"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." -Steve Prefontaine
As a teacher, every day and every week, you are expected to perform miracles. Parents expect you to teach their children well. Administrators expect you to maintain your classroom and everything else that pertains to the climate of the school. Students expect you to be engaging, consistent and funny. Society expects you to uphold all of these expectations as well as take students from all walks of life down the same path of excellence (on a salary that is not commensurate with the sheer volume of tasks and knowledge required to do the job well). But, that is okay.
As a teacher or leader of teachers, you are uniquely able to manage these expectations if you keep one thing in mind: all you can give is your best. No matter what the pressures are that seek to take away your peace and security, if you resolve to give your best each day, the weight of these demands will not take you under.
Giving your best in the schoolhouse each day requires that you put yourself in a position to win. Good sleep is a must, but that is not the only habit that helps. It is critical to monitor your diet, your days and your distractions.
Watching your diet entails keeping an eye on what you eat, but also the kinds of information and talk about students and education that you consume. The nature of your attitude and energy towards the profession is often a reflection of the content of the conversations you engage in on a daily basis. It is and always will be a privilege to be in the field of education. That has got to be the thought that guides you daily.
In teaching and learning, every day has a certain level of violence to it; the day just comes at you. Monitoring your days is making sure you have that inner dialogue that helps you pace yourself throughout the day. There are times when it is important to whisper a quick prayer while a drill is going forth or to repeat positive statements to yourself while you’re teaching. As the day unfolds, you must find rest and refuel periods so that you still have enough to give to your family and friends when the school day ends.
Finally, when periodic rest becomes a habitual state of mind, comfort can become a distraction. Anything you love can become a prison of time if you do not keep balance between what you have to do and what you want to do. Teaching is hard work. It takes a lot out of you. It takes more out of you, however, if you do not have a handle on things, people and activities that distract you from getting the job done on a consistent basis.
In the future, teaching will be even more needed than it already is now. To that end, quality teachers will continue to be at a premium and expectations will continue to be high. You can keep them realistic by simply giving your best every day.