I was recently asked to list how a teacher is feeling at different points of the year. The information was requested by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in efforts to get a better idea of when supports could best be offered to teachers. I could only answer how I felt during the school year and really my answer focused on my most recent memory – this past school year. For some reason it seemed like a modified line graph would give a good indication of my thoughts*. I’m sure teachers in different regions, grade levels, districts and even classrooms would have varying opinions, but to speak for myself, I felt this way:
After sketching my thoughts out, I realized that I was so disappointed in what feelings I had to offer. I loved teaching before I started teaching. I loved teaching when I started teaching. I love teaching now. Or so I thought. When I looked at my graph, I see that I have more dips in the school year than I’d like to admit. And what was even more concerning was that my biggest dip came for 6 weeks over the SBA testing window.
This was sad to me. I don’t feel like I go to work unhappy each day. I love being with the kids. I love teaching material. I love to see student progress. And, in a controversial turn, I love having standards that are challenging yet achievable that hold myself accountable and allow all students the same foundation. CCSS itself does not bother me in the least. So why, when looking back at a year as a whole did I find myself at my absolute lowest point during what could be deemed the most ‘fun’ part of the school year?
The answer is easy for me. The frustration of one assessment. I am a huge proponent of assessment. I, probably much like you, see the value in formative and summative assessments. I am not saying, by any means, that standardized testing has no place in schools. I am, however, seeing that the demands placed on teachers and students to do well on this one particular test in our region has led me to less dynamic instruction and therefore, most likely, less learning for my students during this time.
I’m not one to complain without a solution. So I started thinking, “What can I do to be dynamic and enthusiastic all year long?” Not only do my students deserve this kind of teaching, but I deserve this kind of self-engagement! Then I remembered the point Dave Burgess made in his book Teach Like a Pirate. Dave argues that a critical part of successful instruction comes from passion. He gives 3 kinds of passion a teacher needs to find: professional passion, content passion and personal passion.
In thinking about this I can see that content passion (what I love about the material I teach) comes easy for me. I was born to be an elementary school teacher – getting excited about the most academic of topics (Pretty pens and cute stickers come in 2nd in the excitement-inducing department!). Personal passion, or the things you’re generally excited about in life, come more naturally as well. I love sports, animals, and nature. Finding ways to integrate these into my classroom provides students with an authentic sense of enthusiasm. We’re all in our happiest place when we’re doing what we love.
So that leaves the hardest part for me when the day-to-day tasks get piled up. Professional passion – or as Dave writes, “What is it about being an educator that drives you? What ignites a fire inside you? The answer probably has to do with the reasons you became a teacher.” I have professional passion. But I forget it sometimes. Apparently I forgot it a lot in May of this year. So my summer work is cut out for me. A little rest, a few summer school sessions, a lot of professional development, and a TON of thinking about why I can’t wait to go back and see those bright faces in September.
What’s your professional passion? How do you avoid teacher slumps?
*Side-note: I’ve found this kind of line graph an incredible lesson resource for analyzing character feelings in elementary grades. With emotions on the y-axis and points of the plot on the x-axis, students can visually analyze the emotional journey of a character. Multiple characters can be compared on the same graph using multiple colors. I love this strategy for hitting CCSS reading-literature standards!
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.