Have you ever been stuck? I mean… physically STUCK? I had that unpleasant experience when I was a child, running and playing in a muddy bog (next to some lakes) in southwest Washington. The rain-saturated ground looked deceivingly solid, but with one misstep, it became a pit of despair. That happened to me as I fell into a muddy hole, up to my waist, and I couldn’t get out! The more I pulled my legs up, the very thick mud would ooze and pull them down. The feelings of frustration and anxiety quickly became the cornerstone of hysteria when I couldn’t get out!
Fast forward about 30 years, and I’m looking at the blank screen of my laptop. I need to start working on my monthly blog article, but what should I write about? My blog article due date darkly loomed ahead on my calendar, it morbidly arrived, and it passed with a sigh of disappointment- still nothing to write about. I go to Twitter- anything out there to write about? It’s mostly about who hates whom, who’s lying, and how the country is going down the tube. I go to my school- anything out there? Anyone? I hear a lot of sighing and grumping about the leadership of education- it doesn’t matter at what level. I go to our Professional Developments- oh, there really aren’t any out there. I go to the parents- how about some inspiration? I hear swearing (at parent pickup) and see finger-waggling at whatever teachers are doing wrong now. Scratching my head- how in the world do I write about something positive and inspirational when I just see, hear, and feel doom and gloom around me? How do I get out of this pit of despair?
Maybe I should have mentioned that this was in November. Our poor blog coordinator was very patient with me as I shared my serious bout of writer’s block. I would walk through the school, into my classroom, and close the door. The day begins, and I teach. The day ends, and I go home to grade papers and make lesson plans. Then repeat. What is going on? I’m really trying to find something or someone to make me inspired about education!! I really want to write about it!!
Then in December I realized that my daily pattern, no matter how carefully I planned to include fun and joy, was really stuck in my comfort zone, not in the negativity of others. I know exactly how kids function at this grade level. I could recite the grade level standards by heart. I have the curriculum memorized and can pretty much teach any subject by heart, with rigor and 100% student engagement. I HAVE BECOME A TEACHER ROBOT.
I realized that my teacher robot mindset was deeply stuck in a serious pit of my comfort zone. After closely examining how it happened and why I allowed it to happen, I came to one conclusion. I have to wriggle out of this confining pit and jump into a new project.
What could I do? Should I flee education? Should I go to… gulp… DISTRICT OFFICE? I looked back at my 19 years as an elementary teacher, and realized (the genius I am)- it’s 19 years in an elementary classroom!! Maybe it’s time to change it up a little!!
So I boldly marched into my principal’s office and shared with her my story. And how I desperately need change. I am a little freaked out. Yes, I already have the new teacher nightmares. Yes, I am going to be a… MIDDLE SCHOOL teacher!!! Next year I am going upstairs, into the middle school wing, and I’m going to teach Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders. I know nothing about sixth grade (except my children’s experience with it). I am very excited to leap into the unknown and start a new adventure. I can’t be a teacher robot when it’s fresh and unlearned. I feel confident I can become a better teacher, with a better mindset, when I have a new environment to grow in.
As my darling second graders would say to conclude their writing- “and that’s my story” of how I pulled myself out of the pit of despair. I see the light!! I have hope!! Sometimes a blog article due date is the greatest way to evaluate yourself as an educator- you should try it. And yes, change is inevitable if we want to grow. Don’t become a teacher robot!