Saturday, July 11, 2015

Redefining "Super Teacher"

Flashback 7 years ago, I was just starting to prepare to begin my very first teaching job. If you had asked me then and within those first few years of my career as an educator who I was, I would have proudly and firmly replied, well a teacher, of course.

Flash forward to present day- seven years, two states, three schools, and four different teaching positions later and I'd like to think I am now a much more effective and knowledgeable teacher (while there is certainly still plenty of room to grow).

But while I have learned over these past few years how to be more successful inside the walls of my classroom, I have learned simultaneously that it is equally important that I find my own identity outside of them. A "teacher" isn't all that I am or want to be.

I started out thinking that to be a "Super Teacher" I needed to eat, breath, and sleep teaching at school and at home. And this is exactly what I did. Enter blogging about three years ago and the "madness" only escalated. I would not only spend time prepping for my students, but now I was organizing, writing and creating for teachers as well. Don't get me wrong, I truly love and enjoy both teaching and blogging, but I was beginning to find that all the rest of the parts of me were suffering because of them.

This year was where all of this pressure I had been placing on myself seemed to come full circle. Call it the 7-year-itch, but this past school year, felt at times more overwhelming that my first.
Trying to find time to balance school, an hour long commute, blogging, keeping up with daily chores, working out, meal making, spending time with my husband, and if I was lucky a decent night's sleep, was utterly exhausting. I can't tell you how many times I broke down this year and felt so incredibly insufficient for not being able to "do it all" with grace and a smile on my face.

This endless amount of stress I had placed upon me was not fair to my students, my family or myself for that matter. This year was a turning point for me; a transition year, if you will. I have slowly but surely started to understand that it's okay if I do not join every committee I am asked to, to conduct a lesson or activity that doesn't scream creativity, and that I do not have to blog every week or two if I am not feeling inspired. I have learned that my classroom wont't fall apart the next day if I chose to just set down my computer and enjoy some quality time with my husband or take my dog for a walk. I have learned that when I crash on the couch every night that it's because I am utterly exhausted and the best thing I can do is give my body the sleep that it is so deeply craving. Most importantly, I have learned this year, more than ever before, that being a "Super Teacher" isn't about how much time you put in or putting on a facade like you've got it all together - it's about taking care of oneself, feeding and taking the time to cultivate those super powers and relationships that we each possess so that we can more freely share them with our students and the world.

Contrary as it may seem - I am a better teacher when I work less, not more. When I find the time to pursue those passions and other parts of me (those parts that aren't a "teacher"), it makes me a healthier, more well-balanced individual. It energizes me and gives me a greater sense of self, that I feel like I, truth be told, was sort of lacking those first few years out of the gate. That eat, sleep, breathe teaching thing is exhausting, and while I know and understand I still will have those days where I feel like this job is all consuming, I will also strive to have a greater balance of days where I leave it behind when I close the door at 3:45pm. Because I have to. I have to and want to consume myself with all of the other blessings in my life as well. Because when I do this, even though I am focusing less of my energy on my career, I will, in turn, have more energy, exude more happiness and find pieces of myself that I may have otherwise missed that I know will make me a better and more well-rounded teacher than I would have been.

That being said, my fellow super teachers, you may have noticed that I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus these last few months. I have been going over and over in my mind how to best convey my reasoning to you all and trying to decide where I want to head in the future with my blogging ventures, and for now, this is where I'm at. I don't want to make any promises as to when I will post next or create a new product, etc., because to be honest I am really not sure. I am not saying that I am throwing in the towel, I am just saying that when the time is right (and I'm feeling inspired), I will certainly share, but it is not something I am going to push myself to do anymore on a scheduled basis. I love blogging and writing and the connection that I have been able to make with so many other teachers, such as yourselves, is incredible. It is a piece of me that I cherish. But I want to make sure that it continues to be just that - a piece of who I am - so that I can take time to embrace all of my other "pieces" as well.