Last week I wrote to you about holding on to the magic that makes you special as a teacher. It is your magic that keeps your students engaged. It is one of the keys to avoiding burnout (at least it can make the burnout take longer). It is what you live for as a teacher when your students minds are blown and they are left with the “aha” moments of learning that stick with them for the rest of their lives.
Yes, your personal magic is pretty important, and you better hang on to it for dear teaching life!
How do you tap into your personal teaching magic and how do you develop it deeper and create more?
As far as the magic that you already contain in the classroom goes, I can’t really help you from here. You have to reflect and think about what it is that the students latch on to and help them connect with you. Is it you dynamic story-telling? Is it how you build relationships? Is it how you know just what to say to make someone feel better about life? Is it how you connect with students that no one else can? Is it how you can make the most mundane and boring subjects come to life? I don’t know, but you can find out if you aren’t sure.
Talk to students.
Take a survey.
Ask other teachers what they hear from students about you.
You may not always like what you hear, but you might be surprised on what you find out students like about you. What they like is probably tied to your magical side.
It can be rough sometimes, but doing the investigative work will help you find what you can build on to make the magic happen time and time again in your class.
Once you find out, then research.
Look for teachers that are good at the same things, and find out what they do and how they use their magic. Magicians learn from magicians and then make the magic their own. Teachers need to do the same.
Research online. Are there teachers and non-teachers that are good at the same brand of magic? What do they do? How do they use their magic in life and work? What makes them magical? How can you replicate and adapt that style of magic for your classroom and students?
Lastly, look for ways to personalize your magic and make it meaningful to your specific students. How can you involve them? How can you make them a part of your “show?” Can you have students share in your magic? Can they be your magician’s assistants? Can you develop some magic apprentices?
I know I am talking in vagaries right now, but that is all I can do because personal magic is, well, personal. It is different from teacher to teacher and class to class. I hope this made sense to you, even so.
I wanted to write a little about how to find more personal magic than you already know, but I think I will save that for later this week. A lot of it is tied to you and what interests you in life. I found out about something amazing this weekend that is directly tied to personal magic, but I want to make it a post all on its own. I will leave you with a link and let you make the connection to personal magic on your own until I am able to write further about it.
You are amazing. You are magical. You do reach your students. You are making a difference! I know you are…even when you don’t feel like it. Never give up and keep on teaching, Teacher!
I am sorry that I have had little to no time to write to you this school year. Like you, I have been pulled in a thousand different directions today, and it has taken everything inside of me to keep focused on the one thing that matters: my students. It has beat me up to do this, but I think that, most days, I have kept that focus.
And, also like you, I am tired.
I do not always have the energy to be the awesome, dynamic teacher that I can be. I have kept to my commitment to pursuing the goal of my students learning and learning how to learn on their own, but I have lost a little bit of the spark that makes me a good teacher some days. The exhaustion of keeping up with all of the spinning plates that we are given makes that hard…if not impossible from time-to-time.
Spinning Plates Image: Wikipedia Commons
We lose some of what makes us great. It happens to us all. It is inevitable. It is real life.
So what do we do about it?
I do not think that we can avoid losing some of our teacher “fire.” It is an unavoidable reality.
No, I do not think that keeping all of our teacher flames burning is the key here. No. If we try to do that. We burn out and we are not much good for anyone.
No, keeping a large bonfire of teaching enthusiasm is not what you or I need to strive for…not at all.
I think what we need to do is keep the right embers burning. If we maintain intensity on the right aspects of teaching, we will avoid flaming out and be able to rekindle our fires once the smoke clears.
(Am I overusing the analogy? Probably. But I press on.)
So what do we make sure that we do not lose in the battle of every day teaching life?
Some of it will be different from teacher to teacher, grade to grade, state to state, and person to person, but there is definitely one thing that makes all of the difference in the world for our students that I do not think any of us can afford to lose. It hit me this year as I had to reflect after some very difficult weeks.
And what is that “one thing,” Teacher?
It is very simple, difficult, easy, and impossible…all at once.
You need to keep the magic.
The magic of teaching is what will keep bringing your students (and most definitely you) back for more over and over again, no matter how hard the going gets.
“What do you mean by magic?”
Magic is the mystical side of teaching. It is the not-so-quantifiable relationship between wonder, teaching, and learning. It is the “Aha-moment,” curiosity, and awe that students can have when they are truly engaged in learning about language, math, science, and history. It is the amazement factor of teaching. Those moments when the students are wide-eyed and hanging on every moment in your classroom and every word that you say. It is when sighs of frustration ring through your room when the students hear the bell.
This is the magic of teaching.
