Dear Weary Teacher,
I know it’s only September, and I also know that you are tired. Beat. Worn down. And it’s only September. I know that you are overwhelmed. Stressed. Frazzled. And it’s only September.
I know that you are because I feel some of those things too. And my calendar says it’s only September.
September is an interesting time in the life of a classroom. It’s an important one, too. The climate that has been tentatively set at the beginning of the year has the potential to bloom into something wonderful–but it also has the ability to nosedive into something bleak.
By now, the “honeymoon” period has ended. You know, August wasn’t so bad. The routines were planned. The days’ goals were few because you planned to delve deep into the behavior and procedural tasks for the majority of your time. Your biggest celebrations came from the students following the routines smoothly and efficiently enough for you to begin teaching academic content. And that should be one of your biggest celebrations!
But then…other things started to crowd in. The meetings that told you about your system’s new initiative(s). The emails that told you about the new way of saying things that you’ve been saying–which is really the same things you’ve been saying, but you’re just going to learn new words to say it with and you have to say those new words from now on. In your letters to parents, in your lesson plans, and to your students.
The kids are more familiar with you now, and some are braver, too, and a few hiccups in the behavior routines start to happen. And…if you’re like me, you’ve started to loosen your handle on a few routines that you may need to tighten back up on…and it wears you out.
And now, October is coming. And it’s bringing Halloween with it!
And after that, the month of November will sprint by, followed by December, where you try to fit in holidays and district assessments all at once and you wonder why those kids are acting so crazy!
So you are tired. Some days are hard. You may go home and wonder what teaching actually went on today because you were too busy running behind your routine, trying to catch up. You may go home feeling a little defeated because some of your kiddos don’t seem to get what you are teaching. You may go home poorer because you’ve spent a big hunk of money on school supplies that you think will enhance your lessons. You may go home with a hoarse voice because you’ve talked, discussed, listened, and talked some more. All. Day. You may go home and need a little bit of silence. Or Tylenol.
You are tired. I understand. I am, too. 🙂
But we will discuss the woes that make us tired no more, weary teacher friends. Lamenting those things will not make us more energized. It will not make us better.
If we want to feel better and more alive over our classrooms, our schools, our climates, and our own teaching, then we should focus on a few key aspects of teaching to wake us up.
1. You’ve made a difference already. Remember how I said it’s only September? And you’re tired? Your weariness can also come from the fact that you’ve been working hard and impacting the lives of not just one other human, but at least 18 others! And their parents. And their siblings. That’s tiring work! You’ve already established a mindset in your students (I hope) that they are learners, able to use their learning to make a difference in their world and community. That takes effort on your part, and while you may not have received any feedback yet, you have made a difference. (By the way, my personal kids tell me all about their teachers’ cars, families, food preferences, and favorite colors. Your students love everything about you!)
2. You may be their only bright spot. You may be the only smile your students see, the only hug they get, and the only road that leads them out their current cycles. Some students go home and count the minutes until they are back at school, where they are safe, loved, and happy for a few hours. This alone can motivate us to keep pushing through these busy, overwhelming fall months. You can be the reason that they love school, whether you are tired or not.
3. You know your students best. It gets hard when people who don’t know your students and their situations tell you what they think is best for them. Especially if those people aren’t educators. Instead of letting this discourage you, take it as an opportunity for a breather. Step back, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you are the professional in charge of teaching your students. Think of their needs and your teaching goals. The advice you’re given from those on the outside, who are usually just trying to help, may actually be the best advice that you need! Or, it may be a reminder that what you are already doing is what’s best for your students’ education.
So weary teachers, when you feel like giving up, remember those kids’ faces that lit up today when you told them how smart they were. Remember those parents who wrote their gratitude to you for encouraging them to keep reading, keep counting, and keep writing at home with their child when he or she needed it, ushering in a change in learning. Remember the girl who told you how good you smelled and the boy who told you how pretty your smile was. Remember the little guy who will go to bed with more food in his belly and more confidence in his heart about learning and life and people.
Because of you.
Remember it all, and rest easy. Our students–they are worth the weariness.
Rest up, weary teachers. Tomorrow is another day!