I am so glad that there is only one more instructional day in this semester because I haven't been a very good language teacher this semester. Really, I haven't. I am so ready to find and push the RESET button on this school year. Add to that the fact that I have genuinely felt burnout this semester during a time in my career that I was transitioning to a new campus and a new role within the language department there. Needless to say, it hasn't been an ideal time to NOT be at my best. I can tell you with confidence that through tough reflection I have identified at least a few areas where I can make some changes. Here's what I know:
Probably the factor that has most affected the quality of my teaching has been everything in my life outside of my teaching. Really, this bad season started in the spring due to some challenges I faced in my home life, and let's face it, if things are tough at home it is really hard to give others your very best self. Another external force was my involvement in the leadership of our state organization. God bless anyone who takes that challenge on! What you don't know when you sign up for that job is that it isn't the hands on work that stresses you out, but the vast amount of communications, discussions and thinking that pull your attention away from your day job and that absorb much of your personal free time. The stress level you feel also increases exponentially in the light of all the things you put on hold to handle things that really have little to do with your own day to day reality. It is a very big challenge to be even partially responsible for the health of an organization that serves hundreds or thousands of other professionals. The passion and hope you feel to do good for others can be intoxicating, but on the other hand the pressure can be daunting. THEN, you come back to your own reality to see the house is a wreck, you are behind on grading and lesson planning, and the end of the grading period is just a couple days away. Goodness! I am so ready to get back to normal again! Just yesterday I was scrolling through my social media when I saw a graphic that stopped me in my tracks. It was a photo of an empty tea cup with only drops of tea left behind. There was an anonymous quote superimposed over the image that said:
"You can't pour from an empty cup."
Yep, that about sums it up. Someone, hand me some tissue. That is my life right now.
One can be TOO creative. And when I say ONE I really me ME. This week I was tutoring one of my students and looking through my flash drive for a handout I knew I had that I felt would help her when I saw the materials I used last year for the unit we are in the process of finishing. I was so incredibly disappointed with myself to the point of wanting to cry. Seeing those materials revealed to me that my innate sense to be creative had gotten the best of me. Right there in that drive sat already finished, proven materials that were GOOD. Not just GOOD ENOUGH, but GOOD, and I hadn't used them. Crazily enough, I hadn't trusted myself to even really take time to look at what I did last year to evaluate what worked and what didn't to inform my teaching this year. Now, before I go on beating myself up I will take a moment to remind myself that I probably didn't take time to look at what I already had because my time was consumed with other things (refer to the previous paragraph for more details) or maybe my normal planning time was just that limited. For whatever reason I didn't trust myself and the work I had already done. I am going to say the following statement with humility, shame and frustration... My creativity, the thing I value the most about myself as an educator, can be a curse. Not everything needs upgrading. Sometimes what has been done is good enough. Sometimes the things I have or have done are JUST RIGHT, so I should just stop myself from doing more. Sometimes my "more" is just another thing that drains my battery or empties my cup and then becomes my undoing. Et tu Amy?
Thank God for husbands, even when they say the hard things you don't really want to hear. It was my husband who was the winner of the Wisest Man award this week when I told him that I might be tired of teaching. Every night this week he asked me whether or not I was okay, and said that I wasn't myself lately. I came home last night in a funk so ugly you could have turned to stone if I looked at you. Man, what is it with me and Greek and Roman references today? So, when he heard me say, "I think I am tired of teaching," he replied with, "Hey now, teaching pays the bills." Ouch. Further on in the discussion he told me that he never sees me really turn teaching off. I know this. I know this, but why is it the thing I so easily forget? If I really take inventory of things I see that most of my time is spent on things related to teaching. Most of my social media is connected to teaching, most of my free time I am looking at things related to my teaching and most of the people I interact with are other educators. Don't get me wrong... I love them, but just like what we see in this generation of teens, sometimes too much exposure to things can make us feel less than adequate as teachers. We should be careful not to launch too many criticisms into the universe, but also not to expose ourselves to too many either. What we/I don't realize is that sometimes even that next new idea can make us feel like we aren't doing enough good. So, then we/I feel pressured to push for MORE. It can be exhausting!
This weekend I have to hold it together long enough to get my end of the semester grading done. That process will start right after I hit the POST button on my blog. After that, I am going to spend the week really focusing on dotting the i's and crossing the t's to my semester so that if nothing else I can finish WELL. Then, I am turning teaching off. I can already tell it is going to be hard. For the whole of the winter break I am going to try hard to...
- not look at, look for or post anything related to my teaching
- not have any conversations about school, teaching, blogging, or presenting
- not look at, read or listen to anything in Spanish
- enjoy the moment and be present
- read and watch for PLEASURE
- give and do for others
- regroup internally and mentally
- clean and organize my home
- explore parts of my city I have never seen
- do things to be more active physically
- focus on my personal health
I hope many of you will join me in really taking a break. I challenge you all to make a point to only connect to each other in a personal way. Let's make a holiday resolution to pour into each other as people rather than as professionals. I need this season to pass so that I can move to a good season. What better time to do that than during the holiday season. So on that note, this is the last time you will hear from me as a professional until after the holidays. Cross your fingers for me because I feel a little like I am going to rehab.
Happy Holidays to you all! May God bless you and keep you and your loved ones this season!