It is never every minute in your class, nor should it be. These are the crescendos to the momentum that you build with every experience that you give your students. They are what you build up to as you plan and teach. It is the moment when you can almost physical see the students make the mental connection to what they are learning.
It is the moment that every teacher lives for…it is magic for the students, but it is also magic for the teacher.
It is this magic that you have to protect, against all odds.
This magic is why you teach. This magic is what makes students want to learn. This magic is what makes school…well…magical.
How can you be sure to keep this magic alive?
That is up to you. Magic in my classroom is different from magic in your classroom. You have to figure out where the magic is for you. I have to know where the magic is for me. And we both need to make sure that the noise of education does not drown out the magic of teaching and learning for us or our students.
I teach science. For me, the magic is tied up in letting the students explore a concept. I dress it up in a problem of some sort. I let the students tackle the problem from their current understanding. I keep some of the things they need to learn hidden…like in a magic trick. When they think they have things sorted out, I introduce something that most students did not know…which usually makes their solution not work the way that they thought it should. I then give them the big picture of the concept. That is when students start to make the connections and see the real solution(s). This is the “aha” that I live for as a teacher. This is where students learn on their own (helped along by the the Teacher-Magician). This is teaching and learning, in my eyes.
This is the magic.
This is what I can’t afford to lose. No matter what.
What is the magic for you?
How will you keep it in spite of everything?
How will you make it key to what happens in your classroom?
Teacher, I know that it is hard. It is less hard when you remember what makes you special as a teacher and you hold on to it for dear life! I know you know what makes you special. I know that you know what makes your class magic. You have what it takes to make that central, and you have what it takes to hold on to that. You have what it takes to be a great teacher. Be that great teacher! You are awesome! You are amazing! You are making a difference! Keep on teaching, Teacher!
If you are like me, this school year has you drowning in the churning mix of expectations, programs, and voices telling you what you should be doing to best teach your students.
Not that these things are wrong. You are listening. You are trying. You are implementing all that you can.
But something inside of you feels lost.
You feel like a broken teacher.
I have gotten there this year, too. You are not alone.
However, something occurred to me when I was bemoaning the educational lot that I have been given this year. Maybe this “something” will help you the way that it helped me.
I am a good teacher!
I sometimes actually know what I am doing!
I have been to training after training. I have some natural abilities. I have the gift of experience on my side.
I can teach!
I am a teacher.
This thought was like the sun peeking up over the horizon of the morning of the darkest night. Hope was renewed inside of me. I felt like a new person…no. I felt like an old person. I felt like the person and teacher I used to be.
I realized that I know how to reach my students. I remembered that I know how to help them learn and become learners on their own. I have this. I can do this. I can teach!
It is not always perfect and I have a lot to learn, but I cannot discount what I can already do. I need to build on what I have, not tear down the house and try to rebuild.
I know what my students need, and if I don’t I know how to find out. Not only do I know the needs, I know how to meet them. I know how to get the process of learning to be a constant in my classroom.
I can do this!
The same goes for you, Teacher. No matter how beat-up by the extra “stuff” that you feel, you are a good teacher. You know your students. You have what it takes to get to them and get them to learn. Don’t forget this. Don’t lose this.
You still need to try to do what you are asked, keep learning, and keep listening, but you need to build on what you are already good at doing, too. You can’t fight the current of things, but you can swim with that current and get your students where they need to be.
You need to be the teacher that your students need you to be…and that teacher is you. You have what it takes. You’ve got this. Even on the hardest days.
Do not give up! I know that it is hard. But you are surrounded by others just like you. We feel the same things. We are great teachers. We know what to do. Let’s get out there and to it!
Let’s just keep swimming and do what is right. We will get our students where they need to be by being who we need to be.
Are you with me?
Good. Now let’s teach like we mean it today. Let’s be the teacher that we were and that we can be! Our students need us to!
You are so awesome! You really are a great teacher! You know what you need to do. Do it. You’ve got this. Don’t give up! Keep on teaching, Teacher!
I am sorry that my words of encouragement have been few and far between this year. It has been a rough and busy school year.
But I guess that this is not news to you.
As I talk to and get feedback from other teachers, I am hearing the same thing from them. It is a tough year. There is no time. It is all that I can do to keep my head above water.
We are all just trying to survive this year, aren’t we.
It isn’t easy for any of us, even the most veteran teachers.
This school is is just plain difficult.
I have some good news and some encouragement for you today.
The Good News: For most of us, this school year is half-way over!
And there was much rejoicing.
You know what takes to be a good teacher. Nay. You know what it takes to be a GREAT teacher. You know because you are one.
I know that this is a trying year. There is so much extra on your plate. There are so many curve balls to contend with and handle. There is just a lot of…well…everything this year. It is not easy to let your greatness show.
