I am not the only one, I suspect, that is having anxiety about going back to teaching after several days off. The past couple of days I have read two books, spent quality time with my son, reconnected with friends, and worked out.
During the break I was not stressed about any of the following: students being on their cell phones, having my lesson plan printed by 8:30, an inappropriate statement made from one student to another that might cause violence, getting caught up with grading, and on and on it goes.
All of those I just listed could cause anxiety for any teacher. Yet, as a Black female educator, I have an additional burden and yet opportunity. Black women who teach Black children, which I do, face the additional demand of being perceived and judged over student achievement and compliance. Many assumptions made by other educators are that Black women instantly know how to give “tough love” or, even worse, will automatically be authoritarian. Each of these misjudgments and bias has placed additional pressure on Black teachers.
So about that anxiety. What am I going to do differently in 2023, even if this might be my last year in the classroom? Well I am going to set some “intentions.”
I had this wonderful conversation with my best friend over break about the approaching new year. She said she made some intentions for 2023, and then we had a good laugh about the difference between a goal and an intention. Our agreed definition was that an intention is something you have to cognitively engage in and be mindful of, and that a goal is rather some achievement received or fulfilled by a certain date. I like this distinction, because as I set both professional and personal intentions for the new year, they seem more about my daily humanity and well being, rather than some hoped-for finish line.
These are my intentions of things I will NOT do when I return to my classroom on Wednesday:
- I will not do work around my son during the limited time I get with him after work
- I will not read/grade every single word/sentence of 120 student essays
- I will not respond to student or parent texts after 6 pm until the next day
- I will not let students not “getting” something in class mean that my lesson plan and myself are a complete failure
- I will not let the CRT noise distract me from teaching Black history.
- I will not compare myself to other teachers, especially other Black educators.
These are my intentions of things I WILL do when I return to my classroom on Wednesday:
- I will continue to teach about institutional racism, colorism, white privilege, and seek Black liberation for my students
- I will meditate during my prep if I feel triggered by a student earlier that day
- I will work at 6 am for 45 minutes so I can have the after work time with my son
- I will continue to let my students know how much I love them
- I will schedule 1 specific time on Thursday to catch up on grading and contacting parents
- I will continue to bring Black joy to my Black students
- I will print out these 2 intentions lists and put them on my classroom desk
What I love about what I just did is that I set boundaries for myself. What is interesting to me too, is that none of what I listed above has to do with physical fitness. I gain weight at the beginning of every school year, which I am self conscious about. An overall “goal” for myself is to lose weight. I know the intentions I set above will have a positive impact on me getting a workout in and eating healthier so I can meet that goal.
Now is everything I listed a solution to all the challenges I am going to face at work? Absolutely not. Just like many other educators, I am exhausted. I frequently question the sustainability of teaching in a classroom full time, and yet I know just by showing up everyday I am providing consistency for my students. I am optimistic that these “intentions” will help me survive the rest of the school year. Black educators: what are your “intentions” rather than “goals” for the school year?