The SnapLearning Twitter party is happening tonight, Wednesday, January 28th, from 8-9 pm EST! Come join me and Heidi Morgan as we talk close reading strategies with SnapLearning.

close reading Twitter chat

RSVP here if you’d like, or just follow the hashtag #snapreading. You’ll get to:

  • Learn more about close reading
  • Get access to some great reading resources
  • Talk to teachers who have successfully implemented close reading
  • Get answers to all your questions on close reading

During the chat, SnapLearning is going to be giving away some fabulous prizes for you and your class! You’re eligible to win just by following SnapLearningHeidi Morgan, and me on Twitter and participating in the conversations during the party. Learn more here.

close reading Twitter party prizes

If you’re brand new to Twitter or have never attended a Twitter party or chat before, we’d love to have you attend! Here are some step-by-step instructions for participating in Twitter chats.

Looking forward to chatting with you tonight!

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EP06: Many teachers are far too hard on themselves and constantly feel guilty about things they’re not doing. You can make 3 small changes that will create a dramatic shift in how you think and feel about yourself. Learn how to change your mindset and move from self-criticism to self-acceptance.

This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast is essentially a talk radio show that you can listen to online or download and take with you wherever you go. I release a new episode each Sunday and feature it here on the blog each Monday to help you get energized and motivated for the week ahead. Learn more about the podcast, view blog posts for all past episodes, or subscribe in iTunes to get new episodes right away.

Being overly critical of yourself is a problem that a lot of teachers struggle with for a number of reasons. For one thing, teaching is an important job. When we make mistakes or fall short, those errors have the potential to impact children’s lives in a negative way. That’s a huge burden to carry.

On top of that, many teachers are by nature perfectionists. We want things done right, we have high standards for ourselves, and we tend to get mad at ourselves when we don’t meet those standards.

And so we get trapped in this cycle of falling short of our expectations (or other people’s expectations) and beating ourselves up about it. In order to understand how to break free from that cycle, it’s important to understand a little bit about what I call “self-talk”.

Every single one of us has an ongoing internal monologue or conversation playing in our minds. This self-talk typically involves a running commentary on what’s happening around us. Most of us identify with our self-talk and assume we’re repeating truth to ourselves. However, this commentary is totally biased and rarely accurate because self-talk is colored by our mindset.

Self-talk includes lots of automatic thoughts that we’ve reinforced over the years by paying attention to them and attaching importance. The automatic thoughts pop up without us consciously thinking or even noticing them. When faced with a challenge, your automatic self-talk might be, “I can’t do this” or “There’s no way I’ll be able to get this done”.  When someone provides constructive feedback, your self-talk might include the thoughts, “S/he doesn’t like me”, “S/he thinks I did a horrible job”, “I’m so bad at this!” Thoughts like these might enter your mind on such a regular basis that you have no idea they’re occurring.

Your automatic self-talk is a fundamental part of how you think and feel. In part, that’s because we grant more credence to our own thoughts than to those of others. If someone shares a crazy opinion, it’s usually not hard to disagree with them. We’ve trained ourselves to think critically about other people’s ideas. But if that opinion comes from our own automatic thoughts, most of us tend not to question it. It’s difficult to critique and analyze our own thoughts because our reality is shaped by the way we think. So instead of being objective, we simply accept whatever we think as truth.

It’s not hard to imagine what would happen to your self-esteem if someone was following you around 24 hours a day, pointing out everything you’ve done wrong and why your life is never going to get any better. Yet that’s exactly what happens to some of us—we become our own worst critics.

This issue is compounded by the fact that most of the feedback we hear about our performance on any given day comes from our own thoughts. We tell ourselves, “ That was dumb”,  “Why’d you do it that way?”, “ You should do it like this next time.” Many of us say things to ourselves that we would NEVER say to another person:  “I’m such an idiot”, “ I’m fat”,  “I have no self-control”, “I’m so stupid sometimes”, “I’m a bad teacher.”

