The honeymoon is over. Six weeks into the school year and the novelty of "being back in school" has worn off. The grind is on.
The Late Fall and Winter school season is the make it or break it point. Most teachers (and students) settle into self-sustainment and mediocrity. They weather the storm that is November through March by looking forward to the promised breaks.
This mood doesn't need articulation, you can observe it in the body language of those that surround you. They come to work a little later, leave a little earlier. They flip through a phone rather than complete their daily reflection. Dress down Friday becomes dress down Wednesday-Friday and as dress down Friday becomes wear sweat pants to school day.
As appalling as it sounds, this is the mid-year grind, and it is all to easy to fall into this vacuous trap. We can all picture teachers that embody this idea.
This is no way to teach. I'm terrified that as I age and become more a veteran teacher, I'll slip into just "putting up with it." I'm so scared in fact, that I consciously make a decision to re-motivate myself at the start of November each year; a fantastic piece of advice from my fantastic mentor.
Last year, I read a series of autobiographies describing people with an unquenchable work ethic (John D. Rockefeller and Steve Jobs). It worked and I powered through Winter and blossomed into Spring unscathed and teaching with a purpose.
This year, my motivation came a bit earlier, but none the less I am embracing it. A small passage from my favorite book caught my attention and immediately refueled my tanks. The purpose of this article is to do two things. First, convince you that NOW is the time to rev your engine (as I hopefully did above) and second, to share my motivational passage.
Mediations by Marcus Aurelius is a book I continuously read. As soon as I find myself on its final page, I return to the beginning and continue reading. The number of times I've finished the book is uncountable. Meditations is important to me.
The first portion of Aurelius' thoughts is titled Book 1: Debts and Lessons. Aurelius pay homage to mentors and thanks them. The fifth person he thanks is his first teacher. He writes:
"Not to support this side or that in chariot-racing, this fighter or that in the games. To put up with discomfort and not make demands. To do my own work, mind my own business, and have no time for slanderers."
The eighth individual he thanks is Apollonius. Regarding Apollonius he remarks:
"...His patience in teaching. And to have seen someone who clearly viewed his expertise and ability as a teacher as the humblest of virtues."
Aurelius' fist teacher embodies a spirt we should all strive to have; levelheadedness, fairness, and wisdom. Aurelius learned to do his own work and mind his own business- an important lesson for midyear teachers. Despite what others do, despite how easily others slide and become complacent, keep working. Let them carry the burden of not giving it their all. Sleep tight at night because you are both mentally and physically exhausted from a purposeful day in the classroom.
Further, don't waste the mental energy concerning yourself with their behaviors. Focus on not only maintaining your vigor through the Winter, but improving yourself.
"...have no time for slanderers" always catches me off-guard. As we enter the doldrums of the Winter, we start to sweat the little stuff. Perseverance makes big deals where it shouldn't, and we become overly critical and sensitive. Aurelius reminds us to look past the pettiness of people who think negatively. You entered teaching to help kids; a Debbie Downer deserves no mental attention.
"... ability as a teacher as the humblest of virtues." Aurelius identifies teaching as a virtue. I agree. This is the idea that will help me power through the most difficult part of the year.
Do I consider what we do as a profession worthwhile?
Something worth your time where helping others is the core purpose for the action is virtuous.
Therefore, teaching is virtuous. That makes me thankful and happy:)
How do you reenergize? Connect with The Pragmatic TV Teacher and share!
Thanks for reading.