Years ago when I was a business owner, I had a fellow business owner tell me not to get on the roller coaster of emotion that happens as an owner. It was good advice — step aside from the emotion, go forward, do the next right thing. I have never perfected that, but I certainly have had moments when its application was necessary and helpful.
Yesterday while driving in my car, I was listening to a Suzy Bogguss album from the 1990’s. A song with this chorus came on:
You change just like the weather
But the weather you know will always change
If you stay, it’ll get better
Wherever you go, it’s bound to rain.
Hearing these words made me think of the Buddhist teaching on impermanence. And I knew without a doubt that this past week was one where I was changing like the weather and frankly, wanting to just run away and hide from my own life.
And that brought me to my classroom and what I’m doing each and every day. The dictate right now is to “drill down” and to prep the students for a writing test that is a bit of a mystery as much as it’s about making Advanced Placement students out of 7th grade special education students. Yeah. And somehow I bought into that crazy notion, and drove myself mad trying to make it a reality.
My pain and frustration and emotional roller coaster last week was directly related to buying into wrong thinking.Wrong thinking about my students. Wrong thinking about my role. Wrong thinking about my purpose.
I have always believed that the single most important factor in the classroom environment is the teacher. If things are going wrong, it is on me. Me only.
Last week I could see things going wrong all around me. I found myself angry more often than I’d like to admit.
I forgot to love my students.
I forgot to make sure that with that love, I didn’t let them behave badly.
Because I was focused on the wrong things, they behaved badly, and I got more frustrated. And depressed. If you have read my blog posts, you know. I am not alone with this feeling. The exact same issues are being expressed by my colleagues.
We are burning out. And if we are to believe the meme at the top of this post, we have to know that it is because we have abandoned our own purpose, and bought into someone elses.
Which brings me to a brilliant piece of writing called “What Students Really Need to Hear.” It is by a teacher named “C. Mielke.” I found it yesterday on my computer desktop. I had forgotten all about this, but its relevance right now is not lost on me. I will be sharing this tomorrow with my students.
Here’s the reason why. It is about the Main Event of school and life — overcoming adversity. Mielke writes about how teachers lose sleep over their students because they see their students quitting at the Main Event — overcoming adversity in the academic environment. I knew immediately in my gut that this is why I am getting frustrated with my students — they are quitting in a myriad of ways because the demands I am putting on them are not putting them first. In other words, I am putting some of this on me and saying that perhaps I have had an effect on why they are quitting.
But it is deeper than that. Because I know I was quitting, too. I was feeling the adversity of the current situation overwhelming and I wanted to run and hide, to call in sick, to forget about it all. I wanted to pretend that what I was doing was going to be helpful to them because of the dictates of a sick system.
Yesterday, when Suzy sang, I remembered that I can change this. Nothing is permanent.
Yesterday, when I read C. Mielke’s words again, I knew that this is the message I need for myself and my students.
Today, when I read the meme above and was reminded that burn out is on me for forgetting my purpose…well, that is just too much to ignore.
This week I return to my purpose. Loving them. Helping them succeed at the Main Event. If I help them succeed, then I succeed as well.
I googled “What Students Really Need to Hear” and discovered that C. Mielke is actually Chase Mielke, a teacher in Michigan. There is a YouTube video of this talk. I will be showing this to my students tomorrow.