If you repeat that type of self-talk, it quickly becomes ingrained in your thinking patterns. Self-doubting thoughts become a part of your belief system. So if you want to stop being overly critical of yourself, you have to learn to address negative thought patterns in your mind.

Here’s a small change you can make in the way you think and talk about yourself, and this small change can make a big difference. Replace extreme language with more accurate terms. Words like never, always, horrible, awful, worst, impossible, hate , unbearable,  and unbelievable are usually exaggerations that cause you to view yourself in a worse light than necessary.

Many teachers are far too hard on themselves and constantly feel guilty about things they’re not doing. You can make 3 small changes that will create a dramatic shift in how you think and feel about yourself. Learn how to change your mindset and move from self-criticism to self-acceptance.

Instead, choose words that aren’t so dramatic and final, such as rarely, usually, challenging, difficult, tough, dislike, and surprising.  An internal monologue that says, “I hate when I mismanage my time—I can’t believe I wasted the whole afternoon again and got nothing done!” is more likely to create feelings of stress than, “I’m disappointed that I didn’t use my time as well as I would have liked, but I did get some things done online that I’d planned to do. The day wasn’t a total waste and I’ll get a fresh start tomorrow.”

If you pay close attention to your word choice, you’ll notice how influential it is on how you feel and what you think later on. Rephrasing your thoughts in a way that’s more rational will keep you from getting so worked up and prevent your thoughts and emotions from spiraling out of control. It will also give you a sense of control and empower you to change the situation. If you think something you did is really awful, you’ll probably waste a lot of time thinking about how awful it is rather than expending your energy on problem solving.  Repeatedly thinking about how bad things are can cause you to become convinced that you’re a hopeless case. So choosing less extreme language reminds you that the situation is not impossible and you can get better.

Another technique is to turn negative statements about yourself into a question and call to action. Instead of stating dysfunctional thoughts as facts (I always do this wrong—I can never get it right),  try asking yourself questions that lead to improvement (What can I do to help myself improve in this area? Is there another approach I can try?)

Use pervasive negative thoughts as inspiration for change: Wow, I just keep thinking about how hard it is for me to get the kids to pay attention during instruction. Instead of telling myself how bad I am at classroom management, what can I do to become better? Is there something I can read or someone I can talk with to learn new strategies?

A third and final way to stop being so critical of yourself is to practice not undermining yourself in front of others. This is especially important in a professional setting because broadcasting your flaws can damage credibility. Most of your colleagues have never actually gone into your classroom and seen you teach; the main way they determine whether you’re effective or not is based on  appearances—your class’ behavior in the hallway, the bulletin boards outside your door, and the way you present yourself.

There’s no reason to announce loudly at a staff meeting, “I can’t control these kids; they just don’t listen to me,” or “I’m so disorganized—I can’t find the paperwork I was supposed to turn in.” Speaking negatively about your faults causes others to see those flaws more clearly and predisposes people to view you in a negative light.

More importantly, you should avoid talking bad about yourself because it poisons your own mind with negativity. Anytime you hear criticism—from others or from yourself—it has the potential to be extremely disheartening and lead to more negative thoughts and feelings. You can’t control whether someone else talks badly about you, but you can certainly avoid speaking disapprovingly about yourself.

Ultimately, the goal is to accept yourself without stipulation, simply because you’re you. Don’t make yourself earn self-acceptance. Don’t base your opinion of yourself on how you act or what you accomplish.  Your confidence can’t be derived from your character or what you’ve done —that’s a recipe for frustration, because you won’t always behave and achieve the way you want. You cannot be the person (or teacher) you’d like to be 100% of the time, and if your self-image is based on your actions, those times when you fall short will cause you to feel badly about who you are. Instead, you can retrain your mind to love and accept yourself unconditionally, no matter how you act. Joyce Meyer calls this “learning to separate your WHO from your DO.”

