I always forget…

Perhaps it isn’t that I forget, but that it is impossible to actually remember just how exhausting it is to be teaching all day. sort of like being hit by a tidal wave of exhaustion that comes from being “on” all of the time. I love what I do, and that is probably part of it. I try to be totally present for every moment that there are students in my room – definitely one of my goals for myself. I want them each to feel seen and known, so checking out and relaxing simply can’t be part of the routine, even when they are working independently. It can be so tempting to simply sit behind my desk while they are at their tasks, rather than being up and walking around the room. When I am up and moving around, it is clear that they maintain a sense that I am with them as they take on the struggle of clearly writing out their thoughts or mastering whatever project they have to tackle. I want to have them stretch, to move out of their comfort zone, but I want them to know I am there to catch them, to keep them from completely falling. I can’t do that from behind my desk with my thoughts on my next job.

If I retreat and use the time when they are at independent work to do my own work, the students notice it immediately. They are so sensitive to the energy flow in the room. Their behavior changes almost as soon as I shift my attention and withdraw from them. They quickly become less focused on their task and are much more easily distracted. For older students, it may be that they need to learn more independence and that that separation might be called for, but for middle school, it is different. Middle school students still need that attention, that gentle hand of guidance to keep them on track, simply staying visible and being mentally present. When we offer them that, it provides them with the space to test new ideas and to grow. Most importantly, when we stay connected, they know we care.

But, Boy! is it exhausting! Between planning, teaching, grading, recording, thinking and starting it all over again, there is very little time for that wonderful contemplation of summer, where thoughts can be played with and new strategies considered. Now is the time to draw on those calmer moments and create, build and produce as fast as we can. Each new day should teach us something new about the students in front of us and challenge us to rethink what we did last year to make sure it presents this year’s group with the appropriate challenges and supports. Each new day should reawaken our commitment to the students who trust us to lead them well.

And once we have done all that, then it is time for bed! Time to refresh and start again!

2 responses to “I always forget…

  1. Ms. Hadley,

    Students of education are so often filled with idealism and enthusiasm about what kind of teachers we will be, but we often overlook the exhausting reality of a day in the classroom. One of my professors here reminds us, “If you aren’t completing exhausted at the end of the day, you aren’t doing your job well. Good teaching is exhausting.” In my own experience in middle school, I had a lot of those “behind the desk” teachers. They thought we should be independent enough to stay on task on our own and then they worksheet-ed us to death! You are absolutely right that students pick up on your energy in the room; they know it the second that you aren’t completely present. I admire your passion for teaching and I hope that I will be able to carry mine through the daily realities of classroom life as well as you have. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. I am currently working on receiving my Teacher Certification and I honestly can’t wait for these moments when I realize how my presence, actions, or possibly lack thereof affects a classroom. I think its great you’re aware of it because there are many teachers especially in inner city public schools that assume since the students aren’t doing well or the environment is assuming that they aren’t going to do well, then it doesn’t matter if they’re in tune or not with the students and then atmosphere/dynamic of the classroom.

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