Reconnecting With Yourself

Teachers have a knack for putting the needs of others before their own. Children cry out for attention, and very young children have constant needs for teachers to meet. Teachers must also meet the needs of the program that they work for. Demands on teachers are constant, and it is all too easy for teachers to focus on the needs of the others around them to the detriment of themselves.

I struggle every day with keeping a feeling of authenticity in my classroom. Being an authentic teacher can mean many different things to different teachers, but to me being authentic means teaching from the heart, from the wellspring of passion that lives inside you and comes out in the classroom. Teachers do what they do because they are passionate about teaching, but a lot of teachers have lost touch with the passion that they had when they first started teaching. Meeting the demands of everyone around them at the expense of their own needs can quickly push teaches towards burnout. Some teachers find themselves stuck in a rut when it comes to their teaching, preventing the same information year after year until the material feels old and uninspired. Some teachers just feel so drained from the energy that it takes to meet the demands of others that they have nothing left to create new and inspiring material for the class. These feelings directly affect the relationships with the children that they teach.

Are your classroom relationships run down because of a general lack of magic and fire throughout the day? How do you get that fire back and re-ignite the passion and joy that you have for teaching?

The key is to take a step back and reconnect with yourself and with the passion that had you excited to teach . You have to reconnect with the passionate, purposeful teacher that you were and rediscover the reasons why you wanted to teach in the first place. Take a moment and write down any thoughts that you have about the reasons why you started teaching.

Now that you have reconnected with that part of yourself that wanted to be a teacher, it is time to reconnect with that part of yourself that truly loves to teach. You need to define what makes teaching meaningful to you and what part of teaching you enjoy the most. Write down your thoughts and really connect with that part of yourself that is passionate about teaching.

Next you need to think back and remember some of the activities and projects that really got you excited. Some projects that excite you may even be those that you have seen but feel like you can’t accomplish. What kind of projects get you excited? Be specific, and use lots of descriptive words to define the projects.

Finally, think back to the days when you couldn’t wait to get out if the bed and teach. What was it that had you so excited and eager to be in the classroom back in those days?

Hopefully the answers that you have given to these questions have built up a spark, a reconnecting with that passion to teach that is inside you. In later posts we are going to build on this spark and use it to build a foundation for passionate, authentic teaching. Whenever I begin to feel burnt out or stressed about my teaching, I always return to this exercise because it is truly inspiring to reconnect with that passionate part of myself and remember what it is about teaching that I am so passionate about.

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Feeling Fall

Today I spent the day reflecting on “concentrating on the forest and forgetting the trees.” This phrase really spoke to me and I spent a lot of time trying to be present and with the children as they played.

Lately I have been spending a lot of time enjoying the beautiful fall colors around; driving has become a lot more difficult because the trees are so beautiful! When we went out to the playground today all I noticed was the leaves all over the ground! It was so beautiful, and it took me back to the days when I was a kid and we made huge leaf piles to jump in! Sometimes jumping in leaves was not the greatest idea in my yard, though, because our primary leaf tree was a black walnut tree. Have you ever jumped on walnuts? They don’t feel too good. This time I wasn’t going to be doing the jumping, though. I grabbed a rake tool that we had on the playground and began moving leaves into a big pile for the children to jump in. They were so happy about this new activity! They were throwing leaves up in the air and helping me gather more leaves into the huge pile. These kids are only three, though, so their attention span is not very long when it comes to piling up leaves without jumping in them. There was a LOT more jumping than there was piling.

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This is what it is all about. These moments are the trees. It didn’t take much for this moment to happen – just a little work from me, a rake, and the wonderful season of fall. And of course, all of the energy from the children that was used for all of that jumping and playing! More moments like this happen all the time. It just takes being present in the moment with the children, listening to them, and figuring out how to turn each moment into a magical one like this. Are all of the moments magical? No, they aren’t. Children have their moments, as do we. But if we really listen to the children we can find the magical moments that happen every day.

Later in the day a crowd of children were sitting in the art center playing with foam letters. They were peeling the paper off of the backs of the letters so that they could stick them on paper. One child had a hole punch and was working with it. I hadn’t seen the children working with the punch before and I was watching him. After a while I remembered that my director had let me borrow a flower punch and I hadn’t given it back to her yet. I got it down for the children and they took turns experimenting with the flower punch. It was another magical moment as I showed the children the flowers that they had made. They all wanted to take flowers home to their families. This activity can be expanded with other punch shapes, and the magic can continue.

These are the trees, and this is what it is all about.