Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Keeps You Going?

Teaching is really hard work.

Not only is it hard, it is relentless. We start most every morning with a meeting, so we better be ready to roll when the students walk in the door. We have short lunch periods (usually accompanied by a duty) and a planning period that is never equal to the amount of work that needs to be done in that time. We spend our days teaching, monitoring, questioning, noticing, grouping, helping, differentiating, showing, telling, encouraging, listening, improvising, answering, documenting...and every now and then we get to sit down for a minute.

So what keeps you going?

For me, it's my recess duty. Fifteen minutes spent outside in the fresh air rejuvenates me. Sure, I'd rather not have the duty, but without that duty, I'd go all day without stepping outside. I love the young naturalists who catch grasshoppers and bring them to show me, and who wonder what kind of bush that is over by the swings that has the red berries on it (Yew -- I looked it up on Google and I'll tell them at recess tomorrow). I love the kickball game when it's going well, and I even love slowly but surely teaching kids in conflict to use their words and talk it out before jumping to conclusions and assigning blame.

What else keeps me going? Reading Elephant and Piggie books with my new-to-the-U.S. ELL student from Saudi Arabia. She's a sponge. She's picking up lots of oral language on her own, but she needs me to (begs me to) sit beside her with Gerald and Piggie so she can echo read with me.

The readers at the other end of the spectrum in my two language arts classes fuel me, too. The ones who have read every Lunch Lady book like they were starving, and the ones who have so much to say after we read Capture the Flag during read aloud.

And I'm energized by my vision of what my language arts classes are going to be like in a few more weeks, when the norms are fully established, the fall diagnostics and assessments are completed, and we really dig in and begin the work of growing readers and writers. We're not there now, but we're going to get there.

What keeps you going?


  1. Such a great topic! That's so funny that you mentioned recess duty, because I would rather not have it, but being outside, watching them create their own fun, or just getting a few moments of sanity with teacher friends is a great thing. It's also energizing when u break through with a student and they begin to see themselves as capable or when a student gets super excited about reading a book they've never read and get annoyed when reading is over. Sometimes they become the teacher and they repeat back things you only said once to the class. So many moments in teaching...even if it is at times exhausting! :)

  2. Perfect post for this time of year! For me it is when the "light bulb" goes off for a student who didn't quite think they were going to understand the new concept YET.

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  4. Nice thoughts to hear as we settle in, Mary Lee. I don't have recess duty any more, but do walk over to the lunch room and sit with students just to talk. We have a patio/lunch area for eating out in good weather & you are right, it is good to get some sunshine. What keeps me going is the students & the conversations with teachers about students. I think teachers are special and work too hard, but don't quit. Inspiring always.

  5. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Mary Lee. I wish every teacher followed your blog. It is so inspiring!

  6. The student who stays after class to clarify a point or get advice on a project - she keeps me going. And this week, the student who realized I taught another class later in the afternoon right near his afternoon class - he now stops by each day just to say HI and share a story from his day or to ask how my afternoon is going. So sweet.

  7. Love those action verbs you used to describe our jobs! :)

    What keeps me going is to be walking around my classroom while my students are working/discussing and to hear them bouncing ideas off of each other and even going to the text to prove their point. LOVE it!


  8. If I were in the classroom right now, I would hope to be inspired by students and colleagues like you. These are strange and trying times in schools, and Mary Lee...your students have a true gift in you and in all such teachers who love them and keep blowing so gently on that learning flame. *Clink!* to you and to the weekend too. Cheers, friend. a.

  9. Hmmm... I love recess too, especially at this time of year. I do the shift that has the end of kindergarten recess, which is a total blast, then shifts over to middle school, which is fun in a whole different way. And I love sharing a great book with kids, and have them clap at the end, or just sit super quiet, deep in thought. I also love working with teachers as they reflect on their practice, and refine, and try, day after day after day, to do what's best for kids.Maybe most of all people like you, who do their work so deeply and thoughtfully, keep me going! Thanks much for this post, dear friend.

  10. Besides the spark from my students and colleagues one more thing that keeps me going is reading blogs that inspire. One of the blogs is this one. Thank you!

  11. Mary Lee,
    Hmmm....I loved the thinking behind your post today. We probably need to think about this often. Thanks for sharing your list of what keeps you going it made me smile. I especially enjoyed the thought of what our workshops will look like in a few weeks after routines are in place and students have a repertoire of focus lessons to work from each day.

    One thing that keeps me going....having time to catch up on blogs of so many inspiring educators. :o)



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