Finding Passion in the Final Weeks: Teaching to the End

I am exhausted.

We have one week of school left. Between all the chaos of wrapping up a year, which always involves wrangling those last-minute students and missing assessments; gearing up to attempt to run a self-paced, flipped, project-based classroom next year; moving to a new house (bad timing, I know); and then preparing to change my role next year – I'm wiped out.

Yesterday, a student of mine told me, "Mr. R, you don't seem as happy as you normally are."

That hit me hard. My goal is that every student in my classroom feels cared about, supported, challenged, and encouraged every single day. I didn't laugh in any of my classes yesterday. That's always a big sign for me that something isn't right.

Could I survive to the end of the year? Sure, but I wouldn't find value in it, and neither would my students.

I spent some time last night figuring out what the things are that motivate me and help me feel passionate about teaching, and I made a list of five things that I'm going to commit to doing each day for the rest of the year.

If you're feeling like me, hopefully these tips/reminders will come in handy as you wrap up your year.

1. Sit down with students.

I love just sitting with a student and talking with them about what they're learning. When I'm struggling or not feeling passionate about teaching, I tend to be on my computer more than necessary. I'll try to grade or plan, but I always end up feeling like I did nothing at the end of the day. Instead, I am going to intentionally meet with all my students individually before the end of the year.

2. Try something new.

I get bored easily. The times where I'm bored with teaching are the times where I'm just doing the same-old-same-old. Instead, I'm going to identify small strategies or pedagogical approaches that I want to test out, and I'll try one every day for the rest of the year. (Today is trying out a new goal check-in approach.)

3. Get students moving.

When my class feels stagnant, my teaching feels stagnant. It's typically just easier to have students sit in their desks and work, and when I'm feeling burned out, that's usually what ends up happening because I take the easy road. However, when my class is energized and moving, I feel energized and ready to teach. I'm going to make sure I build in at least one time per class period for my classes to move each day.

4. Greet my students at the door.

I am almost always outside of my door to greet students when they arrive, but when I'm tired and burned out, I tend to hide in my room more and wait for the students to come in. It just doesn't have the same energizing feel as greeting them at the door. So, I will be at the door to shake hands with my students and talk to them when they first arrive at my classroom for the next week.

5. Meditate every morning. 

I don't care what you call it or how you do it, taking time to clear your head every single day is important. I'm not great at it. I prefer to get to school early and get work done. I can tell a difference, though, between the mornings where I meditate and the ones I don't. I find that when I'm stressed or preoccupied, I forget to live in the moment. For the next week, I'm going to meditate every morning before school.

Above all, I think the key is the simple goal of meditation: to be mindful and live in the present. The end-of-the-year burnout, dissatisfaction, and and drop in passion seems to always show up for me when all I can think about is that first week of summer. It makes the last week of school feel like a prison. Instead, focus on today. Focus on your students. Focus on the moments that make you love being a teacher.

Be mindful. Be present. 

And then, when summer is here and we've enjoyed our final week being present with our students, we can feel good about singing this all summer long.