I’d like to leave you with a motivational quote for the week ahead that I call the Takeaway Truth, but if you’d like to learn more about choosing your thoughts and letting go of self-criticism, I have a wonderful resource available for you. It’s a book I wrote called Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching and in it, I delve much deeper into this topic and share all kinds of practical strategies for developing a resilient, positive mindset for teaching.

The Takeaway Truth I want you to remember this week is from my book Awakened, and it’s this: “Each setback is a chance to develop character and improve your teaching practice. Growth is not just achieved through quiet reflection: unexpected challenges, inconveniences, and failure are often the best way to learn.”

So, don’t beat yourself up about your shortcomings; view them as an opportunity to learn and grow and practice healthy mental habits. Have a great week–you can do this! And remember, it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be worth it.

Next week: How to find and embrace your unique classroom management style

Truth for Teachers podcast: a weekly 10 minute talk radio show you can download and take with you wherever you go!  A new episode is released each Sunday to get you energized and motivated for the week ahead.

See blog posts/transcripts for all episodes

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

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Cute teacher tshirts for Valentine’s Day

January 23, 2015
100th day of school shirt for teachers

A couple of weeks ago, I started creating shirts and other merchandise with funny or clever sayings on them for teachers. I wanted to sell fun, modern-looking apparel that is also super affordable, with all the shirts under $20. So, Angela Watson’s Tshirts for Teachers was born! The response has really been great, and I’ve enjoyed creating custom […]

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Where to find me at conferences this spring

January 21, 2015
SDE Maryland PreK and Kindergarten conference in Towson, MD: February 9-10

I have four exciting events coming up between now and April. I would love to connect with you if you’re attending any of these conferences!  SDE Maryland PreK-K ConferenceTowson, MDFeb 9-10 As an early childhood education major and someone who has taught exclusively in grades PreK-3, I am so excited to meet with educators who love teaching […]

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How to motivate students to take ownership of their learning

January 18, 2015
How to give students ownership of their learning

EP05: Are you working harder than your students? Learn practical strategies for making the learning really matter to kids so they’re self-motivated in the classroom. You’ll discover how to inspire kids to give as much energy and effort in the classroom as you do! This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela […]

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The top 3 questions teachers ask me about classroom tech

January 16, 2015
How to show YouTube video clips in the classroom even when your school blocks YouTube (and how to prevent ads, comments, and other inappropriate content from popping up.)

There are a handful of questions I can count on being asked at least once at every school in which I do instructional technology coaching. I’m sure many of you have the same issues, so I thought I’d share the answers here on the blog for you all, too! How to show YouTube videos at […]

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How to gain energy from kids instead of letting them drain you

January 12, 2015
How to gain energy from kids instead of letting them drain you: Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers podcast

EP04: The flow of energy in a classroom is often one-way, with the teacher constantly giving and students sitting by as passive recipients. But kids can be your greatest motivator and energizer! Discover how to create a reciprocal energy flow through connecting with and enjoying your students. This post is based on the latest episode of […]

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10 inexpensive ways to get children’s books for the classroom

January 9, 2015
10 inexpensive ways to get children’s books for the classroom

A well-stocked classroom library encourages self-selected independent reading and can also serve as a great place for children to enjoy some down time during the school day. However, keeping your class library replenished with a rotation of good books may present a bit of a challenge since most teachers have to pay for reading materials using their […]

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Truth for Teachers: a new podcast for weekly inspiration

January 5, 2015
Angela Watson

EP01, EP02, EP03: It’s FINALLY time to share the launch of my weekly podcast with you! If you’re new to podcasts, they’re essentially a talk radio show which you can listen to online or download to take with you wherever you go. I hope to use this podcast to speak encouragement and truth into your life, […]

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An easy way to build individual relationships with students

January 1, 2015
FREE! Daily Connections: an easy way to build individual relationships with your students

As teachers, we all want to establish strong connections with students and give them individual attention on a daily basis. But that’s a pretty broad goal that can be hard to put into action, especially considering how many other priorities are vying for our attention. How can we make time for individual connections? How can […]

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The 10 most popular Cornerstone posts of 2014

December 29, 2014
This is as close as it gets to a miracle solution for students' behavior problems, it's completely free, and it only takes 2 minutes a day.

