“Teaching is a calling, a vocation that requires constant renewal of mind, heart, and spirit. Teachers come to the profession inspired by a passion to help others learn. They are drawn to education by an ethic of service and a mission to make a difference in the world by contributing to succeeding generations of youth. Good teachers care, and keep finding ways to connect with students. They do not check their hearts at the door. Maintaining the passion to teach and lead wholeheartedly takes not only skill, it takes inner strength and spirit.”
Parker Palmer The Courage to Teach
25 more days…
Whenever one of my colleagues asks how I’m doing my response is “25 more days.” There’s no need for an explanation. All of them know what it means. You don’t know me and YOU know what it means. The school year is almost over. I teach 9th grade and have done so for 10 years so I don’t know what this time of year is like for middle or elementary school teachers. However, at the high school, at this time of year, teachers have these looks on their faces that say “I wish a someone would” which, simply put, means, in their heads, they’re singing the chorus of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message. Or, if they’re like me, they’re singing it out loud. “Don’t push me cuz I’m close to the edge. I’m try-ing not to lose my head. Ah-huh-huh-huh-huh. It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under…”
It was during one of these moments a few years ago when my assistant principal asked if I would do a professional development session for our new teachers on how to survive the last few weeks of school. I promise. I didn’t mean to laugh in her face. Honest. But, in my defense, it was out of my control. You know the hyena Ed from the Lion King, who laughed uncontrollably, even in the most serious situations? Yeah, well…
Thankfully, my assistant principal really understood me and took my laughter to mean “Sure! I’d love to put together a presentation for our new teachers!” and off she went to schedule the space…for three days later…at 7:30 in the morning.
I spent the next two days frowning and fussing. I was tired, irritable, and in need of someone to give ME some professional development on how to make it through the last few weeks of school. But, I rose to the occasion and was ready by Thursday. Of the 35 new teachers invited in the building, 4 showed up which just added to my festive mood. They too were tired and irritable and more than likely overwhelmed so the last thing they wanted to do at 7:30 in the morning was sit and listen to me. That was prime copy room time. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make.
Yet, four teachers (who evidently didn’t need copies made) and my administrator sat in our media center waiting for me to begin. What I gave them was a longer version of what appears below and since then, these 8 points have helped me, us, successfully maneuver the remaining days of school with our sanity intact. I hope you find some nuggets here to help you too.
“When all else fails, surviving the last few weeks or months of school requires us to tap into something deeper, focusing more on what’s within us and less on the chaos that surrounds us.” CSH
Charge #1: Remember why you chose to teach.
Radical Thought: You did not choose teaching. Teaching chose you.
“In order to get chosen, there had to be something in you already that identified you as worth choosing.” CSH
Charge #2: Reflect on those people, experiences (both good and bad) that inspired you to become a teacher.
Charge #3: Resist the urge to do it all.
Radical Thought: Listen to Alicia Keys. You’re NOT Superwoman (Superman).
#4 Reach Out
Charge #4: Reach out when you need help.
Radical Thought: Even Superwoman and Superman had help. (For those of you who don’t ascribe to #3)
“Even in the midst of the dishevelment that is my life, I teach because it is what I was purposed to do. Not because it’s glamorous or profitable but because I know in my heart this is who I was created to be. Will I save every child? No. Will I try? Yes. ” –CSH
Charge #5: Realize you may not be able to save all of them…no matter how hard you try.
Radical Thought: Sowing and watering seeds are just as important as harvesting the crop.
Charge #6: Reconnect with those people and activities that make you whole.
Charge #7: If something’s not working, start over.
Radical Thought: Restarting isn’t a sign of failure, weakness, or inadequacy.
It’s a sign of intelligence.
#8 Relax and Recharge
Charge #8: Taking a day off is not a sin. In fact, it might just keep you from committing one.
Radical Thought: The world will not end if you are not here for a day.
It might if you never come back.