At the Crossroads

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Permission to use granted by Anton Shevchenko, photographer

As I read, “I am a teacher and I am tired,” by a young teacher, I found myself remembering times when I was at the end of myself as a teacher and having to evaluate if I wanted to continue in education.  These were crossroads. We all come to them at one time or another. How do you respond when you hear/see someone in that place? As I reflected on her words and my own journey, I found myself wanting to reach out to her with words of encouragement. Words that reflected empathy for her, having heard the words of a broken heart. Words that would help her find the way back to memories of what brought the passion of teaching to her.  And if she decided not to continue, to not endure the realities of education, I would understand.  But not without first saying, take a look back and then take a look forward.

Most of us have to make a decision at some point regarding our work in education. What it is that makes it worth continuing in the struggle is different for each of us. We have to find that and hold tightly to it.  Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) encourages us to remember our calling when times are tough in her post, “You may be walking wounded, but teacher, but stay in the game.” Our calling, our sense of purpose has to sustain us regardless of the politics we have no control over, the shifting sands of standards and testing, decreasing finances to support education, difficult parents and students, the fatigue and times of discouragement, etc. These things can press into us and if we’re not careful, can overwhelm us and our purpose/identity as educators.

“Keep at it. It is work worth doing. It would be nice if all the kids were nice and the parents were nice and the workload was manageable but that isn’t the reality of teaching – it never has been and never will be.”(Vicki Davis)  

Working in education isn’t easy, so it’s important to remember why we got involved in it. Before I decide to retreat to the sidelines and leave the game, like Vicki, I want to know that I’ve left it all on the field.

Stephen Covey (Author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) has been an inspiration to me over the years. He challenges us to look at our thinking when we face difficulties. Our tendency is to focus on circumstances that are out of our control (Circle of Concern) and expend a lot of energy doing so. Instead, Covey encourages us to focus on the things we can influence or do something about.  Our behavior becomes a function of our decisions, not our conditions/circumstances.  I don’t have to rely on the circumstances to change to go on. This shrinks the “Circle of Concern” that can dominate our thoughts, feelings, and behavior, reducing our effectiveness and ability to function.

Okay, I know that on any given day or week, the outside voices can get really loud and wear us down.  It’s during those times that even as I work to put things in perspective, that I really appreciate some words of encouragement from those who I work with or are part of my PLN (Professional Learning Network). Just yesterday, a fellow teacher and I helped each other check our thinking and refocus our efforts to choose how we were going to respond to some negative circumstances.  And we decided not to focus on what we couldn’t change. When we have that support, it’s much easier to restore the vision and passion for our work and stay in the game.

Another member of my PLN directed me to a post George Couros (@gcouros), The Principal of Change, wrote called, “I’m tired.” Boy, can I relate. He describes his own struggles with fatigue and the choices he makes to move to a healthier place. And what followed in the comments by those who read the post were stories of how they battled the same things and they offered words of encouragement. Doesn’t it feel good to know we’re not in it alone and that others have traveled the same road in some fashion? Hopefully, we’ll remember that we are in this together (we’re a learning community).

Regardless of the outside voices and pressures we face inside our profession, we have a tremendous opportunity to not only reach students and families, but also help each other as we walk down the path that we have chosen as educators. When you come to a crossroads, remember to consider your calling. Check out your Circle of Concern/Influence. Find the encouragement of a fellow educator who can help you find your way.  Let’s persevere together and give our very best to what we’ve been called to do as educators. It’s a great calling, don’t you think?

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About Sisqitman

I am an Instructional Technology Specialist for Van ISD in Van, TX. My vision is to help equip, encourage, and support teachers, students, and admin. in their use of technology in teaching and learning.
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6 Responses to At the Crossroads

  1. Angelika Brown says:

    Being an educator is one of the most noblest professions in this world. Affecting all of those lives and realizing that we can’t always see how much we really have affected them, and guided them to help realize their own potentials.e.

    • Sisqitman says:

      Angelika, thanks for that reminder. Even for me, at times I wonder whether or not my efforts matter. It feels kind of silly saying that, but at one time or another, I think we all ask that question. I’m glad to have the chance to partner with you and support the work of teachers at Happy Camp High School. Thanks for your commitment and support.

  2. Dan DeRoss says:

    “Discouragement is the arch-enemy of perseverance.” With this in mind it is important to do what we can to exhort and encourage one another. We are told that we work better and more efficiently when we can collaborate; these opportunities are rare and there seem to be a number of impediments preventing teachers from doing this effectively. Words are nice; however words are nicer when they are accompanied by sincere actions, which demonstrate caring, concern and a conscientious effort to promote powerful teaching and learning. As many stakeholders as possible need to be appreciated both in word and deed. Our kids and athletes work better when there is positive rapport and “good chemistry”. It is no different with any professional learning community. All this being said I have a profound respect for teachers, who work tirelessly to teach students, many of whom are facing pretty daunting obstacles. This is a pivotal time in their lives and teachers play a significant role. Thanks, fellow teachers, for all you do for kids.

    • Sisqitman says:

      Hey, Dan. Thanks for taking the time to comment here and share some things we all need to give careful consideration to. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with you over the past year and a half since I started working for the district. I’ve been strengthened by our friendship and having the chance to work together in small ways on the Weed Run project. Being connected to others for encouragement is important. But that is often the by-product of the relationships we’ve developed when we’re in collaborative communities, whether that is a PLC group or some other type of partnership with others. I rely on a PLN (Professional Learning Community) that is mostly online to experience collaborative learning, which is natural because of my role as a technology coordinator.

      I agree with you that collaborative opportunities where teachers can meet in small groups and partner together is often lacking. Historically, it’s been my experience that teachers spend too much time in large group staff meetings when they could be in small groups developing strong relationships with other teachers as they work, exhort, listen, and encourage each other. I know the large group “events” trainings teacher often attend for professional development would be much more meaningful to teacher practice if teachers had the chance to reflect and have ongoing conversations after those events in a small group setting. My question is, “How can we create time and opportunity to share our learning in small group settings where we can carry on conversations with those we’ve built purposeful relationships with?” I have experienced that one time when I was teaching. The result was the group of teachers I was with felt empowered, supported and encouraged, and we had meaningful conversations on educational practice that related directly to what was going on in our classrooms. It wouldn’t have happened any other way.

      Sometimes what we know as the “Tyranny of the Urgent” often causes not only individuals, but organizations to lose their focus and effectiveness. What is most important gets lost. Feeling valued in our roles and affirmed can be missing. The chemistry that allows for synergy wanes. When the “Urgent” drives activity, it causes problems. And you’re right. We need to practice what we say we value and advocate for those things with decision-makers and stakeholders with respect for each other. We have to take the lead in encouraging and valuing others. We have to continue to work at “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” (Stephen Covey). I’m confident we can get to that place, but it will take time and energy by all of us. We need to for the sake of those we serve.

  3. Dan DeRoss says:

    Thanks for the response, Glenn. I look forward to having productive conversations in the future addressing the issues we’ve commented on here. I hope these conversations can lead us to the formation of more effective strategies which will enable teachers to work, with efficacy, to create powerful teaching and learning for ourselves and especially for our students.

  4. Great post, I enjoyed reading your words of encouragement and wisdom Glenn. I like how you include links to posts from new teacher and respected administrator with the same message, it sure can be exhausted to be a teacher.
    I am happy that you are part of my PLN and I look forward to continuing with you.
    Rhonda

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