Get off the teaching treadmill: take a break

I spent the Christmas holiday in my hometown visiting with family and friends, and taking a much-needed break from the treadmill of teaching. Somehow it just speeds up about halfway through November. Good thing I’m in pretty good shape, both physically and mentally. But we all need to stop running and catch our breath about this time of year.

At a holiday party, I spoke with a friend’s daughter, who was sharing her thoughts about being a first-year teacher for Gifted and Talented 4th and 5th graders in a STEM program. I asked if she spent more than an hour a day contacting parents. She laughed. “Fellow teachers understand what I’m going through,” she said. “But I’ve been crying a lot since Winter Break started.” She said that half her student-teacher classmates didn’t make it past their practica.

“Teaching is hard,” she said. “My students feel so entitled and the parents are second-guessing every decision I make. I’ve started a Kindness Wall to help students develop empathy. Now if I can just get the parents on board, I’ll know I’m making a difference.”

I talked to her about my students, some of whom won’t be celebrating much during the holidays. Many are from what we used to call “broken homes.” Some are working full time. Most receive Free and Reduced Meals (a government program for low-income families). Maybe we could start some kind of correspondence between the two schools: my students could practice their English and her students could develop an understanding of the challenges some teens face and how hard they work to get an American education.

I’m only halfway through Winter Break. It’s amazing what can transpire when you get off the treadmill and connect with other people.


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Eva K. Sullivan teaches English Language Learners in Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland. She was an English Language Fellow with U.S. Department of State during the 2017-2018 school year, working with the Ministry of Education in Laos, Southeast Asia. She writes short stories, personal essays, and has completed a memoir about her experiences as an expat in West Africa in the 1990s.

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