Sunday, October 13, 2013

Feeding Your Teacher-Soul

Let me lay down some truth:

1) No one understands this job who hasn't done it, but they all think they understand. People will always say stupid things like, "If you complain about grading it, why did you assign it?" They will say stupid things like, "You get out at 2:30 and get all those holidays off." It helps me to remember that if Jesus forgave people for crucifying Him, I should forgive such radical, deep-seated, COLOSSAL IGNORANCE of what it takes to do this job well. Keeps the old blood pressure low.

2) If you care about your job at all, Teacher Brain happens. This is a condition that is marked by the inability to think or talk much about anything else except what happened in the classroom and what you need to get done for school. Where ever you go, you are thinking about lesson plans or challenging students. It can make you verrrrry boring because all of your sentences begin something like, "Last Thursday in period 4...." In extreme cases of Teacher Brain, you dream about school all the time.

Now teaching is the most important job besides parenting. And I love it. But the Two Truths have made me doubt what I do at times.  Look, forever being misunderstood and isolated by my career's idiosyncrasies is no way to live my one precious life.

So here are some ways I've found to feed my Teacher-Soul.

a) Unplug. Choose one night a week to go screenless. No grading allowed. No planning. If at all possible, no talking. Find the quiet. Ahhh.

b) Read a book that is NOT a professional development book. (This is my favorite!)

c) Read Angela Watson's Awakened, a book specifically written to help us teachers deal with Teacher Brain and teacher burn out. It's reallllllly sensible, and since Watson was a teacher, she KNOWS.

d) Watch teacher movies that inspire you, not demean you. Say "yes" to "The Ron Clark Story," "Stand and Deliver," "Dangerous Minds," "To Sir with Love" and the like. Buy them. Watch them when you are down. Avoid movies that trivialize the true work of educators.

e) Schedule fun. If you don't, those @#$% essays will consume you and embitter you. (Not a pretty combo.)

f) Join social media that is deliberately teacher-uplifting. I am loving Angela Watson's "Encouraging Teachers" on MugBook. Talking to other people who really DO understand what you do is a safe place to vent without boring anyone, and no one will say profoundly STUPID things.

e) If you can swing it financially, keep your precious summers free of summer school. It'll take a little while for Teacher Brain to subside, but that time will rejuvenate you and ensure that you love your job even two decades after you started. Well, that's a personal testimony. But we simply MUST step away from the classroom for our own mental well-being.

f) Exercise! But you already knew that one, right?

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