Friday, November 15, 2019 | ePaper

Passion for Teaching

Inspiration and purpose that work behind

  • Print


Amy L. Eva :
When I posed this question to a group of teachers recently, no one focused on academics. Instead, their responses centered on their students' engagement, the sense of participating in something larger than themselves, and the deep satisfaction they gained from relationship building.
"When my students make me laugh, and when they do that 'oooooooooohhh' sound that kids do when they finally 'get' it," confessed a fifth-grade teacher. "Knowing the work you do is bigger than yourself is what keeps me motivated," said a university professor.
A 20-year veteran kindergarten teacher said this: "It's still the relationships I build every year that give me the most meaning. … Even now I get in the car at the end of the day and think, What was great about today? What was hard? How can I improve tomorrow?"
If you are feeling a bit worn down right now and need some inspiration, here are five practical ways to pause, reflect on your work, reconnect with your role and purpose. It hopefully goes without saying that these tips aren't just for teachers-they can be adapted by almost anyone who needs to reignite his or her passion for work.
1. Revisit your story
Researchers remind us that having a purpose in life is crucial for our health, longevity, and well-being. At the Greater Good Science Center's Summer Institute for Educators, we invite educators to reflect more deeply on their purpose and identity in the following activity, which you can do at home (in your pajamas with your favorite beverage):
Create a brief timeline of several major events, turning points, and epiphanies that made you the person and education professional you are today.
Choose two or three of these events and reflect on each one. What feelings do you associate with the event? What lessons emerged for you? What obstacles and supports did you encounter? Did you learn anything about your strengths, weaknesses, motives, and values from this event?
Overall, what story does your timeline tell about who you are?
According to psychologists, we all have an internalized narrative that explains how we became the person we are today and where we are headed tomorrow. As we revisit our story, it can help us to understand how and why we became an educator. It may also help us to answer the question "Who do I want to become?"
2. Celebrate a favorite teacher or mentor
Here is another simple exercise to try at home or in a staff meeting. If you try this activity with colleagues, partner up and stand back to back while listening to each question read aloud; next, turn and face each other as you share your responses. The process of pausing, reflecting, and then listening to your partner, in close proximity, may help you to focus more on the words and emotions shared.
Describe the teacher or mentor who had the most influence on you.
How did you feel when you were with this person?
How did you change as a result of this person?
How did this person shape your life as an education professional?
Bonus: If we lean on each other for social support (and inspiration), we are less likely to be depressed and more likely to be resilient at work.
3. Connect with like-minded colleagues
When I talk with teachers, I often recall an image of myself during my first year of high school teaching. I would escape into my little cubby-hole of an office at lunchtime and lie flat on my back with the lights out. I felt totally overwhelmed and isolated that year; I was trying my hardest to meet the needs of 163 students every day, and I was physically and emotionally exhausted. The principal stepped into my classroom only once that year, and the teachers down the hall kept to themselves.
We can't do this alone. And there are lots of opportunities to connect (especially if you feel like you don't have the time). I know groups of teachers who meet weekly at a restaurant or bar to grade papers and talk. I know teachers who run together, meditate together, and camp together.
4. Prioritize your well-being
If you are a teacher, there are probably plenty of obstacles preventing you from engaging in self-care. We teachers are notoriously resistant to helping ourselves out. So perhaps the argument below might convince you that your personal and professional well-being must be your number one imperative.
A recent report by the Aspen Institute, "The Evidence for How We Learn," makes it crystal clear: "For social, emotional, and academic development to thrive in schools, teachers and administrators need … support to understand and model these skills, behaviors, knowledge, and beliefs." Children learn social-emotional skills by being exposed to adult behavior. "If a teacher doesn't have a level of social-emotional competence … then he or she is sending mixed messages," writes Patricia Jennings, in her book Mindfulness for Teachers.
In addition to seeking out social support, there are many other research-based strategies for self-care, including physical exercise, mindfulness, self-compassion, and cognitive reappraisal (reframing your thoughts in response to a challenging exchange with a student, for example). There's also a place for just forcing yourself to get up and go to that party even though you want to curl up in a ball on the couch-a technique psychologists call behavioral activation.
"Self-care is not a luxury," write John Norcross and James Guy. "It is a human requisite, a professional necessity, and an ethical imperative."
5. Create a resilience plan
Of course, developing social-emotional skills takes time, and resilience is an ongoing, dynamic process of adaptation and growth. So, why not create a plan?
Consider (or try out) some of the research-based practices above
Notice which ones seem appealing, enjoyable, or helpful
Think about how you might incorporate one of these into your life
Choose one self-care strategy or practice to implement in your daily life (or almost every day) for at least 5-10 minutes. (Keep it simple.)
What kinds of obstacles and barriers might arise? How might you address those obstacles? How will you encourage yourself to prioritize this plan?
As you commit to a plan, keep holding on to the parts of your work that give you meaning. And remember the wise words of a teacher I know: "Care for yourself as hard as you care for those kids."

(Amy L. Eva, Ph.D., is the associate education director at the Greater Good Science Center. She writes for the center's online magazine, facilitates the Summer Institute for Educators, and consults on the development of GGSC education resources).

More News For this Category

Screen-Time and Academic Performance

Screen-Time and Academic Performance

Campus Desk :Today's young people are immersed in a digital world that most of us couldn't imagine a decade ago. Because technology is evolving so quickly, it's difficult to

Real approach in teaching English a must

Real approach in teaching English a must

Md. Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan :Teaching English is felt highly important especially at primary level for many educational reasons. The researchers are of the view that educational objectives will remain

An ideal learning environment in School

An ideal learning environment in School

Tangina Sultana :School life is considered the best period of human life. People learn from his childhood in the school and also the character of man is built in

Moral Degradation

Moral Degradation

Mohammad Mamun Mia :Moral degradation or breakdown is a phenomenon in which a major degradation or complete loss of moral values takes place. The morals and values which are

From Bangladesh to the UK: A FameLabber's journey

From Bangladesh to the UK: A FameLabber's journey

Abu Saleh Muhammed Afrin Bin Nur (Adib) :For someone who loves both science and public speaking, when I first came to know about FameLab, I knew I had to

Writing a Personal Statement

Writing a Personal Statement

Glenn Geher :Like it or not, you'll be writing personal statements (sometimes referred to as a "statement of purpose") pretty much throughout your adult life. I bet that some

World Poverty Day

World Poverty Day

Rashmita S. Mistry, Ph.D :A few years back, while driving around Los Angeles, my then 4-year-old son asked me to read a sign held by a panhandler on a

The Pessimistic Mindset

The Pessimistic Mindset

Christopher Bergland :A few days ago, someone posted a gut-wrenching comment in response to a blog post I'd written, "Pessimism May Lower Your Odds of Living a Long, Healthy

What Boosts Human Capital Development?

What Boosts Human Capital Development?

Jonathan Wai :Talent or human capital development is important as it contributes to individual development and fulfillment, educational and occupational achievement, and broader innovation. However, there is very little

Suspension, Discrimination, and Students with Disabilities

Suspension, Discrimination, and Students with Disabilities

Paul L. Morgan :Students with disabilities (SWD) are disproportionately suspended from U.S. schools. This has led to suggestions that the disparities result from the use of discriminatory disciplinary practices