I thought it would be fun to check the blog analytics today and find out which articles you all liked the best this year. Most of them were written in 2014, although there are a couple of older posts which lots of teachers are still checking out. Here they are in countdown form, from 10-1: For […]

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New year, new mindset: teacher resources for kicking off 2015

December 26, 2014

I have a really, really awesome announcement to make next week about a new project I’m launching. And it’s not the kind of announcement that’s only exciting for me. You know how bloggers do that sometimes, right? Like, “Time for the big reveal–a sponsor gave me a brand new wardrobe and free trip to Tahiti, […]

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How the H&R Block Budget Challenge is helping high schoolers learn financial literacy

December 20, 2014
Register your students in grades 9-12 for this free online financial literacy game to teach real life budgeting. Top scorers will win $3 million in classroom grants and student scholarships!

Disclosure: H&R Block has been a longtime supporter of The Cornerstone through their financial literacy initiatives. They have compensated me for helping them spread the word about these free resources for teachers and kids. You might remember back in September when I shared information about the H&R Block Challenge, a completely FREE teen financial literacy program in […]

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7 teacher tips for surviving the week before holiday break

December 11, 2014
7 teacher tips for surviving the week before holiday or winter break

We’re heading into the home stretch here in 2014, and it can be one of the hardest times in which to maintain order in the classroom. Fortunately, there are ways to make the last few days count and maintain your sanity: 1. Don’t build anticipation. Assemblies, presentations, and other holiday events are unavoidable in December, but […]

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Verso: a free app for giving all students a voice

December 7, 2014
Verso multiple classes

Are there students in your class who never seem to share their opinions or want to engage in group discussions? There could be a number of reasons why a student does not participate, and one of them is fear. Kids often find it difficult to share their opinions in class because they’re afraid of being wrong, […]

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10 ways to calm a class after lunch or recess

December 2, 2014
calm class after lunch

After recess or lunch can be one of the toughest times to transition back into instruction. Often the kids are so wound up that it takes 10 minutes (or more) to get everyone ready to learn again, and with the amount of curriculum we need to teach during the school day, that’s 10 minutes we can’t afford […]

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Win a $25 TeachersPayTeachers gift card in time for the sale!

November 30, 2014
Angela Watson TeachersPayTeachers

As part of the site-wide TeachersPayTeachers Cyber Monday sale, my entire store will be 28% off on December 1st and 2nd. The sale includes all of my math partner game bundles for grades 1-5 which provide fun, hands-on, and rigorous practice of the Common Core State Standards. The sale also includes all of the PDF versions of […]

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Happy Thanksgiving from snowy Virginia!

November 26, 2014
Thanksgiving snow 2

We’re currently under 5 inches of snow at my grandmother’s house and expecting several inches more. My mom and I just cooked up some sausage and eggs we got straight from a neighbor’s farm, and the guys are out shoveling the driveway. My family won’t be getting together for Christmas, so we’re enjoying our White Thanksgiving together. […]

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Holiday gift ideas (under $20!) that will make teachers smile

November 23, 2014
holiday gift ideas for teachers (under $20!)

I love to share funny, clever, and inspirational sayings on my Facebook page, and people are always commenting, “I need this on a t-shirt!” So I figured, why not design some teacher apparel and accessories? I created a store for teacher shirts, totes, mugs, and more on Spreadshirt. Almost all the prices for teacher merchandise are $20 […]

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8 ways to foster gratitude in your students

November 19, 2014
How to foster gratitude and teach kids to be thankful (classroom ideas)

Every year, it seems like the grumbling grows louder about the next generation’s sense of entitlement. People say they want things handed to them. They’re not appreciative of what adults do for them. They complain when teachers give them things (“Is that all you’ve got?”) and ask “What do we get for doing this?” before completing […]

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