I walked down the hallway talking to a few of my friends. The slow kind of walk where you just meander while you wait for someone to decide where to go for lunch. We were seniors in college, down to the last few weeks before we left for the world of student teaching. I realized that, being the airhead I often am, I left my backpack in the classroom. I told my friends I would meet them later and headed back to the room.
I walked in and noticed that Professor Tyler was sitting quietly, head down, eyes closed. It worried me, because I had never seen Professor Tyler even sit down. His classes were a rapid fire barrage of content and fun. His colleagues described him as having endless energy. If puppies could talk, they’d remark how Professor Tyler was too active for them.
He took a moment to notice me, and then snapped out of his funk. He waved a kind hello and went back to what I can only describe as a power nap. I grabbed my stuff and walked out, wondering if he was okay. I hesitated for a moment before turning around to ask if he was okay. At that point, I saw him nod, clap his hands, and hop out of his chair, seconds before the next class started to filter in.
It hit me. He was human. He was taking a much needed break. This was a teacher that taught with everything he had, and used the ten minutes he had between classes to recharge, so that the next class received his very best. As many things that Professor Tyler taught me, that inadvertent lesson may have been the most important.
We have good days, when our mood soars and the words flow out exactly as we planned them. Our energy carries the class to new heights, and they learn enough to graduate with a doctorate that afternoon, even the kindergarteners.
Other days, it seems like we’re teaching the wrong subjects and nothing we say makes sense, even to ourselves. Maybe we have allergies, maybe we didn’t sleep, or maybe we are just having a bad day. That’s allowed of course, because we, like Professor Tyler, are human. But we bring our A game that day, as if there was no traffic, no pollen, no dogs barking at 2 AM.
Why? Well that answer depends on you. It depends on why you teach. You understand that the students deserve your best, even when it takes more focus and energy than normal. You strive to make your students feel as though this all comes natural to you. You ensure that they leave your classroom on a positive note, wondering how you can stay so positive and lively all of the time.
When that happens, you sit down, put up your feet, close your eyes, and know that you earned it because you taught and inspired. You earned your break. You earned your rest. You earned the early bed time. You will recharge and come back the next day stronger than before.
Because you know that this is about the students, who deserve your best. And that’s what you will always give.
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