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Tuesday marks the halfway point of our school year. I spent some time after school on Monday tidying up and clearing out old charts and debris from projects long ago completed. It didn’t quite feel like the late August straightening out, thank goodness, but there was a similar sense of a new chapter beginning. Today, rubrics are turned in, bins and binders will be cleaned out, and we prepare for a whole set of “new stuff”.
The second semester. The second half of the school year. The home stretch.
This is the time when I tend to feel most vulnerable as a teacher. By this time of the year, June suddenly does not feel so far away; I begin the think of Spring Break, the short February recess we get, and the field trips we have planned for April and June. The calendar might say that we have five more months of school, but that time does not feel nearly enough for all that’s left to do.
I worry that we have not done enough. Read enough. Written enough. Spent time tussling over ideas and meaning enough.
I worry that I am beginning to feel the concerns of the school year (some petty and some not) pull me down, and make me feel discouraged by the way things often are: for all the change we see from year to year, some things just stay the same.
And I feel tired; teaching is physically exhausting, and the grey January to end of February months do little to clear away the winter doldrums.
So, this is when I reach for my teacher-heroes, and re-read passages from their books, blog posts, and Tweets. I need to be refilled with September energy and resolve, with the freshness of September joy.
And so, I began today with Vicki Vinton. Vicki is usually flying around the world helping teachers like me achieve their teaching visions; or, Vicki is writing another book to show us how to make those visions real. Her posts are few and far between, but each one is such a gem. Each one seems to say exactly what I need to hear, when I need to hear it!
This post, for example, got right to the heart of what was really worrying me: that I had failed my students, that I wasn’t a good enough teacher, that I had wasted time. And Vicki’s wise words made me rethink where we were in our school year, and what was (in fact) the most important thing: teaching my kids in a way that sticks, and preserving my own love of teaching. I read these lines over and over:
“And so… I ask you this: What are you doing to cultivate passion in the readers and writers in your rooms? And what passions are you cultivating and nurturing in yourself, knowing that they will fuel and sustain you far more than failure and grit?”
I thought about all the books my kids have been reading…
I thought about all the ways in which we’ve plunged into all sort of writing genres for so many varied purposes…
And I thought about the sound of purposeful chatter and downright silliness…
I thought about the books that are stacked by my desk at home, and by my bedside which fill me with wisdom and delight…
I thought about my teaching friends all over this great good world who meet me online to chat about the work we do, applaud each others’ efforts, and urge each other on…
And I decide to forego thoughts of failure. Bring on the second half of the year…there is so much good work to be done!