The teaching year is cyclical, and October is always a difficult month for me. I posted on Facebook recently, “It gets real in October.” The dining room table is starting to accumulate piles of student work. My sleep schedule is all messed up, and my exercise schedule is worse. For some reason, I continue to believe that these little sacrifices in fundamental self care will help advance my work in the classroom. It’s not true. It’s just not.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. —Albert Einstein
Last Saturday, I sat down and sketched out a 14-week plan. I am seeking balance. I want to do an excellent job in the classroom, and I want my students to feel safe enough to take big, sweeping intellectual risks this year. Growth asks kids to quit playing safe for a grade, and convincing them of this truth is as big a challenge as I have ever faced.
This means they must work hard, so that means I must work hard. I must assign lots of writing, and although I cannot read everything, I must read strategically and give feedback often. I must ask them to evaluate themselves, and teach them how to do that. I have to teach them to work with one another. And I must plan lessons that are engaging, and motivating, and that are aligned with the Common Core, with scaffolds for the ones who need it, and independence for those who are ready to fly, and that are rigorous and challenging for every single kid.
But I also want to swim long leisurely laps. And ride my bike. And do weight bearing exercise for my aging bones. And practice yoga [#yogaeverydamnday], especially the balancing poses and the strength poses, and Surya Namaskar is always, always good. I want to cook, and work on my golf game, and work in my garden, and clean out my sun room and my garage. I want to dance in the kitchen because I FEEL like dancing, because life is good and I know it.
This is the different result I seek.
But I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done — I just work until I’m sick and tired and have a bad attitude. My laundry is not done. I’m sleep deprived. The work piles up. My student — she means well — never fails to to tell me, “Ms. Fletcher, you look really tired.” There’s a subtle subtext in her concern. She sees me as an old lady (“I wish you were my grandma”), and is worried for my health. And in that mental space, when a kid says anything even the least bit challenging, I bristle.
I start to see the end of October as the beginning of a long, grey slog through winter. This is not the way I want to feel. I want a different result, and I have to start doing something different.