This past year’s proverbial dumpster fire has caused more burnout among educators than any other challenge in recent history. The sparks that were extinguished these past 12-18 months need to be rekindled. From paraprofessionals to superintendents, all educators must take the time to reflect, rediscover, and reignite their passion for our schools to recover.
The past year taught us much about not taking things for granted. As educators, we must take time to reflect not just on the last year but on our careers as a whole and remember both the challenges and the triumphs. So take a few minutes from your summer side-hustle to think back to that first year of your career.
As I reflect on my first year of teaching, I remember feeling so empowered by blind optimism that nothing could have stopped me. It didn’t matter that I was in a rural, midwestern town with a population of 405. It didn’t matter that I was teaching seven, yes SEVEN, different classes every day nor that I was charged with sponsoring the speech team, the one-act play, the junior class play, the senior class play, and the yearbook. None of this mattered because I was laser-focused on my why: To positively impact students in order to equip them with the necessary skills to be productive members of society. (I specifically know this because I typed it in the objective section at the top of my resume with my IBM Wheelwriter typewriter. ?)
Now that you’ve taken some time to reflect, it’s essential to rediscover your passion. What drives you? A four-mile, 3000-foot climb to the peak of Guadalupe Mountain at the beginning of June helped me rediscover that I am capable of hard things. Several times during the arduous ascent, I wanted to stop and turn around, but something inside of me just kept going: that something was my three teenagers, who were also struggling with the strenuous climb. By maintaining a positive attitude, I was able to support them when they needed it, and, in return, they mirrored the strength and positivity back to me, which enabled each of us to achieve our goal of summiting the highest natural peak in Texas.
Remember that objective at the top of my resume? To positively impact students in order to equip them with the necessary skills to be productive members of society. My why continues to resonate with me not only because I’m passionate about education and educators but also because I keep proving to myself over and over that I can do it. Guess what? You can do it, too.
What is your why? If you can’t verbalize it, Simon Sinek and his team provided us with a simple formula to draft a why statement: To ____ so that ____ . Focus on simplicity, action, and impacting others–just what educators do best.
That climb up Guadalupe Mountain wasn’t easy–as a matter of fact, I was sore for the next week–but it reignited a passion in me for doing hard things. I like doing hard things: I like the struggle, the problem solving, and the resolution. This is why I pursued a career in education in the first place: not because it was easy, but because I enjoyed the challenge of working with a wide variety of students, empowering them to face adversity head-on, and supporting them as they become independent learners.
Take some time to reflect, not just on this past year, but on the challenges you’ve faced and the obstacles you’ve overcome throughout your life. Work to rediscover your why, whether that be through an active experience or some time spent in thought using Sinek’s formula. Finally, savor that feeling of reaching the peak, knowing it was worth it even though you still have to make the trip back down the mountain.
To rekindle your spark:
- Reach out to former coworkers, students, and/or school leaders either online or in person. One of my favorite things is reconnecting with students–some from that very first year in that little Nebraska town–and seeing how they have blossomed into amazing people: spouses, parents, productive members of society. Although I may have been a very small part of their evolution, my objective as an educator, my why is being fulfilled. (I especially love reconnecting with those students who challenged me the most!)
- Give a former or fellow educator a shout-out on social media. By starting this trend, imagine how many educators–just like you–could receive the spark they need to reignite their passion for education. Check out our socials to see some examples!
Not sure how you can get your school started on social media and how to be effective? Check out this blog: How to Craft Real Social Content
And in case you missed it, one of Dr. Jill’s former students from Louisville High sharing his success as an educator: How Improving Your School’s Social Media Impacts Student Voice and Enrollment