It’s the time of year for teachers when trying to accomplish all those things on your to-do list can feel like an endless loop. Like that Facebook video of the toddler sticking tennis balls in a can tucked under his arm, but every time he bends over to pick up a new ball, the one he just put in rolls out. (If you haven’t seen it, you really should. Laughing at frustration is a healthy outlet.) Okay, let’s face it: in teaching, it can feel like that just about every week.
That’s why there are so many resources for teacher self care (just try Googling it!). One of the refrains I keep coming across—along with eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep—is the importance of cultivating positivity. Hang out with positive people. Make a habit of recounting good things that happened in a day or a week.
So that’s what I do on this blog every year about this time (here’s last year’s), and that’s what I’m going to do today—reflect on some good things that happened in my teaching week:
Student connections and book choices: A student picked Good News about Injustice off my classroom library shelf and said, “This sounds like that article we read at the beginning of the year when we talked about human dignity.” (Yea, she remembered something we read back in November!) Me: “Actually, it’s by the same author! Gary Haugen, the head of International Justice Mission, that works to combat human trafficking.” She grinned and pocketed the book.
Student questions, overheard as I circulated around the room, observing 10th graders discussing an op-ed piece from the New York Times titled “Three Views of Marriage” in order to help them formulate modern relevance of some themes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Are these statistics about America, or did they get them from other countries, too?” (excellent question!) and “How did they even decide that the best marriages are better and the worst are worse? Did they use a rubric?” (Absolutely delighted a student assumes rubrics are this important!)
Student ownership of essential questions: Student to group mates as she practiced reading some of Oberon's lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in preparation for the presentation they are doing next week: “What am I thinking as I’m saying this?” (I’m doing better at working my essential question “How is acting different from reading?”!)
Student writing: Line from an 11th grade essay on citizenship (see last week’s blog for student reflections): "…[S]ometimes it’s necessary to disagree. Jesus himself overturned tables and shouted when the intended purpose of the Temple was being perverted. When the intended purpose of community is being perverted then we, as Christians, must overturn tables of our own. God created community for us so we may live in peace, and being good Christian citizens means doing what is necessary to keep said peace…. As we try to maintain peace, go about doing so using civil disobedience, seeking education and simply lending a helping hand to the people around you."
Book recommendations becoming a two-way street: A student stopped me in the hall and said, “Oh, Mrs. Essenburg—since you’ve been interested in New Zealand literature, my mum says we have a whole stack at home and you’re welcome to read it.” I said, “You and your mum pick the top two and I’d love to read them.”
Teacher learning and informative assessment: I actually followed through on my intention of the last several years to sprinkle our study of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with several close readings and annotations, leading up to a final assessment of a close reading annotation. Things to love: I did it—all 4 practice ones, going over them in class, and the final one. Also, everyone did a thorough job of paraphrasing, and one student absolutely nailed it for poetry, questions, and significance as well. Which lets me know what standard I can hold students to, and what rubric I should construct and teach to for next year!
These are the moments that make all the rest worth it. It’s important to collect and savor them. What were a few of those moments for you this week? Reflect on them yourself, and then share them with a teaching friend. It helps. I promise.