I went out for my morning run today with Jeff Galloway. My Lolo Half Marathon app keeps me on track with the help of this former Olympian and teammate of Prefontaine. I love his pleasant Southern accent as he tells me “Just 25 more minutes to go! You CAN do it!” At the end of my run today he preached the power of Mantras. He is so sweet and gentle. He said I should say things to myself like “My legs are powerful! I can do this! I am strong and in control!” I find that during a race or on a long run I say “I got this sh*t!” Of course it is said in my head with my best home girl accent. Sappy cutesy mantras? “Nobody got time fer dat!”
Yet, what do I do when I am in the middle of the school year race? You know the one that lasts for 10 months. The one that lets you rest now and again, but usually that rest time is filled with grading and planning. This year has been one of my most stressful to date. And what is it that makes me feel so beat? It’s not necessarily the kids. When my door is closed and the class is going, things are good, for the most part. I open the door or read my email and things come crashing down. Why is that in these moments I don’t seem to be able to say my favorite mantra? The truth is, even after 15 years of teaching, I sometimes don’t feel confident that “I got it” to keep going.
What keeps me returning to work day after day?
Hope. I just keep hoping that when I return to school the next day the kids will have their homework done, the parent will understand my side of the story, the student will stop making excuses and except responsibility, my disgruntled colleagues will be counseled into a new career, my superiors will stop sabotaging the learning process and advances their staff have made at their request, and somehow the 65 essays sitting on my desk will grade themselves. Tomorrow is another day, after all.
But Haven’t I Seen This Sh*t Before?
Every year I feel this way at one time or another. Every year I have the same issues with kids, parents, colleagues. It ebbs and flows, it comes it goes, and at the end of June there is always the sigh of relief. I know that in the middle of a 10K I’m going to make it. The pain I might feel at 7K will go away, I just have a little further to go. I know that at this time of year I just need to make it to May, then it’s all down hill to the finish line. So why is it so hard to say my mantra now?
Maybe I just need practice. Maybe I need to write it on a card and stick it to my laptop. And maybe at the end of the day, as I push away from my desk, and pack my bag to go home I can say “I got this sh*t!” and look forward to the next part of the race tomorrow.
Things I do to sustain me through the school race: (in no particular order)
Laughing, Dancing, and Singing with colleagues in my shared office. Don’t underestimate the power of a dance off to Backstreet Boys “Bye, Bye, Bye!” when you have had a bad day. Or grab the ladies in a huddle for a screaming rendition of “I’m Every Woman!”
Watching a TED talk. I love the ones that make me see the world, my classroom, myself differently. Recently I found Susan Cain’s talk on Introverts. She made me love my quiet kids just a little bit more.
Reading an Inspirational Blog post or article about teaching. I love being able to log on to my Google Reader to see my favorite blogs. (Although this feature will be gone after July 1) Or to flip through the latest articles on Ed Tech and Teaching on Zite. And now I have my WordPress app reader as well.
Hearing from past students about their lives and adventures. Facebook is a great thing. I love it when I open my laptop and find a friend request from a student I had in years past.
Going on holiday that doesn’t involve grading or planning. Sometimes just planning the trip itself can be a stress release. Look at all the great places I can visit so close to home! Ich Liebe TripAdvisor.
Be present with my family. Eating, Singing, Laughing, Dancing, telling stories of the day at the dinner table is the best way to recharge my teacher batteries.
What do you do to keep yourself going when it feels like you “don’t got it” anymore?