Posted in Choose Positive, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers

Running on Empty


Dear Teacher,

How are you feeling?  Are you ready for this week?  If you are not on summer break yet, you are probably just coming off of a long weekend.  Are you ready for this week?  Are you rested and ready to go?  Are you prepared to meet this week head-on?

Several months ago, after a trip to the grocery store, I was looking at our refrigerator.  It is a wonderful feeling to have your cupboards and fridge stocked.  You know that you have enough food to last a while.  There is security and comfort in that.  You do not have to worry about having something to eat, at least not right now.  You are full and so is your kitchen.  It feels pretty good.

It does not take long for that to change.  You go back to the fridge, there is a lot less.  You look in the cabinents, and it is harder to find what you might want.  Supplies are becoming more limited.  You have food, but just not as much.  The securtiy and comfort there had decreased.

Then comes the point at which you go to get something, and there is not much left at all.  The fridge and cupboards are almost empty.  You look for what you are craving, but it is not there.  You make due with what you have, but it is by far not what you want.  Your rations are sparce.  The security and comfort is almost gone.  It is time to go back to the store and stock up all over again.  Your house is running on empty, and it is time for a fill-up.

This is the same way with our energy, enthusiasm, and excitement about teaching.  Sometimes we are full.  Sometimes we are empty.  And most of the time we are somewhere in between.

The full times are wonderful.  We are brimming to the top with ideas, patience, and love for our students.  Going the extra mile is easy becuase we have extra to give.  We are a full refrigerator ready to give out food and drink that fills other people up and gives them what they need to live and be vibrant, too.  We are roaring and ready to go.  We do not need a pep talk, we are the pep talk.  Maybe you are there right now, especially after a long weekend.  Ride out this high and enjoy it, Teacher!  Memories of these times are often what help us get though the low times.  Do good in your fullness and remember it well!

The empty times are awful.  They are, for the most part, the opposite of the full times.  You have nothing to give.  You are tired.  Patience is out of the window.  Excitement left a long time ago.  You are on the edge of burn-out or already fallen off of that cliff in to the abyss of teacher exhaustion.  You have nothing left in your tank, yet you have to keep on giving.  You are the scene in the inspirational education movie (e.i…Stand and Deliver) where the protagonist is ready to give up and call it quits.  You don’t know if you can keep doing this.  At least not this year.  Maybe you are there.  We have all been there.  Some of us get there once a school year. Teacher, don’t give up!  You can make it!  You ARE awesome and you ARE making a difference!

Then there are the highs and lows in the middle of these extremes.  You are up.  You are down.  You are all around.  We spend most of our time somewhere in the middle.  You are probably here right now.  Some days are better than others.  You get close to the top or close to the bottom, but you keep leveling out.  This is not a bad place to be.  This is where we pace ourselves as teachers.  Teaching is most definitely a marathon and not a sprint.  Keep pressing on, Teacher.

No matter where you are, remember why you are a teacher.  To make a difference in the lives of your students, both for now and their future.  If you are full, enjoy that awesome time of fullness!  If you are empty, remember you full times and find one or two students that you can focus the remaining energy on.  If you are somewhere in the middle…trudge through and press on.  Pace yourself and focus your energy where it will do the most good.  You can’t do everything!

Also, remember you students are people, too.  They are either empty, full, or somewhere in between, just like you.  You may or may not know what they have going on at home.  Try to work with them and be understanding.  Use your knowledge of them to judge whether or not you think they may be at an empty time.  If they are, use what you have to fill them up.  Teach them how to know and how to ask for help.  You are their model, and you are their grocery store.  Keep your students as full as you can!

Oh, and look out for your colleagues.  Help them through the empty times.  Glean off of them in their full times.  You are all in this together!

Teacher, thanks for reading this long post!  You are awesome!  I hope this gives you some hope and encouragement!  Pass this on to someone you think needs it the most.

You are a great and wonderful teacher, in full times and empty times.  Do what you do best!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

For more hope and encouragement: @DearTeacherLT (Twitter) and Dear Teacher/Love Teacher Facebook Page.



I am a middle school teacher who lives in the upstate of South Carolina.

3 thoughts on “Running on Empty

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