But, you awesome teacher, you, know what your students need. You know what is best. You know how to reach and teach even the most difficult students in your class. You know what it takes to get your students where they need to go. You have the knowledge and the know-how!
I have four words for you: Stick to your guns!
Stay true to the teacher that you know you are. Sometimes that means having to fight battles over what is best for your classroom. Sometimes you just have to go through the motions of the extra that you are asked to do. Sometimes you need to let a few of those unneeded plates drop (you know all of those many plates that you have to spin for the sake of spinning and not for the sake of the precious ones in your class). Sometimes you just have to stand up for what is right.
It is not always easy to do, but you have to remember who you are there for…your students.
I know, there is voice after voice after voice telling you the best way to do your job. Sometimes those voices are right. Sometimes you are already doing a good job and can afford to put some voices on mute. Have the courage to do that. Find the voices that count, but don’t forget your own.
Be courageous and do what needs to be done today.
Make your students your goal.
Remember them today.
You can do it!
You are awesome and I completely believe in you! You have what it takes to do what it takes. You are making a difference! You are strong and courageous. I know that you will make choices today that will help your students be everything that they can be! Keep going! Keep on teaching, Teacher!
You may have had a great day yesterday. It might have been a bad one.
You might be facing difficulty at school today. You might be looking forward to the best day ever.
You might be energized from break. You might be completely worn down from the school year.
I don’t know where you lie in the the spectrum of these between the extremes, but I do know one thing.
You are a great teacher.
It doesn’t always feel that way. As a matter of fact, it seems like the curve balls of life want you to believe anything but that is true.
But it is true.
Teaching is hard, and getting harder, but you are good at it. You have a knack for it. You are skilled. You have gifts and talents that make you one of the best.
Don’t listen to the doubt.
You know what you are doing.
You make good decisions for the betterment of your students.
All difficulties seem in the distant past when what you are doing for the sake of students pans out in the end.
You can rest assured of the fact that you are a good teacher. Cling to that for dear life.
Things always get better. You know this.
Be that excellent teacher that you are. Stand firm. Keep fighting. Keep going.
Do what you are meant to do…and be great at it! You’ve got this!
Teacher, you are amazing. You are awesome! Do not let the world around you beat you up. We go through storms as teachers, but we can ride them out. Never lose faith in what you are meant to do. You are a teacher. You are meant to teach. Hang on, Friend, it will get better! Keep going, fighting, and never stop teaching!
Happy New Year! And so a new one begins, huh? I am not sure what this school year has been like for you so far, but you have a fresh start to the second half. What are you going to do with it?
I can’t help but think of a new year as a seed. It is something that is up to you on how it will grow. Like I teach my students whenever I teach my unit on plants, seeds stay dormant until they have the right conditions to grow.
I moved into my current classroom and curriculum three years ago. In one of the drawers, I have many as a science teacher, I found a bag of beans. I had no idea how old they were and decided not to use them….until this year.
This year, I went a little “grow crazy” during the plant unit and tried to plant as much as I can using the big grow light set-up we have. I remembered those seeds. I did the germination in a damp paper towel thing, and despite the age of the seeds, they still germinated!
I planted them, watered them, and let time and nature do the rest. As I said, I grew several things all at the same time. I was disappointed that, though many things flowered, nothing came to fruit…or so I thought.
Another teacher came to observe in my room and we got talking about my plants and how the plants flowered by nothing else. He knows a lot more about growing than I do, and he started looking through them. And he found something…on the bean plants. He found little bean pods. Not only did they grow, they produced more seeds! I was disappointed in the size until some students and I started looking through the plants and we found large bean pods! It was a cool moment for this science teacher who is bad at growing stuff!
Though the beans were who-knows-how-old, they were still dormant and waiting for the right conditions to grow.
Why did I share this story?
Teacher, you may have had a rough school year. Not much may seem to have happened for you or your students. You may have seen nothing but seedlings so far…or worse, you just see empty soil.
Do not give up!
You have a fresh start coming up!
Your seeds may still just be dormant.
You just need the right conditions for growth!
I do not know what growth or the right conditions look like for you, but you do. What will it take to make that happen? What do you need? What do you need to focus on?
Stop whining about what is going wrong this year and work on what is going right! Give yourself and your students the light, water, and nutrients needed for growth! Reflect, regroup, and regrow!
You can do it!
You know what it takes!
You have what it takes!
It time to get growing!
It is grow time, Teacher!
You are awesome and I know you have what it takes to get things growing this year. You are an amazing teacher. You are making a difference. Don’t give up! Keep on teaching, Teacher!