The Nexus between Stretch and Stress
Are you tired yet? Trust me, I get it. As I look around and feel the weight of this work myself, educators are "June tired" in October. We have a long road ahead of us. For those who have been educators for awhile, over time, you have come to predict and plan for the natural flow of the school year - the excitement of September, consistency of October, slump of November, anticipation in December, etc. You can plan your clocks by it (and even deal with Daylight Savings) - until this year. This year, by so many measures, is different.
In the mix of it all, I am concerned that educators pushed themselves so far through the spring and summer that your consistent pace and planning is all out of sorts. Educators who had big goals for this year - trying new platforms and apps, reading even just two more books, implementing new structures for small group instruction, or for some, starting a graduate program, are losing some serious steam.
I see you, you're exhausted. And I understand why.
You Must Keep Stretching
It is important that in the muddle and mess, you find just the right nexus for yourself between stretch and stress. What small step will you take this week - even if it's moving a book from your Kindle wish list to your Amazon cart and pushing "Buy"? You've got some big goals, and I want to be sure they aren't derailed - even by a pandemic. Because at the end of the day, our students look to you not just as their teacher, but as a model learner. They look to you as someone who hasn't stopped growing and is willing to try new things, mess them up, and try again.
We Need You - Even Decades Years Later
Don't believe me? I was struggling with big writing project last week. While I could have reached out to one of my accountability partners, my editor, or any number of people in my professional learning network, I connected with a former teacher instead. You know why? Because teachers have a special gift of meeting their students right at the nexus between stretch and stress and motivating them to do and be more. We can reference Vygotsky's zone of proximal development (ZPD) or Atkinson's expectancy-value theory (and we wouldn't be wrong), but at the end of the day, the "special sauce" really is about relationships.
Mr. Joe Marquart was my 10th grade English teacher, and I have never worked harder in a class before or after that one. He stretched me to grow as a researcher, critical thinker, writer, and most importantly, human being. When my first book was published, the first copy went to him - hand-delivered while he was teaching.
Mr. Marquart retired a little over a year ago after teaching for 50 years. At his retirement party (picture below) I reconnected with him and listened carefully as other former students did the same. After decades of "initiatives," administrative changes, new leadership, old leadership, and lesson plans, he remained steady. He somehow found the right nexus between stretch and stress to meet his students exactly where we needed him while still being present for himself and his family.
When we met last week, Mr. Marquart and I reminisced about the past, but what struck me is how - even now - he continues stretch himself. He volunteers, takes college classes, and still meets with former colleagues and students.
What's Your One Step?
So while I know you're exhausted, find just one way to stretch yourself this week a little closer to your goals. Build in a morning walk, download that app you've been wanting to check out, connect with colleague, or read an article you bookmarked. Stretch yourself 1% further. We need you to keep showing up for your students, but also for yourself and your goals.