I need to admit something. I am dead. Dead-tired. Exhausted. Fatigued. Drained. Emotionally and physically spent. And no, I don’t need a trusted colleague to play an armchair psychologist. My cheese is not off its cracker. Things aren’t that bad.
You see, I am simply a teacher. In fact, I am no different than the other three million plus teachers in our country who are giving their hearts and souls to this demanding, but extremely rewarding, career. This culminating tiredness is normal in my profession, and it is certainly a personal, recurring end-of-the-school-year fact during my fifteen years of teaching. But leaning on Ovid’s age-old adage, “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop,” I am reminded of the necessity to heed the inner calling of a seemingly illusive trait called balance.
As I embark on a two-month hiatus from classrooms teeming with thirty-to-fifty energetic teenagers, I am completely awake to the preparation needed to be the solid educator of my dreams. Yep. It appears I need to take a crash course.
It’s called Educator Resuscitation 101, and it just happens to be a prerequisite for summer learning.
Let’s take a look at the syllabus.
Assignment #1: Celebrate a Graduation
One of the most rewarding perks of being a high school educator is the privilege of attending graduation. Witnessing seniors bedecked in their caps and gowns as they eagerly step under a shining five-second spotlight is truly a magical moment for me. Not only does the ceremony put an exclamation point on a job well done for all involved, but it serves as a reminder of my goal in education…to help students reach theirs.
Assignment #1 is an easy task. It will certainly be heartwarming, celebratory, and well-deserved. But will it be a challenging, initial assignment? Nah. My particular assignment falls on Friday, May 24th, at 1:00, and it will be effortless. All the hard work was done in class.
Note: If you choose to participate in Educator Resuscitation 101 and a high school graduation does not meet your need, please feel free to substitute one of the activities listed below:
- Attend an elementary, middle school, or high school awards ceremony.
- Participate in an elementary or middle school field day.
- Take time to sign students’ yearbooks with thoughtful and inspirational messages.
- Make that one student who can’t be checked out early on the last day of school feel special by striking up a conversation that is predicated solely on his unique talents, his summer plans, and his personal dreams. (Likewise, asking this same student to help move classroom furniture, tear down bulletin boards, or perform any task that subliminally communicates punishment for being the only kid without a ride home will most definitely warrant the grade of F- for the first assignment.)
Assignment #2: Take a Break
I jokingly tell my colleagues, “To avoid a potential cardiac arrest from all the teaching stress we must remember to take a rest.” But putting all facetiousness aside, teaching stress is real, and assignment #2 is designed to combat the strain ten months of teaching has created. However, since assignment #2 is lacking in specificity, each course participant has the freedom to choose a personalized, relaxing activity.
Take, for example, me. Unless it’s on a bike, I simply don’t sit well. My idea of relaxing is hopping on a road bicycle and hammering out fifty miles on lonesome back roads in the foothills of Northeast Georgia. There is just something about the continual spinning of the bicycle crank and the humming of rubber on asphalt. I guess the merging of the two produce a therapeutic cadence that releases all tension. For me, three hours in a Lazy Boy recliner with a remote control in one hand just don’t compare.
For some educators, taking a break is synonymous with other activities. Please participate in one of the following or create your own activity to receive credit for assignment #2:
- Take a family vacation. (Note: If “family vacation” involves in-laws, please “double-up” and select another activity from this list as stress levels may surpass those measured at onset of vacation.)
- Treat yourself to a deep-tissue massage. Yeah, you may feel like your muscles are tangled-up steel cables when you arrive, but you will feel like a wet spaghetti noodle when you leave.
- Lose yourself in a mindless chore. Surely you are like me and have an endless to-do list that has been buried under the ordinary stack of weekend papers. Well, now is the time to attack those responsibilities that weren’t high on the priority list. You might be amazed at how pulling weeds in the garden, painting a fence, or cutting the grass will allow your tired mind to rest while you get something done. (Note: If you still are not convinced, come to my house and I’ll let you practice with my to-do list before beginning assignment #2.)
