Dear Vicki: This isn’t a relationship question, but I hope you can help me. I live in a small town and just started my first year as an elementary school teacher. My student teaching was bumpy – I wasn’t very dynamic in the classroom – but I thought that was just because I was nervous with someone watching me so closely. But now, even in my “own” classroom, I feel like I’m failing. The students seem bored and restless, and I’m sure they hate me. By the end of the day, I just want to crawl in a hole and be alone. I’m pretty sure I’m a Water, so does that mean it’s hopeless for me to try to be a great teacher? Signed: Woeful Water
Dear Woeful Water: Actually, this is a relationship question. Teaching is all about relationships. The best exchange of information in a classroom happens when you and your students are relating well. The fact that you want to be alone when things aren’t going well, your assumption that all of your students hate you, and your tendency to feel hopeless about teaching does make it seem that you are a Water. So let’s take a look at what you, as a Water, have to offer your students. We’ll also look at what your students expect from you given their elements, and how to make sure you are the best Water teacher you can be for your students.
The good news for you is that Waters, by nature, are usually passionate about truth and ideas. If you love your subjects and understand their importance, you will be able to impart that passion to your students. This is a hallmark of an excellent teacher, no matter what they teach. More good news for you as a teacher is that Water is the realm of inspiration, so you can bring creativity to your classroom more easily than other elements. You will also be able to bring a mix of Water’s wisdom and playfulness, which will be especially wonderful at the elementary level.
The flip side is that if a Water teacher is stressed or out of balance, they sometimes bring too much Water to the classroom, drowning their students in ideas without offering any structure. They can also wander off topic or get caught up in a tangential flow and become lost. And if they think things aren’t going well with the class, the Water stress response of fear that they might not be doing well enough joins up with the basic Water need for solitude. This can lead to a Water teacher disconnecting from their students and retreating. It sounds like this might be part of what you experience after a bad day when you just want to be alone.
To prevent this from happening, it’s important to take care of yourself and keep yourself balanced when you are teaching. You might consider meditating before school daily. The silence and solitude always appeals to Waters and helps them reconnect with their inner self, a source of strength and balance for them. Almost any form of quiet meditation works for Waters. You might also drink tea made from either ginseng or vervain on a regular basis, possibly even at school. These herbs help balance Waters.
Once balanced, the most important part of being a good teacher is having good relationships with your students. Your classroom will be full of little Waters, Woods, Fires, Earths, and Metals, so let’s look at how to build good teaching relationships with each of them:
- As a Water teacher, any Water students you have will think they have died and gone to heaven. Your relationship with them should be easy and natural as long as you stay balanced. What makes you happy will most likely make them happy.
- Your Wood students will do best with some degree of organization in your classroom, so if you can do simple things like keep supplies organized and provide guidelines for what you will do in class each day, your Wood students will feel fed by your Water (Water feeds Wood), instead of drowned.
- Your Fire students will want excitement and activity, so provide some humor (perhaps offer a cartoon or joke of the day) and maybe even incorporate some movement in your class. If you do, the Fires will leap to a wonderful connection with you and be amazed at your brilliance rather than extinguished by boring Water facts (Water controls Fire).
- Your Earth students want peace and harmony, so as long as your relationships with the other elements in class are strong, the Earths should be happy, too. Oh, and a few snacks during breaks, if that’s allowed, will have the Earths singing your praises, which will feel supporting to you instead of stifling (Earth controls Water).
- For your Metal students, remember that they adore information, history, and the written word, even at a young age. Lessons that include handouts and juicy facts or history will make Metals happy. And if you follow your lessons well, so much the better. They will be able to receive the wisdom you offer, which will make you feel great (Metal feeds Water).
Much like any relationship, it’s important to understand what your students need and how you can meet their needs and still honor your Water. And if you’re taking good care of yourself, the creativity of your Water will be an excellent ally. It will carry you forward without flooding your classroom.