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Revisiting the Fire

You can't light yourself on fire to keep others warm I blogged a while ago about a great session where the speaker (Dr.Jody Carrington) addressed the topic of compassion fatigue and the fact that teachers often forget to take care of themselves in the service of their students. Her enduring advice to the room was "You can't light yourself on fire to keep others warm". This line stuck with me as I realized I needed to take more time, where I can, to focus on me. This can be difficult as a teacher because we have a lot of people counting on us everyday to be on our A game. But we can't be on our A game if the batteries are depleted so the question becomes how do we help ourselves while not letting our work slip? I have had a lot of thoughts around this lately. If we are being asked to support so many we are going to need to figure out a way to do it without collapsing and hopefully well enough that we grow.

Building a Stronger Net

  1. Begin a PLN (Professional Learning Network)- I know sometimes going to that teacher across the hall, administrator or even another teacher in your division can be tough, admitting you need help isn't always easy. There is a relatively easy answer for this until you feel comfortable asking for help. A PLN is simply an online support system in its simplest form. I have taken to Twitter for ideas, support and discussion and met some awesome people that help me figure out the little things that might not always go well. Twitter chats are an amazing way to extend your PLN through an hour of educators chatting about everything education. Some great ones include #g2great #tlap #teachermyth #shelfietalk and well there are so many more these are just a start. Start slow but it will help you look at what you are doing and what you can do to help support yourself when things get heavy.

  2.  Practice Hallway PD-A quick "Hey what do you think about this?" or "Check out this awesome thing I just discovered" can go a long way to help build your professional strength and strengthen the net so things don't fall through. The additional upside these quick PD sessions might be strengthening another teachers net as well.

  3. Embrace your students strengths- When do I mark? How do I balance all the instruction, assessment and marking in all my classes? These can be remedied with more being placed on our students in the form of class responsibilities. Students can be taught to self assess and defend their marks. I had my students assign their own reading mark and justify with a paragraph. It was great reading over their assessments quick and those I disagreed with I talked and we had a negotiation. This reduced the time I sat "marking" journals. How many hours do you spend planning student projects? Instead co-create projects in class with students or better yet give them the outcomes and let them plan their own. There is higher level thinking required to justify an idea than just to do what is assigned and guess what? They like to be in charge of what they are doing.

Remember to lessen the load There are some things we can't get rid of. I like my job but there has been times I have not. That said I always new I liked having food in the fridge and a roof over my head so I was not giving the job up. But I could slow down on all the extra stuff. Less student news, NO MORE AR (turns out it is hot garbage anyway) Good bye pintrest lessons. Teachers when I was growing up did a pretty great job and they didn't have break out edu or movie making programs at their disposal. When you are feeling like you do not have much left to give, take a little back. The basics are ok you do not always need to be the Pintrest poster child. Less is more especially when it is less time creating Cadillac lessons and more time to rebuild. I am by no means saying do a poor job teaching I am suggesting that all these teach like you are on fire type activities don't always mean you are doing a great job teaching but you are adding more to your plate, that is a guarantee. If you are feeling burnt out make sure to hit up coworkers, administrators and those in your support circle. We can't help those who need us most if we have nothing left to give. Some times we need to reevaluate what is most important. Be brave and state what you can and can't do. Stick to it until you can do the extras again. Balance in all things. Christmas Break in t-minus 3 days.

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