So it’s the day before I go back to teaching 3rd and 4th grade and I was basically in my room like:
No but seriously this part of the year is actually the HARDEST. Teaching is basically like running a race. You start off strong sprinting extremely fast, then when you’re in the middle of the race it gets the most difficult because you’re trying to find the stamina to pull through until you get to the end. January through April is basically the middle of the sprint. No more breaks (except Spring Break, depending on how long yours is), just 4 straight months of you, and the kids. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but coming off of a big break everyone is either still tired, or rejuvenated and ready for the next couple of months.
Around March those rejuvenated people are starting to look like:
And the already tired people look even worse. When I got home today I was talking to some teacher friends who are basically burnt out and we just got back from break. I mean understandable though, teaching is one of the hardest professions ever, don’t let anybody ever tell you different. Coming into the new year lethargic or overly energetic, as a teacher, you’ll struggle in the middle of the year. How do we keep ourselves passionate and motivated? To me, the middle of the year is where I feel most engaged with my babies. During times like these I like to think about what I can do to be the best of who I am for them. There is so much possibility to innovate your teaching, build more relationships, and step outside of the box.
I think the most important thing we must do as teachers is find our WHY in terms of why we teach. Teacher burnout is real. Every year thousands of idealistic young people enter this field and leave drained and worn out. What I find is that many of them struggle to re-focus and let their initial passion fuel their work. Yes this work is hard, and often times you WILL feel extremely drained, but in those moments where we feel like giving up, we have to remember what ignited our passion in the first place and allow that to push us through the hardest part of the year.
Resiliency is a word that I like to refer to several times throughout the year. Moment of transparency: My first semester of grad school/student teaching was rough. Very rough. I went through a plethora of emotions during this hard time. I wanted to quit, start over somewhere else, and just forget I even moved to Baltimore. However, what kept me going was my students. I taught 4 different grades last semester, 5th, 1st, 3rd, and 4th, and in each grade I met students that completely blew my mind. They were so smart, talented, and simply out of this world. I remember sitting in my room one day and just thinking to myself “could this get any worse?”, and I looked at my wall of students.
Whenever I got frustrated or upset during the semester I just looked at these pictures of all these young people I worked with throughout the years and it always made sense to me again in the end. As hard as it gets, they NEED me. They may not always voice it, or even act like it, but they do. These pictures remind me of the good and the bad times with some of the most unique and talented scholars I have ever met. These pictures remind me of my WHY. This may not be your method of rediscovering your why and that’s the beauty of teaching, there could be multiple reasons for why you started and there could be so many different ways to remind yourself of those reasons. This is just mine. The pictures remind me why God placed me in this position, why I am here, and most importantly, why I won’t give up.
The middle of the year is where I strengthen my resiliency: my ability to bounce back after stressful situations. Trust me when I say there have been and will be several more situations that will make me want to give up, but the more I keep working, the more I continue to come back the next day ready to serve my babies, my resiliency gets stronger. The problems that used to bother me before, don’t really have as much of an effect on me, but here’s the catch: now it takes much more stressful situations to tear me down, and that’s when I have to go back to my WHY. It’s almost like a back and forth, you go through the tough times, get stronger, you get approached with an even harder situation, then you have to remind yourself why you’re here in the first place to get through that, you conquer the harder difficulty, and then it starts all over again. Sounds fun right?! No but in all honesty, when you come into your classroom and you see your students learning and applying what they’re learning to their own lives, it is honestly one of the most beautiful things to witness, and it’s what I remember every time I look at my wall of students. I’m not sure who this is for, it could be for anyone who is struggling right now as a teacher, or just someone who is interested in becoming a teacher, but I hope you leave this page feeling stronger than you did before.