The Art of Not Taking It Personal

In teaching, many people have an opinion about what we do and how we do it. We might hear from parents, stakeholders, and even the students who are sitting in front of us. They will tell you what they think about the job you are doing. Everyone, these days, seems to be an expert on how, what, and when you should teach certain things. Over time, this can become stressful. When you are pouring your heart into the teaching and learning that is happening every day, and someone critiques your work, it is difficult to not take it personally. Or after a long day, when you are hanging on by a thread, to get an email from a parent who is upset and blaming you can be extremely challenging. Or when your principal sends out one more thing they want you to do. It’s difficult to not take it personally. After all, this is your work. This is what tears you away from your family, it’s what you do on the weekends, and it’s the sacrifice you make to be a teacher. So, I ask the question, how do you not take it personally?

How do you get to a place where you reflect on your practice, reflect on the decisions you made, but not let the little things get to you, tear you down, and make you feel a certain way? Or how do you not take it personally when the 15th student in your class, says, “Why do we have to learn this? This is so boring.” Here are 5 things I do to remind myself, it’s not personal.

  1. I am not responsible for the feelings, emotions, and actions of others. What I am responsible for and in charge of is the effort I put into something and the attitude I have. That is all I’m responsible for, and that is all I can control.
  2. Empathy. I know that not everyone is going to see what I am trying to accomplish. I know that is okay because I practice empathy for the place they are in. That they cannot at that time for whatever reason, handle, support, or see what I am trying to accomplish, and that is okay.
  3. Breathing. When we are in flight or fight mode, leading experts say that taking two quick breaths in and slowly exhaling to a count of 5 can reduce the stress you are feeling in your body and allow your mind to re-think to see solutions instead of staying in fight or flight mode.
  4. Do something for you. When you are in a difficult situation, and you are struggling to not take it personally. Drop what you are doing, even if it is for only 5 or 10 minutes, and do something that lifts you. That short amount of time can calm you and help you to see the big picture of things.
  5. Understand that it’s not always about you. This is one of the hardest things I have had to work on. By nature, I think I’m self-centered, and assume most things are about me, (LOL) I’m being a little tongue in cheek here, but the point is still the same. We are consumed with things around us that are about us in the classroom. We control the space, the management, the lesson, the activities, but sometimes when someone is upset at something, or angry, while you are the target, it has nothing to do with you.

While these things may not work all the time, and it can be difficult to not take it personally when someone is rallying against your life’s work, try instituting one or more of these can ensure that you can remain calm. Attempt to find a solution instead of worrying and stressing about something you can’t control.Screen Shot 2019-08-04 at 7.51.16 AM


Dr. Austine Etcheverry

I started my educational career as a 1:1 paraprofessional for a student who was blind and had a cognitive impairment. After this amazing opportunity, I decided teaching was my passion. In 2007 I became a certified special education teacher and taught 5th – 8th grade resource. Throughout my career in education, I have held various leadership roles such as a technology coach, an exceptional needs coach and an IEP coordinator. Three years ago, I decided to begin pursuing my National Board Certification and was fortunate enough to achieve in December 2018. I currently have the privilege of being the principal in the Avondale Elementary School District at a school for students with an emotional disability. I have my own social media company where I write and create dental blogs. I have also had the honor of publishing articles in a dental magazine as well as published a young adult science fiction series. In December 2018, I became a certified yoga instructor and recently completed my Doctorate in Education Leadership and Administration from Aspen University.

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