Teachers Get Fatigued Too. Here’s What Can Help

We’ve reached the midway point of the school year; the “dog days” of January, February, and March.

This is the gritty portion of the year. There are few breaks, students are in the thick of their coursework while teachers are trying to keep students (and themselves) motivated, and for millions of students (and their teachers and parents), state assessments are looming. But as an educator, I’d be lying if I did not say that it wasn’t hard to push through. But push we must and we must continue the intellectual rigor with vitality and compassion.

So how do we do it?

Some educators will recommend tightening up on rules and routines—so that students don’t get lax and you can continue with instruction as mandated. Others will argue instituting new instructional wrinkles or practices to spice up classroom instruction. Some will even point to themes of the coming months for teachers to center their activities i.e. Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

All of those ideas have their place. But, I would argue that what’s needed now are simple acts or quiet gestures of humanity. In other words, there are things that we (teachers) can do without opening up our mouths that will make us better educators and better people… as well as remain vibrant and effective for the rest of the school year.

The first thing we must do is become better listeners. I know it is the role of teachers to talk, lecture, or instruct. But an often-overlooked role or forgotten role for teachers is that of a listener. Who are we listening to? Our students.

I intentionally schedule bi-weekly check-ins with my students where we discuss what’s on their minds, what’s happening in the world, or simply questions they have about what awaits them in college and adulthood. It’s an opportunity for them to share and decompress. But it is also a chance for me to listen to them; to learn from them.

If we don’t listen to them, we cannot hear their hearts and we cannot hear their hearts, then we cannot inspire them to change the world with our teaching.

The second thing is we must read. Few truer phrases have been uttered than thins: reading is fundamental. The greatest teachers I’ve ever had were avid readers. I became a better teacher as I read more… I read more things in my subject area, some self-help texts, and also biographies about some of my favorite people. What I read provided me with insights and information to share with my students. It kept the classroom fresh from year to year.

We cannot be stale with our teaching. As the world changes, so too must we adapt our pedagogy and instructional praxis to fit the times where our content is concerned. Understanding comes by way of reading. Not just watching videos or attending PD. We must read to become more knowledgeable, to become better writers, and to become more insightful and inspirational; to our students and each other. 

Thirdly, we must model the behavior we wish to see in our students. We (adults) are so quick to tell students to do the right thing, yet we oftentimes expect them to know what to do—and get mad with them when they don’t do what we expect. If you want to build a culture conducive to teaching, learning, and respect, you must model that culture yourself. Here’s how:

  • Follow the directions of your superiors
  • Greet everyone you see in the morning
  • Smile when you see someone passing by in the hallways
  • Hold doors for people coming behind you
  • Arrive on time and be ready to engage in whatever activity
  • Pick up trash on the floor whenever you see it
  • Replace copier paper and report when the copier is broken

These are simple things we can model to show our students, and colleagues, what the culture ought to be in the building. People can’t grow if they don’t know. So, show them.

Lastly, we must be of service. By this I mean we must help where we can (and within reason of course). Whether our students, colleagues, or our families, when there is one in need, we must be willing and ready to help in whatever capacity to ensure that the need or needs are met.

Educators love to refer to the school as a family. But when families walk into the school building, it may not seem like that. The policies, procedures, and postures taken in our buildings could say that the school is anything but a family. Schools (should) serve as community resources where the people can receive help, and mobilize and empower young people for change. How can schools be that place when the people who work in them refuse to serve the community in any way they can?

Education is not a 9 to 5 job. Educators work on weekends, take work home, and spend their hard-earned money to be the best they can be at what they do. Schools do take a lot out of educators. But schools must be places of hope and refuge for the community. If educators aren’t willing to facilitate hope—through teaching, instruction, and advocacy—what good is the school for the communities they reside in?

Educating is about helping children rise. We must never forget that we’re also in the community to help the community rise as well.

The months of January, February, and March can feel a bit mundane and redundant for the education community. But it provides us with an opportunity to reset, reevaluate, and be reminded that we can have an impact with simple or quiet acts of humanity. Teaching is indeed political. But engaging one another is a human affair.

Let’s finish the year out by being human.



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