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?