Are you tired? Are you weary about going back to school tomorrow? Feeling worn out? Drained? Wishing you could pull up the covers for just one more day to catch some extra zzz’s and let your mind and soul rest?
In fact, I have just recently pulled myself out of quite the funk. I don’t know if you know this about me, but I have anxiety. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That means that I am anxious pretty much all of the time. Sometimes I get so caught up in obsessive thoughts that I can’t see my way out. Sometimes my obsessive thoughts are centered around school and my job. It kind of sends me out into this far away planet in outer space where I am the only inhabitant and it’s really dark and I can’t breathe very well and I think I’m not going to survive. As I’m sure you can deduct, all of this feels really bad. It just so happens that lately, I’ve been feeling bad about teaching.
So I’m digging myself out of the hole. In the process, I’ve been thinking about how to manage all of my overwhelming feelings about simply not getting the job done. There’s a lot of school year to get through…it’s barely past half-time. The marching band is still on the field. The dance squad has barely finished its routine. I am going to need some strategies to make it to the end in one piece without losing my brain, my guts, my soul, and my heart.
I’ve decided to make a list of some ideas that might help me. Maybe they will help you too. We all could use some help when it comes to dealing with the bleak mid-winter funk.
1.Delight in Your Gifts. We all have them. God-given ones. What are yours? What do you bring to the table, or in this case, the classroom? Is it relationships? Content knowledge? Classroom management? Creativity? What are you so good at that when you are teaching, energy flows out of you like a beam of light? Focus on those things. Focus on what you do really well. We teachers tend to spend an awful lot of time (emphasis on awful) thinking about what we are doing wrong…what we could be better at. But we are not teachers because of our shortcomings. We teach because of our strengths. Think on them. Write them down and keep them at your desk and in your heart.
2. Remember the Good Ones. Teachers, that is. The best ones you had. Why did they stand out? What was it about them that made such an impact on you? It could have been because you learned so much from them, but it also could be that they connected with you on some level and lit a fire inside. My favorite teachers were my favorites because they were fun (and mostly funny), they were kind, they made learning fun, and they made me feel important – like I mattered in the world. Honestly, whatever fire they started was already a spark in me anyway – they just fanned the flame.
3. Celebrate Growth. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt that I needed to be an expert at everything. On day one. If there’s something I don’t know how to do or don’t teach well, I shrink behind my desk waiting for the teacher police to come and arrest me because…forget it. I suck. Where is the logic in this ridiculous thought? Aren’t we teaching kids to be lifelong learners? That it’s okay to make mistakes and admit that you don’t know the answer but you are okay as long as your are trying your best? HELLO! We need to take our own advice. This theory applies to us too. 🙂
4. Rally the Troops. I have some people. These people are fellow teachers. Some teach in my school and some are former co-workers from another school. Some are personal friends who happen to be teachers in other schools or districts. It doesn’t matter. GO TO YOUR PEOPLE. Tell them your problems. Get it all out – they will listen to you. And afterwards, they will either give you some chocolate, yell out into the void with you, or simply say, “Oh, sister (or brother). I get it. I totally get it.” We cannot do this alone.
5. Think Summer. Ah yes…Summer. Those lazy days when you sleep until the light awakens you, and then you eat food that you actually get to digest while sitting at your kitchen table. Afterwards you slip into your swimsuit and flip-flops, lather on the sunscreen, grab your towel and your trashy romance novel and HEAD FOR THE POOL. If you have children of your own, you watch in amazement as they soak in the sunshine swimming, riding bikes, lying in an open field daydreaming, or following whatever adventure awaits them. While non-teacher’s kids are at the babysitter’s or at summer school, you and your kids are going to the dollar movie with cheap popcorn and sodas. I remember one day last summer when I took my girls to the movies. There we were, waiting for the movie to start, when in walks a group of school-age daycare kids, all in matching shirts, fearfully obeying the commands of their daycare leader. Right then and there in my cushy theater chair with a sweet ray of sunshine on either side of me, I whispered a prayer of thanks that it was me taking my girls to the movies instead of someone else.
6. Lighten Up. I know…easier said than done. But these are kids we are dealing with here. No matter what happens during their time with us, they are going to be okay. They will figure it out. If they don’t learn it from us, they will learn it eventually. I had some great teachers in my school years, and I also had some crappy ones. Didn’t we all? And we lived to tell about it. Trust me when I say that we are not the crappy teachers. If we are struggling at all with the quality of our lesson plans, or fitting in all of the learning targets, or how to reach that one kid that seems to hate school, or staying up late or going in on weekends or spending our own money to make learning fun for our students, then we are NOT the crappy ones.
The best we can hope for, each day that we stand at the door with bright smiles and sharpened pencils, is to do the best we can. And that has to be enough, people. Otherwise we will never make it. And we have to make it. For them. For us. We have to remember that all we can do is the best we can. That’s it. And remember this: At the end of the day, our job is not to fill the bucket.
It’s to LIGHT THE FIRE.