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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't let exhaustion choke the love of teaching from your heart




Last night, I literally got in the bed at 4:30 pm. Monday I worked 13 hours at the school... at school and then 4 hours of gate duty because someone forgot to show up... then I watched my son's game. So, yesterday, when I got home at 4:30, I knew I was going... as I call to my family...'over the top.' When I've been around people for so long and been so intense that I'm, quite literally shutting down from exhaustion.

It is in those moments, no matter how good my day, that I wonder how I can do this job. It is in those moments that self doubt arises like a WWF Schwarzenneger-like wraith to choke this career out of my heart. But I won't let it.

I looked at the picture of passion on my iphone (below) and I held it in my hand as I closed my eyes for a few moments. I was bone tired and felt it all the way to my heart. I clung to the very special picture as I slept as I held onto my win today. (Sadly, it was also the phone that awoke me, when someone sent me a text message. Lesson learned, never sleep with your cell phone.)

Let me tell you what happened and how you can cope when you're 'over the top'


Talking about the Habitudes
I'm working through the "Name it" stage of the Classroom Habitudes. This year I''ve set a goal to work on the habitudes in class for 15 minutes twice a week. In a jam packed curriculum like mine, it is a sacrifice, but I'm making it work, snatching time here and there. Last week Angela Maiers was at my school and did the one of the best inservice training courses I've ever absorbed. Many of us teachers at Westwood were deeply impacted and re-upped our commitment to everything we want to be as teachers.

In this phase, you talk about the 7 Habitudes (see Classroom Habitudes version 2 by Angela Maiers). You talk about what it is, what it looks like - the people or what you see someone do, what it sounds like (this example below didn't quite do that one correctly - specifically it is focusing on the kinds of things we SAY when we are exhibiting passion - things like "Wow!" or "I think it is so cool that..." or "I'm so excited to learn that..." "I want to learn more about..." these are just a few of the things that sound like passion.)

Then, we talk about what it feels like. Of interest to me were the conversations about how the different traits feel, for example, the kids talked about how perseverance feels like doubt and struggle but afterwards, people often recognize it as perseverance because when you're in the midst of doing something great that you often don't get praised for what you're doing.

It is important to me that my students KNOW that I only want to hear what they really think. I don't want them to "suck up" but be brutally honest about whatever we're discussing. I praise the "courage" to ask hard questions and ask them what they are "curious" about. Plus, I have great students.

When your students choke you up
But yesterday, I had to stop class for a few moments - maybe 30 seconds. But I was overcome. The kids in the teams had their papers so I had no idea what they said. A young man was talking about passion and said:

"Well, we were talking about what passion looks like, and we decided, well, we decided that it looks like 'Miss' Vicki."

My eyes teared over. It was an involuntary response.
I was so taken aback. I think all of us teachers who are in this because we love kids hope that our lives will be lessons. We want to live what we want kids to be. We want to be more.

I tell my students... I'm not here to teach you, I'm here to COMPLETELY BLOW YOUR MIND. We don't settle for "just teaching" we teach each other. We are curious. We are passionate. We do more and be more than we've ever been. My only expectation is that we are expected to be world class in everything we do. That simple. I don't care if we're in the tiny town of Camilla, we are world class. It is what we do. It is who we are.

But yesterday, my mind was blown and my heart was moved. I really didn't deserve that because I don't encourage people to say anything about me. I don't really want it at all. But the complete innocence of it and the way he said it as a fact, I'm sitting here crying as I type this on my ipad at 6:13 am listening to Sara Groves.

Angela told me these were million dollar conversations, but I didn't expect to be the one who the "money" so to speak.

Savor the wins, you'll need it sooner than you think
I've encouraged the kids to keep 2 folders: an "at a girl" or "at a boy" folder and a "goals" folder somewhere in their desk in their room. All I could choke out was:

"Oh my goodness. (they could see my tears) It is my dream for you to see my passion, not only about the subject but about YOU and helping you find the things you do well. I don't know what to say, but that, that is the kind of thing that will go in my 'at a girl' folder and I'll treasure forever. Thank you for that."

I Can't Fight this Feeling

Those of you who don't teach won't understand this feeling I described in the opening paragraphs.  Usually it is a feeling for Fridays and end of the semester, but it is real and it is normal for teachers to get this way. We are in a high stress high burnout job and must hold onto encouragement and go to bed at 4:30 when we are self-aware enough to realize that we're about to push ourselves to far.

Every teacher and every classroom counts: YOU MATTER SO MUCH!

So, as I end my thoughts for today and head to the kitchen to cook my family breakfast, I just want to tell you teachers that YOU MATTER. You matter very much. You are important. Every one of your classrooms counts... whether you are public, private, or homeschooling - you have a tough job and you're my heroes. It is an honor to serve among you and wear the badge of honor of being a teacher.

It is my prayer today that you will:
  • Hold onto the moments that you'll need to reflect upon when you're exhausted
  • That you'll be self-aware enough to get some rest and reset when you feel yourself 'going over the top'
  • That you'll know that being tired is a normal feeling for teachers (we've had lots of conversations about this on my Facebook Fanpage, so I know that many teachers feel this way) but that when you're tired, KNOW IT and REST.
  • That you'll know how important YOU are and that your classroom is very important.
  • That you'll go into today giving your best.
  • Finally, that you'll consider the habitudes or at least some discussion about the "to be" list you want students to be before you get too deep into the to do list of your classroom. We want students "to be" so many things, but I was struck how I needed to formally say, "we want to be...curious, adaptable, passionate, self-aware, etc.
Remember your noble calling teacher. You rock.

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