Slice of Life Challenge Day 31 #sol18

For the final slice of life 2018, a message of hope . . .

“I started my acting class yesterday!”  The light outside the library windows, still imbued with spring morning color, shone through onto the carpet.  As I stood across from my excited colleague, I observed similar light emanating from her eyes.  Her son, a middle school boy, had recently auditioned for and earned a lead role in a theatrical production.   A few weeks back, my colleague shared this impressive news with me.  In telling me, she literally exuded excitement for him, so pleased that he’d discovered what was for him, a new passion.  Shortly after that, I learned she had enrolled herself in an acting class.  “Just to learn what this acting thing is all about,” she reported.

When she told me this week the class had begun, I immediately thought back to my own theater experience. While working as an eager new teacher at my very first middle school, I had once offered a Thursday theater improv class for interested students.  Every Thursday morning, all teachers on my staff taught an “interest group,” a little course typically outside academics for which they had a passion and an expertise.  Teachers offered such mini-courses as knitting, archery, creative writing, origami, basketball.  I remember this fondly as a time when there seemed to be more time to get to know students, to play a little bit sometimes, to breathe.

As a specialist no longer working in my own classroom, I now see teachers struggling to breathe, struggling to maintain, struggling to balance the many pressures exerted on them.  Teaching is not what it once was, we all know that. We feel that.  Nor should it be, I recognize that, too.  But I am hopeful that the pendulum in our profession will swing back, at least a little.

Chatting with my colleague in the library this week helped me to feel heartened for her.  The brain loves novelty.  And I could see new sparks of inspiration electrifying her in ways I don’t know that I had ever seen before.  My hope for teachers, for all of us really, is that we can find those little avenues in life that not only sustain us, but light us up;  those paths of inspiration that help us come to school rejuvenated and more of who we are.  Because it’s important we stay in this profession.  It is.  This work matters.

And we’ve got to find ways to breathe.

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Author: Lanny Ball

For more than 23 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy and reading consultant in Northwestern Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops, twowritingteachers.org.

18 thoughts on “Slice of Life Challenge Day 31 #sol18”

  1. Lanny, you are absolutely right. As a classroom teacher for 16 years, it’s not getting easier with time and experience. I’m drowning most days. Hard to feel joy and see light when you are suffocating with unfair and unrealistic expectations of what one person can do. But hope- it’s the thing with wings, right? And this profession does need us. So we must strive to connect to our passion and what brings us joy. I listened to a great podcast yesterday featuring Reggie Routman and she spoke about the need for authenticity, for being your authentic self at work. Thanks for this beautiful post.

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    1. I have heard Regie speak and she is inspirational! But you’re right, the expectations of one person are daunting. I thank you for your feedback on the post, and I wish all teachers the best in finding those connections to passions. I think it they help sustain us.

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  2. This is a hopeful post. I think most teachers have a passion outside of teaching, and it feeds the passion of teaching. In my district we are teaching our students to care more for their social and emotional lives, and this is causing teachers to look more deeply at this aspect of their own lives. I’m hopeful this also means teachers will cultivate their passions and care for themselves so they can bring that fire back into the classroom.

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    1. Thank you! I would love to hear more about how your teachers are working with students in caring for their social and emotional lives, as I believe them to be overlooked and undervalued in our public systems the majority of time. I see the spirits of both kids and Teachers being crushed beneath the machine of standards reform. Thank you for your comment!

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  3. And here’s the thing–one of the slicers shared a conversation from several years ago where he talked about how overwhelming the profession had become. Maybe that’s how it always is, so the important thing is to bring our passions into the lives of the children we touch, carving out the time and space to do that. Yep, our work feels overwhelming, but maybe it’s because we all care so much. I’m truly drafting here, and this is a conversation that needs to continue…

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    1. It does, Mel. Like you suggest, I wonder how much of the overwhelm has to do with the level of caring we bring? We want to do well by our kids and so we interpret some of the work as “pressure.” I believe the passions we can connect with outside the school walls can help bring some internal balance, which is part of what I tried to get at in this post. Thanks for the thoughts!

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  4. It always seems to hit in the spring, doesn’t it? I blame “testing season”, as it takes up many days on our campus; the grade levels who aren’t testing during these times are affected as well. And my kindergarten teachers had to test within the first weeks of school, instead of spending time establishing routines–that has impacted the entire year for them. Your post is timely and important!!

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  5. “My hope for teachers, for all of us really, is that we can find those little avenues in life that not only sustain us, but light us up; those paths of inspiration that help us come to school rejuvenated and more of who we are. ”

    This month of slicing , along with Tuesday slicing, is one of the paths that help me breathe.

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  6. Thank you for this hopeful post. It took me back many years to when we had a “club” period once or twice a month. Teachers would work with students sharing something they were passionate about. It was such a wonderful way to interact with different students and get to know them better. Let’s hope all teachers can find how to breathe.

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  7. This is so important, Lanny, and so hard to do right now! I wrestled with the threat of burnout for years before I figured this out for myself, and I hope every teacher finds that something that will keep them afloat and rekindle that spark so they can continue this very hard but very awesome work we have!

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  8. I’m so glad I stopped by one final day. Your message reflects your caring heart for your colleagues which I think must make you very good at your job.

    Everytime I stop by, I am amazed by your craft. For example, this section, “The light outside the library windows, still imbued with spring morning color, shone through onto the carpet. As I stood across from my excited colleague, I observed similar light emanating from her eyes,” is amazing. Another line that really struck me was “… I could see new sparks of inspiration electrifying her …”

    I will try to remember to look for passions in my life that are “new sparks of inspiration!” Thank you.

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  9. Thank you for the inspiration and hope. Sometimes I have felt like there was no time to breathe. I do the March challenge for me, and despite the moments of struggle, it helps me breathe. Thank you for your insights.

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