With ongoing, drastic cuts in education funding, teachers around the country are doing more with less. Many also feel unsupported by parents and administrators and overwhelmed by instructional mandates.
To thrive in this environment, teachers do need to have a lot of grit. Fortunately, there are ways that they develop this capacityand in turn bring more joy and energy into their practice.
So, how do we develop the reserves and passion we so desperately need, especially at this point in the year? I don't think the answer lies outside of ourselves. Resilient teachers discover their own power to find meaning, solve complex problems, and make meaningful connections.
There is a groundswell of teachers who want to move away from the factory model of education to education for the next generation of change-agents, from teachers as sages to teachers as co-learners. You'll find these teachers on Twitter, many of them actively participating in subject area chats or sharing their inquiries or relevant resources with colleagues near and far. These teachers are accessing new knowledge, techniques, and resources by taking part in webinars and google hangouts. You're probably one of these teachers if you're reading this blog post during lunch before your next period starts in three minutes.
Additionally, I've found that resilient teachers tend do the following:
- Find their mentors: Resilient teachers find the people around them who are in love with their work. The positive energy from colleagues and seeing people find success around you can provide you the momentum you may need at that time.
- Plug into relevant networks: Resilient teachers also know that they need to lean on the expertise of their network to find solutions to the problems they are facing in the classroom. There is no need to do this work alone, to close your classroom door and become stifled in silence. By being part of a school, local, or national network, teachers can ways to make their work more impactful.
- Find the intellectual challenges in their work: Resilient teachers are deeply interested and invested in knowing how their student think and learn. They go beyond the limits of curriculum and find relevant connections in students' lives and bring them into the classroom. They are energized by continuously finding new ways to push their students' thinking and learning.
- Align their values to their practice: Resilient teachers align their beliefs about teaching and learning to their classroom practice. They also face their own fears and vulnerabilities and are willing to speak up in their community when they disagree with the decisions being made about students' lives.
- Find ways to empower their students: Resilient teachers strive to leave their students more curious and courageous. They find ways to leverage their students' interests, inquiries, and investments and make relevant connections to the work being done in the classroom. They also find ways to bring experts to the classroom and find appropriate audiences for the work their students are producing.
I have been thinking about ways resilient teachers set themselves apart and turn to themselves to find the motivation to keep going. I am curious to read your thoughts via comments. What are some things you've observed teachers do in your school to overcome obstacles? Thanks.
Meenoo Rami is a National Board-certified teacher who teaches students English at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Pa., and co-chairs EduCon annually. She is the author of THRIVE, out this month from Heinemann. Meenoo also runs the weekly Twitter chat #engchat, which brings English teachers from around the country together to discuss ideas related to teaching English.