They decorate the walls of our bars, gyms and homes; they’re plastered all over our social media; and in the past few years, I’ve also noted their appearance in schools.
Whether they actually inspire us into action remains to be seen.
What is clear to me is that sometimes you come across a phrase that feels almost as if it were written specifically for you. Perhaps it offers a solution to a problem you’re currently facing, signals that a change is needed or even simply just reminds you of something you’d lost sight of.
Here are the quotes that have supported me personally and professionally over the years.
1. 'Your worth is not measured by your productivity'
It’s really easy when you’re a teacher to judge the quality of a day – and yourself – based on how much you have or haven’t done. Seriously though – don’t. Being human comes before being a teacher – you’re allowed to just "be" without feeling bad about it.
2. 'Things that matter the most must never be at the mercy of things that matter the least'
I come back to this quote, time and time again – when I’m tempted to skip yoga so that I can mark more books; or when I start with the angry housework on my one morning off, even though I’m crying out for some R ‘n’ R. As teachers, many of us find that the task list is never-ending; there will always be something else that needs doing. Learning to prioritise (including your own health) is vital if you want to survive.
3. 'Focus 90 per cent of your time on solutions and only 10 per cent of your time on problems'
Back when I was a Dementor, seeping the joy out of those around me with my constant misery-spreading, I had this the other way around. In fact, it was hearing this quote that opened my eyes to what I had become and what I needed to change.
4. 'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results'
As much as we know this to be true, for whatever reason, many of us become deeply attached to our "usual" way of doing things. We tell ourselves that “this time!” the crash diet/the exercise regime/the "stop work at 6 plan" will work… often blindly ignoring a 100 per cent failure rate so far. If you’re genuinely looking to change or improve something in your life, try adopting a trial and error approach instead; make small (or big) changes, monitor outcomes and change again if needed. The bad news is that you’ll have to alter your favourite plan – sob, sob. The good news is that it might actually work this time.
5. 'No one can make you feel inferior without your consent'
At a time when "accountability" seems to be the word du jour in staff meetings across the land, you really do need a thick skin when dealing with pupils, parents, school leaders and, of course, Ofsted. What works for me is to take the emotion out of it and trust that, logically, a person can only do their best. Had an awful lesson observation? By all means, let yourself wallow a little. Then pick yourself up and use it as an opportunity to grow…
6. 'What you practice, you become'
As a firm believer in growth mindset, for staff as much as students, I’m completely committed to the belief that you can master any skill, talent or character trait with enough consistent effort. I remind myself of this when I find myself falling back into bad habits, like avoiding stepping out of my comfort zone. When I hear myself saying things like, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” I ask myself, “Who am I becoming?” And if I don’t like the answer, this usually propels me into action.
7. 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world'
When all else fails, I find strength and comfort in this classic quote. I remind myself that the role of an educator can never be underestimated. The choices we make, the words we use and the qualities we display can profoundly affect a young person's mindset, life choices and, indeed, the mark that they themselves make on the world around them.
Jo Steer is a teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions and wellbeing strategies