What You Can’t Afford to Lose


Dear 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.)

Burning Embers Image: Wikipedia Commons

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.

Magic.

You need to keep the magic.

Image: openclipart.org

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.

wpid-storagesdcard0MemesAwesome-High-School-Teacher.jpg.jpg

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?

Image: Wikipedia Commons

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!

Love, Teacher

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2 comments on “What You Can’t Afford to Lose

  1. Jardel Stratton says:

    Dear Teacher,
    Thank you so very much for the messages you post. This weeks message on finding and maintaining your personal teacher magic is just what I needed to hear. Thank you for your thoughtful insights!

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