By Mary Ollie
It’s back to the classroom on Monday, January 6 and of course I’ve not been sleeping well. Tossing and turning is as predictable as a Treasure Valley inversion in winter. For me, it always occurs the week before classes resume. Sometimes, I wake up remembering a course taught years ago. Other times it is a vision of things to come that interrupts my sleep.
Why is this? Those of you who teach know the answer. Teaching is a part of our being. It’s not just another job. Teaching is both a profession and a calling. It fills us up and it eats at us.
The beginning of a new year is a good time to ask, “How will I navigate this year?” Will my work fill me up or will it eat away at me until there is nothing left but burnout?
Each year, I resolved to be an advocate for my students. However I found it harder and harder as class sizes increased and the emphasis shifted from learning to test scores and grades. It became especially challenging to navigate the scripted lesson plans in order to truly focus on the unique talents and interests of my students.
In 2008 the challenge got the best of me and I moved from face-to-face teaching to online and college teaching. Truth is I miss my old high school classroom, the students, and my colleagues. To this day, I wonder how it would have been different if I had the skills to resist from within.
“Peg With Pen” writes about resisting from within in her October 28 blog. She offers 22 ideas for navigating the minefield of school reform. Among these are; recognize and use your strengths, align yourself with like-minded folks, listen to the children, and be kind to yourself. She ends with “Share your knowledge as an activist and as a teacher. Do not keep your best kept projects a secret. Do not compete with your colleagues – share. Share this document. Add your own tips for resisting. Collaborate. Together we are stronger.”
To my family and former colleagues who are returning to school this new year, I ask “How will you navigate this year?” What will fill you up?