I wanted to remind you of a few very important things. Some things you likely already know, but may have forgotten.
You have incredible power. Power to connect, to nurture, to ignite. You are one person capable of immense, noble, life-changing things. Ignore the dooms day news surrounding your career. Yes, Finland seems like a good place to live- or Canada even. Yes, the grass may be greener in another school, with another _____ (fill in the blank). Or not. Education is a messy business. Embrace it. When you start to feel despair creeping in, when you start looking at the scope of what you do on a grand scale, stop. Bring it back to the small space where teaching is about one teacher and one student and the human connection made here. Breathe. Love. Connect, one student at a time. No matter where education is “going”, or what a new initiative brings, don’t throw away the gift of now- the place you are right this very minute and what you CAN DO right now. You can be hopeful. You can be compassionate. You can be present.
Take care of yourself. Your students need you to do this. Put on your oxygen mask first so your teaching can be a gift of yourself to your students. They need your mind, body, and soul to be nurtured. You can’t give to them what you don’t have. Go to that one hour yoga class instead of grading papers. Go for that walk or that run. Stretch. Craft. Your impact in the classroom will be felt when you are giving to yourself outside of school hours. The papers can wait. You are more important. Give yourself permission to make self-care a top priority. Give yourself permission to slow down. Don’t wait for someone else to do this. You have virtuous and honorable work to do. Work that requires you take care of your whole beautiful self.
Ask for help. When you feel like you are struggling to close the “knowing/doing” gap, get support. Share your struggle. We need more honesty and vulnerability in teaching. We need you to be mission-driven, to take what you know and DO it, in the classroom, every day. All of those “best practices” and research based interventions you learn about on professional development days- yes, they can be overwhelming. Find a little bit of something and apply it in your classroom. Take the leap. Choose risk over complacency. It will be messy. You are not guaranteed success. We need you to acknowledge how hard this is, and show others how to lean into the hard, the uncomfortable. Your school community desperately needs your integrity, your willingness to show your commitment to your students, to best practices, to cultivating a love of learning- even if it means making mistakes, or even falling flat on your face. But don’t try to go it alone. No matter your school culture, there is at least one person you can reach out to. Reach out, ask questions, co-teach, share, plan together, reflect. Let yourself be seen. My advice here is the same for your colleagues: Breathe. Love. Connect, one teacher at a time. Laugh often. Remember your work is serious and it’s not. Take delight in your students, in each other.
Most importantly, choose hope. There are amazing things happening in classrooms all over the country, things that don’t often make the news. Be a part of this movement, a part of the solution rather than the problem. Ignore the curmudgeons- maybe they just need to see hope in action. Maybe not. Regardless, do your thing. Be this person in your school communities. Focus on what you can do, right now and connect with others who are doing the same. We need these hopeful little cohorts all over the place. We need them to grow and spread like wildfire. Can you see it? You have the power to start this fire.
Dear teachers, take good care of yourself over the holidays. Use it as a reset. Rest and refill your tank and start thinking about a sustainable way to do this into the new year. We have important work to do. The most important work- and we can do it, together.
Your Fellow Teacher