Saturday, June 24, 2017

Burnout, Passion, and Purpose ~ Celebrate 2017 (sixteen)

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share the celebrations from our week.  Why don't you join the celebration?

This week marks the half-way point in my summer vacation. (No, that is not my celebration!)  I have to admit I became a little nervous at the end of the school year.

This was my tenth year of teaching, and for the first time I experienced a new set of feelings.  I didn't have to hold back tears as I said goodbye.  I was ready for this year to be over about the same time I turned the calendar page to March. I even counted down the days.

This was unfamiliar territory for me, and the b-word began to slip into my thinking. Burnout. I made it past the five year mark, the one that seems to be the high water mark for teachers.  What was wrong with me?

The first week of the summer I was a teacher at our SPARK camp, and I had a camper tell me that her cousin told her that I was mean.

Those words stung.

Had I lost my passion for teaching?  Did I forget my purpose?

Luckily, I found my answer this week at the All Write Conference.  And that answer is a firm no.

The theme of the conference was:  Reclaiming Purpose and Passion.  I surrounded myself with teachers who share their passion.  I listened to experts in the field and frantically wrote and tweeted their bits of inspiration.  I mentally tucked ideas in my head that I can't wait to implement this fall (or in about five weeks!)  I felt that excitement of learning as a teacher and the desire to share that learning with others.

I reclaimed my purpose and passion.

Here are just a few quotes I took away. 

"We need our teaching to be deep and slow like a river.  We need to slow down for teaching to sustain the learner."

"Students need mirrors, windows, and doorways.  They need to see some piece of them in us."

"We seek communion with those who understand us best."

"Love yourself enough to stand up for what is best for children."
~ Lester Laminack

"I don't think anyone of us truly gets how important we are in the lives of students." 
~ Ruth Culham

"We need to remember the meaning of what we do."

"Our jobs get hard when we forget about our purpose."

"When teachers tell the stories of the impact they make, everyone benefits."
~ Lee Snider

"...investing in the lives of children. I can think of no better way to make the world more beautiful."
~ Ruth Ayres

Take time this summer to ignite your passion for teaching and to remember your purpose. 

Reclaim it and yes, celebrate it!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Remember the Stories ~ Celebrate 2017 (fifteen)

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share the celebrations from our week.

I recently read an article and an obituary in our Catholic newspaper.  I didn't know the man, but here is what I learned about him.  He loved his family and friends.  He shared his deep faith with those around him.  He was a dedicated and beloved teacher.  And he was loved in return.

Because of his illness, he was able to write his own obituary. It wasn't your typical obituary which listed his survivors and his accomplishments in life. Instead, it was a letter to those he left behind.  In his words, he reminded them to "Remember the stories." 

These words have lingered with me.

This week I have been spending time with my Grandma who has Dementia. Her caregivers, my mom and aunts, are taking a much needed vacation. I sit with her, hold her loving, wrinkled hands in mine, and remember the stories.  

I know she doesn't know who I am, but I know she knows I belong to her.  Her face lights up and the tension and agitation releases in her body when she sees me.  She kisses my cheek and tells me she loves me. We sit together, and the words she remembers how to speak become our conversation. It may be just bits and pieces, but they are still her stories.

It is hard for her.

It is hard for me.  

Several times I have had to hold back the tears.  It just isn't fair.  But it is a reminder of why I write:  to remember the stories of my own life.  I am afraid I will travel down the same path, and I won't remember my stories. Writing our story is the inscription of our lives.  It is the gift we leave behind. Inscriptions may become worn, but they remain.  Just like our stories.

It is also a reminder of why it is important that we teach the power of story to our students. I wrote stories at a young age, and I had many teachers who encouraged me to write. Today, many students think of writing as something we do just at school. Many students write only for their teacher or for a standardized test.  But they have many stories to tell, with many still unwritten.  We must help them to understand the power of stories.  We must help them to write for those they love and for those who love them.

It is difficult for young students to imagine themselves as being old like the man in the obituary and like my grandma.  It is difficult for them to think about the stories they will live to tell.  Teaching our students to remember the stories (and to write them) as young children, is a simple celebration and a gift we must give them.