This time of the year can be tough. Most of the academic year is behind us, but the end is still not in sight. Not everything we hoped to accomplish has or will become reality. This may have been a year with a particularly challenging group of students. These and other factors and events may lead us to question our passion for and commitment to teaching.
Each of us will likely feel this way from time to time. The feelings can be a natural result of what is happening to and around us. Nevertheless, these feelings do not have to become permanent. There are powerful actions we can take to counter what we are feeling and change our perspective. We can rekindle our love for teaching. Here are some places to start and areas on which we can focus.
We can begin by recognizing that we are needed every day. Someone we will encounter needs something from us, possibly something we alone can give them. It may be a word of encouragement or an insightful and personal piece of advice. Or, it might be a nudge to shift focus or a strategy that leads to a learning breakthrough. These occasions often cannot be predicted. In fact, we usually will see them only if we are looking for them. Regardless of the specific circumstance, we are needed by those around us; our presence and influence are needed and so are we.
We can also choose to look forward to positive and important aspects of our day. Certainly, there may be parts of our day that we do not enjoy and may even dread, yet we have the power to choose where we will focus and to what we will give our attention. Not surprisingly, we tend to find what we are looking for. If we allow ourselves to focus on negative aspects of our day and week, these events and feelings will dominate our thinking and experience. If we choose to focus on more positive and productive aspects of what lies ahead, we are more likely to find that positive, enjoyable, and even delightful experiences will come our way.
Too, we can help rekindle our love of learning by choosing to continue learning. In fact, when our learning is focused on how we can help our students grow and become more successful, our efforts are doubly valuable and rewarding. We are reminded of the magic and enriching experiences that learning can offer, and we position ourselves to be even more important and influential to the learning of our students. Success, ours and that of our students, can be a strong stimulus for rekindling our love of teaching.
Our journey to rekindle our love of teaching can also include reflection on and reconnection with students whose lives we changed. Recalling the difference we have made in the lives of students we have taught can be an important source of energy and stimulus to recommit to this important work. We can remind ourselves that even what may seem like the smallest difference today can change the trajectory of a life. We have in our hands the opportunity to shape the lives of an inestimable number of students. In fact, for every student whose learning and lives we know we have changed, there likely are dozens or more students whose lives we changed without our realization.
As difficult and occasionally painful as it may be, our journey to rekindle our love of teaching means that we must open our hearts to the work and those we encounter in it. It is true that an open heart makes us vulnerable to pain and disappointment, but it also exposes us to the full experience of this work. An open heart allows us to share in the delights, triumphs, and passions of those with whom we encounter and engage each day. By opening our hearts to the experience, we can fully embrace the wonder and significance of what it means to be called and know we are a teacher.