Will you continue to be educating subsequent yr? –
Will you still be teaching next year?
through Terry Heik
Will you come back next year?
teaching, I mean. will you be back Not in the same classroom. I don’t mean the same grade level or the same content area or the same school or even the same district. I am asking whether or not you will come back as a teacher next year.
Teaching is hard; Great teaching is even more challenging. Meet the needs of each student? Impossible. And that can carry you.
It is telling how often teachers are asked this question – or asked it themselves. Engineers or farmers or bartenders or artists are unlikely to have to wonder if they are “coming back”.
The school year is structured like a kind of grind, which invites this kind of thinking. Teachers can learn to just survive from one break to the next, then finally into the summer. It’s not like you get “summer break” like the world thinks you do. There are explicit and implicit expectations of teachers during the summer.
Collaborate with other teachers, take mandatory professional development courses, stay in touch with administrators and colleagues within your school and beyond. In fact, teachers are unlikely to have much more time by the pool or on the beach than any other profession. I can’t count the number of “I hope you’re recharging your batteries” emails I received over the summer that did little to recharge and only reminded me of the fight, which was kind of like Plan should begin every August of Sisyphaean ascension.
Of course not everyone is like that. Some teachers love their job, warts and all, and can’t imagine ever doing anything else.
However, this is a gift that not every teacher receives.
Teach with optimism
So much about “life” – in the psychological, emotional, and well-being sense – revolves around beliefs.
what do you think about yourself
What do you think about your surroundings and your ability to influence them in a meaningful way? About your future and your ability to control it?
Do you feel you have choices and opportunities and choose to teach? Coming back to your craft year after year, much like you might do with a marriage or a role in the family or an important thing you want to do because it needs to be done and you feel uniquely suited to do it?
Are you chained to your job, or have you taken the shackles off, put them aside, and engaged in teaching?
In Maximum Brainpower, cognitive psychologist Shlomo Breznitz explains:
“…the brain doesn’t want the body to use up its resources unless we have a reasonable chance of succeeding. Our physical strength is not available to us if the brain does not believe in the outcome because the worst thing humans can do is use up all our resources and fail. If we don’t think we can do it, we won’t get the resources we need to do it. The moment we believe, the gates open and a flood of energy is unleashed. Both hope and despair are self-fulfilling prophecies.’
If you think you can reach students next year, you will. If you believe you are a capable teacher with the ability to adapt, grow and connect, you will. If you believe you are capable of meeting the expectations of administrators and parents and students and colleagues and yourself, even if you fail, you will not be stopped. There is very little that is beyond the reach of a dedicated teacher.
And in that room lies the title question: If you believe you “can teach,” then teach. You may need to balance your own beliefs about pedagogy with the reality of the enormity of the task of teaching every day. You may need to back off a bit. To regroup this summer and try again next year, this time a little less ambitious with technology, with data, with differentiation or with making every learning experience absolutely life-changing for every student.
But maybe not. Maybe you need that ambition and belief that teaching is extraordinary and that you are extraordinary and that project-based learning and personalized learning and that teacher across the room that you love so dearly are extraordinary.
You may be mentally tired, creatively exhausted, and have moments of doubt and wonder what you have let yourself in for during a meeting with parents or a critique by an administrator. However, that is different from stopping. These are just the rigors of a rigorous task.
So if you’re not sure right now whether teaching is right for you or whether this job at this school or grade level is right for you, give it a few weeks before you decide. And then at some point you ask yourself if you can keep that certain something – that spark of conviction that you can and should. Check yourself for ambition and curiosity and affection for students and content and social change.
Ask yourself what you believe about yourself and your ability to meaningfully impact the world around you. Maybe even put it all down on a piece of paper to see for yourself what you believe about yourself, your context and ultimately your own future.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ask yourself if teaching is good for you. Healthy. Consistent. What you want to do and be. A lot has changed in the last two years and there is no shame in doing something different. It’s not “giving up,” it’s doing what you have to do.
Somewhere embedded in those beliefs, you’ll likely see that you’ve already answered the question long before you asked it.