Who are your teaching champions?
As I am starting to prepare for this upcoming school year, I have taken some time to reflect upon what has happened over the past year. The list of things I have been able to be a part of and have accomplished is longer than I had realized and they expand way beyond the #PhysEd and #ORedu community. I am proud of having taught, coached and completed my Master’s in Educational Leadership at the same time. So I had begun wondering to myself this summer why I didn’t feel nearly as good about my professional life as I should. Was I burned out? If I was, how could I find a way to get back on track? I have heard the term “confidence through connectedness” (thanks, Tom Whitby), but if that were true, why wasn’t I feeling any more confident than before?
Nick Provenzano, @thenerdyteacher, wrote a blog post for Edutopia about teacher burnout. He identifies four key signs that a teacher may be experiencing burnout and admits that he is feeling burned out himself. I felt some of these things after my first year of teaching and I can definitely say that I was burned out due to several awful experiences that occurred during my first year. But, this time, it was different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, nor could I figure out a way to make the feeling go away. I spent the majority of June and July feeling this way. I imagine I wasn’t alone with these feelings.
As a whole, I feel the majority of teachers are humble about the work that they do. I know that I entered the profession because I wanted to advocate for the underserved, I wanted to share my love of learning with my community, and most of all, I wanted to become a part of something bigger than myself. If you were to reflect upon why you entered the teaching profession, I imagine you would come up with similar reasons. That’s why it can seem so overwhelming sometimes to find yourself in the spotlight as a result of the aforementioned “connectedness.” Most teachers, myself included, do not actively seek the attention.
I attended the COSA Summer Assessment Institute in Eugene, Oregon on August 1st-2nd and there was one thing that a keynote speaker mentioned that has been resonating with me since. Tim Kanold (@tkanold) said that as educators we should all make it our goal for the 2013-14 school year to, “decide to become intentional about celebration.” This is not about awards, honors, or pats on the back. It is way more than that. Education is a profession unlike any other in that it is something that is so deeply personal to the people who are involved. We are constantly looking for and, hopefully, a source of inspiration and hope. Most teachers would interpret this within the context of working with students. While students will always be at the center of what we do, I challenge you to look for inspiration this year in your fellow teachers and colleagues.
In a few weeks, most of us will be attending back to school events, in services, workshops and be participating in teacher work days. Take some time to leave your comfort zone and talk to some of your colleagues. Everyone has a story to tell and I challenge you to find at least one other teacher to share theirs with you. You might be surprised at what you find.
During a dinner conversation during Day 1 of this most recent conference, I sat at a table with several of my current colleagues. Naturally, the discussion shifted to education. I had the pleasure to listen to one of my colleagues share her personal educational journey with us. It was incredibly passionate and filled with so much hope (and quite frankly, courage) about being able to create sustainable change in our educational system. This person is a champion for the underdog and that desire comes from the life experiences they have been through.
It was during that dinner conversation, that a funny thing happened. I realized I had found the inspiration that I had been looking for. I felt a lot pride to be able to call myself a colleague of this person and was reminded of some of the powerful feelings I have myself about education. I think that became the point. When you decide to become intentional about celebration you decide to become intentional about listening to the story that is written every day inside our schools and classrooms. A story that needs to be told by the people who write them. It becomes moments like these where you fully recognize the power of being connected to community, not just your digital PLN.
So who will be your teaching champions this year?