotional drain from the needs of the kids is wiping out the energy needed to do this. This causes a never ending cycle of my strength dwindling away each day.

This is my story about teacher kryptonite. We all have our individual stories of what is draining our energy each day. If we were to add a reply thread to the paper, the individual list of teacher kryptonite would be a lengthy cry for help from educators around the country and globe. This kryptonite is making us question our careers and even our callings.

What is the antibody to teacher kryptonite?

First off is making the time. Time must be given daily to our families and to ourselves to recharge. This me-time is essential. Administrators are feeling the impact of teacher resignation after resignation. Time must be balanced between family and job. The needs of the kids are tremendous now, with many districts still teaching virtually, which is demanding for the teacher. Teachers need to voice their needs to the administrators and plans must be made to balance the time needed for teacher self care.

Most importantly to overcome this time, we need to focus on how the time we have with our students is making them feel. When a teacher is generating a positive vibe each day with the students, the feelings that the kids have will be contagious and can energize the educator. This is perhaps the most powerful antidote to the teacher kryptonite.

What is the primary way educators generate these positive feelings. It is through nonverbal communication and the words you are generating through your actions, not your words. The words kids describe who you are with are the verbs you are bringing to life in your room ( either face to face or virtual ). When you are being described with the right words, your actions will in turn inspire the kids.

What are the right words to be described with? According to Dr Chris Peterson and Dr. Martin Seligman, two pioneering researchers in the field of positive psychology, there are 24universal attributes attributed to inspiration.1 In the spring of 1991 I made it my goal for my kids to describe me with eight of these words: love, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, and joy. Over the course of my career these words, my ultimate teacher descriptors, have evolved into who I am with my students. The consequences of being able to replicate these words through my actions has been gold coins of my career.

Through the lens of my career I was inspired to arrange my ultimate teacher descriptors in a powerful graphic.

Notice the arrows generated in this graphic. Love is at the center of the diagram and all the other descriptors are generated from love. Even more powerful is that all arrows end up at joy. It is this joy that is providing me with my most powerful antidote for my personal kryptonite. This joy permeates my very being. It is a big reason why I am a constant positive force each day for my students and my coworkers. Once this diagram takes force in your life the impacts are intense. The joy that is being generated in your life as an educator can become a source of necessary energy needed to overcome your kryptonite. Focus each day on the ultimate teacher descriptors. Make the time to have reflection each day. Dwell on these words for a couple of minutes. The payback just might save a career you are questioning.

1 Christopher Peterson and Martin E. P. Seligman, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, vol. 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004)

About the Author

Jerry Toups Jr

Twitter - @Toups_J

Facebook - Jerry Toups

Instagram - tex_toups

Jerry Toups started teaching in 1990 when he made his first rule Always Believe in Yourself. This rule, combined with powerful non-verbal communication skills has changed the lives of thousands of students for over three decades. You can read about his life in the book “The Story of Always Believe”. In the spring of 2019, a student made a video documentary about Mr. Toups’ career. This video went on to win 2nd place in the state competition.

Jerry Toups will soon publish his second book with Edumatch Publishing. “The Art of Inspiration” is Jerry Toups’ manifesto of how he has used non-verbal communication to inspire his students.

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