Just Simply Do Your Best: The Four Agreements Applied to Teaching and Life

I try to live my life following the philosophy of the book The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz...yes it can be hard to do at times, but it WILL help you become your best self and a better teacher.  If you want to see how I have applied this philosophy to teaching, then check out this post:

I have been thinking a lot lately about a book I read a long time ago called "The Four Agreements" written by Miguel Ruiz and ironically when I added the "Quote a Day" widget to my site, which I don't even have there now, one of his quotes was featured, which meant it was definitely a sign that I NEEDED to write about his philosophy.  He states in his book that there are four agreements, there may be five now...things change and we change, too although we may like to stay in our comfortable, sweet zone, we do have to move ahead... well anyway he believes, and so do I, that we should live our lives by these  four principles:

1. Don't take anything personal.
2. Do your best and your best can change in any given situation.
3. Don't make assumptions...ask questions.
4. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

I think that these agreements are a great way to live your life and I have tried to this in my everyday life as well as my teaching career.  It does take self control and you DO need to think before you respond or get caught up in the drama, but it well worth it because you WILL see a difference in your life and how you handle situations that may arise and they DO...I have to make a confession here:  It is REALLY  hard to do this with my spouse because I seem to take EVERYTHING personal...BUT I am doing my BEST!!!

1.  So...you ask...how can these principles be applied to teaching? Well, there re soooooooooo many ways. Let's think about taking things personal. Teachers make phone calls to parents many times during the course of the year...yes the dreaded phone call...YIKES!  Have you ever made a phone call or received a parent phone call and thought, "What just happened?"You may have heard a person on the other end who was angry, mad, upset...you fill in the emotion. This is the time to think,"Don't take this personal!" Think about it: you don't know what happened to the person on the other end before they spoke to you. They may have had an encounter or experience that upset them and you were the next contact so....or perhaps there are personal issues with which you are not aware. Don't take it personal, it has nothing to do with you!  

2.  Doing your best changes everyday. For example, if you have a headache you can only do the best you can with that headache. Perhaps you had a really difficult morning rushing out the door, the kiddos were late for daycare, your car broke down before you got out of your driveway, you locked yourself out of the house and the car keys are locked inside. You spilled your coffee all over yourself and had to go home and change (this has happen to me only I spilled mocha cappuccino all over me and my school computer and the computer crashed never to work again), your own children were difficult...you fill in the blank. Yes, it might be a tough day so...just do the best you can under the circumstances and you will never feel down or little negative interrupting though will be..."why am I here...I can't even teach?" Focus on what you did do even with the headache and turn a negative into a positive. So instead say," I am here...I am doing the best I can and laugh about the situation because in five years from now, you WILL look back and laugh...in fact you may even laugh about it while you relax that night...there is always humor in these situations...RIGHT?  RIGHT!

3.  Making Assumptions leads me to the passing of Robin Williams. We all made the assumption that he was an extremely happy person because he was funny, made everyone laugh, had a fabulous personality and had it all...money, family and fame. We now come to find out that he struggled with depression. We make many assumptions about the children we teach, but unless we ask questions to get more information, no assumption is of value. Ask questions to students and parents to gain more information... you will never know what is really happening or going on unless you ask questions.  IF you are noticing a different behavior...call and ask," Is there anything going on at home that I might need to know to help Billy at school?  He seems a bit distracted this week.  Sometimes it is nothing...other times you may find out there is some major "stuff" going on...Of course you only know what parents will share, but, I have found out that the more allow yourself to be approachable or seem approachable and make positive connections with parents, the more they will share about their personal lives. It is important as a teacher to think about this...more today in our ever changing world than before!!

4.  Say what you mean and mean what you say (Be impeccable with your word). Choose your words carefully. Words can sting or even cause people to make assumptions about feelings and emotions that may or may not exist. If a student is having difficulty, talk to the parents about the situation. Sugar coating the facts does not help the student or parent. It is only encouraging the parent to assume that everything is fine. There are many ways to say what you mean that enables parents to support their children appropriately and remember what you say today can remain with that student forever. It can damage their self-esteem or make them shine!

So, as school starts this year, put these agreements into practice. It will help you have a more relaxing year, which will lead to a better year and in turn support you to be your best self and teacher!

Have a SWEET start to the YEAR and remember:  Don't take anything personal, do your best, don't make assumptions and say what you mean and mean what you say!!

Hope this brings a little sunshine your way!