The best professional advice I was ever given was by a math teacher at the school where I student taught. He told me to create a “happy folder.” He warned me to be sure that in the folder to only put the most wonderful things from your teaching career: the letters from students years after they’ve left your classroom, the first great test or paper from a student who had struggled all year, the great works of individual brilliance, letters of thanks or recognition from colleagues, or the little post-it notes students will sometimes leave on your desk. He told me to have the folder there for the days when you just feel totally defeated, to remind yourself of why we do what we do.
I’m glad to have taken that advice, as I’ve needed that folder many nights in my career. As my folder grows a little bit each year, I know that what the math teacher told me would also be true for me: if my home was ever on fire, my happy folder would be the first thing I would grab to save.