- Begin a hobby. Do you have something you have always wanted to do but made excuses to never begin? Me, too. Perhaps I’ll take up playing the guitar soon. Let me know if you begin playing an instrument. Maybe we could start a band. Hmmm. Our first song could be a spin off Huey Lewis and the News’ “The Power of Love.” Just imagine the audience chanting our band’s name, Baldy (see my profile pic) and the Truth, as they call us out for an encore of our hit single, “The Power of Teaching.”
- Reconnect with nature by hiking, fishing, and camping. Let’s face it. Teaching often equals cinder blocks with no windows and no greenery. So, why not take a hike and explore the great outdoors? Who knows. The fresh air and sounds of nature may drown out the trials and tribulations of the past school year. I’m not saying you’ll sit at the base of some giant Oak tree and pen a masterful poem reminiscent of the Romanticist Walt Whitman, but assignment #2 may help you reconnect with someone you recently lost due to overworking. Yourself.
Assignment #3: Reflect on the Past
All professional development courses require constant reflection on best teaching practices. In order to eliminate any pedagogical inefficiencies, Educator Resuscitation 101 calls for an honest self-reflection that involves an in-depth look at the positives and negatives from the past school year. Here are a few suggestions for accomplishing this task:
- Ask yourself, “If I were to re-do the past school year, what would I do differently and why?” Don’t forget to impulsively jot down any ideas that flood your mind. Sometimes the knee-jerk reaction is the accurate reaction.
- If available, review any student feedback that offers any insight into how you can improve. Take a look at this survey I used to begin second semester. What did I learn about myself? The students said, “Slow down. You go too fast sometimes.”
- Invite a positive-minded colleague to engage in a discussion about professional improvement.
- Assemble a team of passionate colleagues to meet a few times during the summer to share any ideas. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying start a 12-step group called “Teachers Anonymous.” Although, announcing to a large group of compassionate teachers, “Hi, I’m John, and I’m an overworked, very caring educator who is somewhat addicted to providing inspirational and challenging learning environments so students may create the lives they have only dreamed of,” would surely be a welcomed statement. Likewise, their collective greeting in unison, “Hi, John,” would be just as comforting.
Assignment #4: Share Everything
After completing the first three tasks, you will be ready to share and receive the best your profession has to offer:
- Start a professional blog. By making yourself transparent, you will be astounded at the wave of positive feedback you receive.
- Develop a professional learning network via social media. Perhaps the best advice I ever received in teaching was from a trusted colleague who recommended I use Twitter to learn from some of the most passionate teachers in the world (not just in my school building as I was previously used to).
- Create a Google Hangout. Whether you use Skype, Lync, or a Google Hangout, virtually connecting with brilliant educators from around the globe is too simple.
- Attend an educational conference. Believe me, there are no shortages of encouraging educational conferences. ISTE just happens to be my favorite. Hey, maybe I’ll see you in San Antonio this summer.
Assignment #5: Reimagine a Technology Toolbox
This step asks you to reconsider which educational technology resources are “tools” and which are “toys.” Here’s a peek inside my technology toolbox. All the toys have been thrown out.
Assignment #6: The Final Exam
The Final Exam consists of four simple questions. Hopefully, you’ll answer yes to all of them.
- Have you regained a sense of balance, clarity, and inspiration?
- Do those most dear to you realize that “class” never truly ends?
- Does your flexibility and adaptability mirror that of a rapidly changing profession?
- When the new school year comes around, will you be capable of performing at such a level that warrants approval from these two tough judges? (Judge #1: student; Judge #2: teacher)
So, will I see you soon at the registrar’s office ready to sign up for this amazing course? I sure hope so. All you stand to lose is a ton of stress, but you will reconnect with so much more.
And that, my friend, is called Educator Resuscitation 101. Class begins now.