Monday, January 11, 2010

Being Tired means You're not doing a Good Job

One of my first memories as a teacher was reading Harry Wong's The First Days of School. I don't have my copy handy, but I distinctly remember a passage that he discusses in his video series about teacher fatigue. To sum it up, Wong stated that a properly-run classroom had the teacher jumping and skipping home full of energy; not the other way around like most classrooms, where teachers leave exhausted. I asked my first principal why if this was the case why I went home tired on the days I had the students do all of the work in class that day. As with most things, my principal didn't have a suitable answer and instead blamed me for all of my problems.

I was thinking about this conundrum today as I woke up from my daily nap that I take upon returning home from work. I come home completely wiped out every day no matter what I do. For a time I thought that perhaps Harry Wong was correct and because I do most of the work in my class I'm the only one who leaves tired. I tried doing some classes where I gave the students some autonomy and I still ended up tired. I was laying in my bed one night thinking about this problem and came up with the answer--these kids are so starved for love and attention they suck us dry every day.

It all clicked for me because at my old school I skipped out the door on most days because I had enjoyed it so much. Of course, I didn't do that every day, as I trudged out on days my boss decided to tell me everything I did wrong or tell me I disciplined a kid incorrectly for reasons only known to her. Here in the public schools I was leaving tired no matter how well the day went because I was teaching classes full of kids who were absolutely parched and needed someone to approve them, tell them they were doing a good job, or most importantly, that someone believed in them and really believed they could make something out of their life. I then thought about how I was able to do it day after day, and I could only come up with that I do it only by the grace of God. Apart from that I was completely out of ideas. That isn't to say I don't need encouragement from others, because days I get an attaboy really give me a lift.

Fast forward to yesterday, and I saw one of my former colleagues was really struggling with teaching. I felt really bad for her because she's a fantastic teacher and always thought she was super cool... even though her husband was an LSU fan. I ended up messaging her and over the course of the conversation we discussed being a teacher that expects excellence from our students and how sometimes we're the only ones who do that for them. By the end it was apparent she was feeling better, and I really felt great about how my exhausting job could be an encouragement for a fellow teacher. So Mrs. Richard, if you're reading this, keep on keeping on, and remember, people who dumb things and can't believe they got caught don't just appear, they're just students who do dumb things and can't believe they got caught that just grew up.

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