Let’s admit it—openly, freely, and without apology: Sometimes it’s difficult to keep moving forward. In fact, this may be the time of the year when you struggle the most. Your students have made progress, but you’re worried about whether they’ll be ready for assessments or be able to achieve expected benchmarks before the end of the year. You may be feeling tired and fighting to keep your motivation in high gear—or other circumstances and challenges within the organization or your personal life may be making continuing to move forward difficult. These feelings are both understandable and legitimate. The question is: “Now what?” One thing is certain: There are several perspectives you need to consider and decisions you need to make.
We may not always be able to choose our challenges, but we can always choose our response.
First, despite the challenges and concerns you face, your students are depending on you to carry them through. They need you to keep going because they can’t keep going if you can’t. They need you to be there for them—even if they don’t say so or aren’t fully aware of their dependence on you. This is a reality of being a teacher that you cannot overlook.
You may not be able to remove the weight you’re carrying or the challenges you face, but you do have a choice in how you will respond. This choice and what it represents to everyone in and connected to your school is vitally important. And what your actions teach students can have an impact on their success the remainder of the year and how they handle the rigor of work and personal challenges.
Second, students need you to keep going because you are the most significant factor in giving them a quality education. You give them the best chance of being successful. And they’re not likely to go as far as they should without you.
Third, you need to remember an important reality: There is no end to education. Our whole life—from the moment we are born to the moment we die—we are in the process of learning. It is constant. It is continuous. And your students are in the first stages of their life-long journey of learning. You are among the few adults chosen to be their first teachers. The idea is to have their first teachers be among the best—and for good reason. The first learning of young people will be powerful and will likely be carried with them the rest of their lives. Students will learn countless “first lessons” with you. And we know modeling is not just a good teacher, it’s really the best and most effective teacher of all. And our young people are going to learn lessons from all kinds of people, including the good and bad, right and wrong. They will learn lessons that contribute to their success or cause them to fail. It’s easy to see why your students need you to keep going and keep teaching the academic and life lessons they need to learn to be good students and good people.
If you don’t keep going, you’ll shatter a lot of beliefs students hold about you.
Fourth, students need you to keep going because if you don’t, it will shatter the beliefs they hold about you and all who are their teachers. This not only means not letting up, but knowing treading water won’t do. Remember, students believe what they have been told: That you are their learning leader. They have been told that they can learn, will learn, and you’ll be there to help them learn. Even when students don’t do their part, they still believe teachers have done their part. We’re the “rock” in their lives. They need you to be a person they count on.
The truth is that everything students feel and believe about you, other teachers, and the school goes down the drain the minute students see us lose our zeal. Make no mistake, students need us to talk the walk to walk the talk. Students need us to keep going because they have bought into and believe in us—even some of those who haven’t followed our advice at times. Some students will be quoting our words of counsel and encouragement to others years from now—including to their own children. We often forget or don’t see all the ways young people think their teachers are special—and we’re one of those teachers.
…we care about them and are on their side.
…we want them to achieve and be successful.
…we support them where others might not.
…we will always find a way to help them.
…we make a difference in their lives.
…they are better because of their teachers.
…we give them fresh starts and second chances.
…we believe the best is yet to come for them.
The Master Teacher keeps going so that he or she can keep students going.
The Master Teacher appreciates all the emotions that go with working hard and feeling tired, but knows there is important work to do. And we’ve got to do it. If we don’t keep going, important work with very important young people isn’t going to get done. That is the reality. And if we just can’t or don’t want to keep going, teaching is not for us. We’re not going to have less work or less responsibility next year.
The Master Teacher is very much aware of the huge responsibility we have to all the children in our care and takes that responsibility seriously—with joy and satisfaction. In fact, he or she knows teachers are among the few adults with the unique abilities to give students the nurturing needed to be college, career, and life ready. Master Teachers don’t give away their influence of students or feel the work is too much to handle. Indeed, strength lies in bringing out the best in themselves in order to bring out the best in students. This has been their game plan throughout their career.