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Choose to Bend instead of Break – Guest Post by Meredith Newlin

I am so happy to share this guest post by my new friend, Meredith Newlin. I found her on Twitter, sharing her words of encouragement to teachers through her website and blog. She graciously agreed to share her wisdom here on SITC, and I am grateful.

Choose to Bend Instead of Break

by Meredith Newlin of

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” – Abraham Lincoln

It’s usually not a good idea to try to cut off the thorns of a rose. We can try, but it will not work. Ask any florist. When florists try to cut off the thorns on roses, it makes the flowers wilt. The thorns are just a part of their whole makeup, the way their Creator created them. 

As teachers, we can choose to focus on the roses or the thorns. Try as we might, we can never get rid of all our own thorns, much less those of our students. We just can’t. We cannot change the argument they had with their mom the night before, or the fact that they’re grounded, or the fact that they broke up with their boyfriend the day before, or all of the responsibilities they have at home, or the fight they got into the previous day with their best friend and the simmering anger, grief, or trauma they may be experiencing.  

Try as we might, we usually cannot change our students’ thoughts, what they had for breakfast, what was said to them on the school bus or the cruel comment that was made on Snapchat that morning. When we take time to accept our students as they are, the same way that we accept that roses have thorns, we will feel more peace.

Whether our students happen to be attentive, lethargic, sullen, cheerful, or talkative, we can accept their moods for what they are: simply moods, and not make it mean anything. Sure, maybe we can do some reflecting on how to make our lessons more engaging or rigorous. But we don’t have to make one challenging lesson or day mean that there is something fundamentally wrong with them or us, or that we are failing as educators.

We cannot take away our students’ thorns, and it’s not our job to do that. We may think we can, and sometimes we still try, but we always discover, many times the hard way, that we just cannot. All we can really do is provide our “roses” with the sunlight and nourishment they need so they can thrive, and eventually, we will come to respect and recognize the thorns for the necessary and valuable protective mechanism that they provide. 

When I let the small stuff slide, it gives me a lot more time and energy to focus on the things that actually do matter: helping young people grow as critical thinkers and as human beings.

       In my experience, my students and I have so much more growth and success when I choose to tweak and adjust, not force or coerce. I can choose to break down in tears at the end of the day over what didn’t go perfectly, or I can choose gratitude, humility, and the ability to get up and try again the next day. When I let the small stuff slide, it gives me a lot more time and energy to focus on the things that actually do matter: helping young people grow as critical thinkers and as human beings.

About Meredith

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is meredith-newlin.jpgMeredith Newlin is in her 16th year teaching and is the author of Captured Fireflies: Truths, Mistakes, And Other Gifts Of Being an English Teacher and creator of The Transformed Teacher podcast and online community. She has written unit plans for blogs such as the Duke University Teachers Workshop and has presented at the Teacher Self-Care Conference and the Educators 2 Educators Reboot Conferences. She is also currently a Mental Health Changemaker Fellow for ASSET Education.


Follow Meredith on Twitter at: @MeredithNewlin

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