I know I am not alone among teachers in saying that I am feeling a little exhausted right now! Teaching is certainly a demanding career that requires us to wear so many hats, and give so much of our time, energy, heart, and emotions. Each year I am given many intangible gifts as I see lightbulb moments in my students, and watch them grow and make decisions that affect the rest of their lives. But oh my-my: how much I give, and how tired I can become. Teaching is not an 8-3 job that can be laid on our desks and forgotten when that bell rings.
How do we keep going and press on? And how do we continue to inspire our students and remain excited about our classrooms? We cannot allow ourselves to burn out. How do we fan the flames that keep us burning bright?
I challenge you to seek out your passion for your subject, amongst all the moments of you taking care of everything and everyone else. It’s in our personality as teachers, busying ourselves sacrificially from dawn till dusk, caring for our families, students, homes, schools, and everyone else we care about. And, we get it done: we get it done despite sickness, lack of sleep, and not enough time in the day with our demanding schedules. And this is where our passion for teaching can fade into our endless list of things that need to get done.
Well, it is time to get re-energized! Yes, I will echo the list of self-care: make sure to get enough sleep, eat well, and spend some time each week doing something that you love. But I want to dare you to do more; I want to entice you to take care of your passion for teaching. Feed the love you have for math, history, science, reading and writing. Feed the love you have for your subject in big and small ways.
I never aspired to be a teacher. My passion and love was for science. With a degree and career in hand, I stumbled upon the enjoyment of teaching children about WHAT I LOVED- Science. This is what led me to pursue the education degree that led to my teaching career. I came to the classroom with fervor for my subject that forged my talents in teaching that were visible, contagious, and fun.
I never want to lose that, but I have come to discover that I cannot find it in my classroom. It’s what is outside my classroom doors that keeps me excited about the things that I say inside my classroom doors. And it’s my job to find and pursue them. I teach science, and I love science! But my passion account can get overdrawn. There are “deposits” for my subject at every park that teems with creatures, water ways, and stretching trees, every sun rise bursting with colors, every flower that buds. And let’s think even bigger, because with some careful planning and budgeting, we can seek bigger “deposits.” With a recent break, I packed my bags and traveled further than the park down the road. I crossed an ocean to explore the glaciers, mountains, and volcanoes of Iceland! A beautiful country for any vacationer, but a weathering and erosion wonderland for the scientist in me! I climbed into moving glaciers, and stepped across waterfalls altering the land around them. I picked up rocks that tumbled from mountain tops and watched geysers burst in perfect time, before spilling into hot springs of perfectly warm water. I was amazed at earth’s processes in action, and I came home with stories, pictures, and a new way of teaching earth science. I placed bits of Icelandic earth in my students’ hands, and volcanic rock samples on their desks. Like the geysers that burst and filled the hot springs in Iceland, I was bursting with the passion that has filled my students.
What excited you about your subject when you first began teaching? What do you love about what you teach? Just like we need to fill our bodies with food for energy every day, we need to feed our passion for our subject. I don’t know what that means to you, but find out! I am not saying you have to cross the world to ignite your passion, but I am saying to go find something! Yes- go and find it, and don’t just wait for whatever to come to you! Find an awesome class or professional development, find someone you could meet up with, find a location that interests you and fan the flame of what YOU LOVE about your subject. We all know the horror in entering a classroom where the teacher is bored with their own lesson. Don’t let yourself become that teacher. Passion and excitement is contagious! Fan your flames and create the passion that will lure your students to love your subject as much as you do! Because, the truth is, the gift in teaching is what we share and pass on to our students. If our passions die, so does our influence.
Jessica Cicalese Kurtz is a veteran middle school engineering and science teacher at Toms River Schools. She has experience as a curriculum developer, teacher trainer, and is a regular contributing writer of NJ-teachers.com.