My niece and nephew visited my Arizona home for the first time during this Winter Break. I was very excited—we haven’t spent a lot of time together in the past 12 years of their lives as they live in Oregon. I stocked the refrigerator, made up beds, and dragged out the sports equipment. They arrived with intense curiosity and excitement about their desert vacation, and combined with our mutual joy of togetherness, our extended family experienced a fun week! Every time I sat down, there was a child popping up, asking to go play basketball and football, participate in Nerf battles, walk the dog, or go hiking. My sister and I were running everywhere to keep those kids active! I felt the impact of this when I laid my head down on the pillow each night to feel a deep sense of satisfaction and exhaustion before passing out a few seconds later.
Throughout the crazy chaos, my rare moments alone were centered on reflection of 2017. To be honest, it wasn’t a great year. I felt burned out, stressed out, and alone for most of the year. I proactively tried to combat those feelings with changing my teaching assignment, making new friends, and deepening my existing relationships. Those remedies did help a little, and therefore 2017 could be characterized as a professional roller coaster. When working in the people industry, what else do you expect? I can’t complain. But I want 2018 to have more highs than lows while resuming this roller coaster of life.
When I saw the #oneword challenge on Twitter, I was intrigued. The tweets from educators around the world were inspiring and thought-provoking. As I kept running after the kids this past week, I was mulling over my One Word for 2018. The pressure of the significance of one word to help me focus my professional life for 365 days was as paralyzing as writer’s block. What is this elusive one word? How can I internalize it, make it my own, and honor it with my work? All these thoughts were swirling around while I was running, running, running… Then I came to the word: RUN.
Running has a lot of memories for me. I used to be a “runner” for about four years. I lost 40 pounds while participating in a “Couch to 5k” challenge (along with healthy eating). I ran two half-marathons, one 10k, and countless 5k’s. I joined a running club and pushed myself to run faster on a high school track every Monday night. Running is no stranger to me. I’m not a natural runner nor a fast runner, but I ran to just run. To make RUN my one word, I need to apply all of its essential elements to my professional life: discipline, endurance, and diet.
Discipline… otherwise known as “Sticking to a Training Plan”
To run as a teacher, I need to ensure consistency of a few important parts of my classroom:
- Individualized communication with parents (don’t hide behind efficient group email blasts).
- Small group instruction of all students (not just focusing on intervention).
- Networking with a vast assortment of educators (not just my grade level team).
Endurance… otherwise known as “Pushing Past Your Comfort Zone”
I need to show perseverance while running my educational course:
- Write more! I’ve noticed that every time I write, I find out more about myself.
- Read more! I am a lifelong learner who needs to find inspiration and wisdom to keep going. Even when there is a mile-high stack of papers to grade, I need to push past the exhaustion and spend some time in books to become a better teacher.
- Speak up more! Arizona is having a Public Education Crisis. I need to join the movement of educators who are passionately standing up for equal rights of education. I cannot sit and take this any longer. It’s not okay that I work three jobs to support my family. I need to make my voice heard!
Diet… otherwise known as “Regulation for Self Improvement”
The best part of running is the in-depth knowledge of your body and specifically what it needs to function to its best ability. The same applies to getting to know my students. How can I get to know them better to help them improve?
- Soft Start Check-In: as the students come into my classroom each day, they write one sentence about how they are doing in a journal.
- Lunch Bunch: inviting students on a rotating basis to eat lunch with me. Hopefully the relaxed setting will encourage organize conversations about their lives and promote encouragement and support amongst themselves.
- Volunteer Opportunities: spend more time outside the classroom, making the world a better place. Our class went to “Feed My Starving Children” in October to box up meals for starving children in the Philippines, and it was a profound experience for all of us. There is a strong bond between individuals who take time out of their lives to selflessly give to others. We need to find more opportunities to give back to the community as a classroom family.
Running the race of education is challenging. It involves running to support others, running toward adversity and tackling it head on, and running to complete goals. Will you run the race with me?