We like to talk about pendulum swings in education, but of all of them I've seen in my career, none rivals the motion of my internal pendulum during the final months of this 2019-2020 school year. Just as I think I'm getting the hang of the external and internal work of this emergency remote teaching thing, a new rush of workload that I didn't anticipate comes rushing in or I receive new information about the degree to which my students are or are not motivated. In lulls of work, I gleefully begin projects that subsequent and unexpected gluts of it make difficult. One email from a student will lift my core with exultation while the next just makes me sad.
It's all a bit disorienting. And when you're experiencing this kind of internal disorientation, your perception gets skewed. Small tasks feel big. The urge to procrastinate grows. And suddenly you feel like an ant crawling on the beach in the shadow of a 20-foot tsunami.
In times like this, I find two disciplines most helpful.
First, a return to the fundamentals. What is education for? What is my work after? What do I control about student motivation? What do I not?
This return to fundamentals anchors us. It reminds us that we're not missing some new and innovative technique. It helps us retrieve the truth that our mastery of teaching is a process, not a finished product. It wards off time-consuming distractions.
To help you and I practice this, I'm hosting a one-time “What has 2020 taught us about student motivation?” webinar in mid-June. The goal is to return us to the fundamentals, reconciling what we've learned in emergency remote teaching with what we knew before. My hope is that it's encouraging, informative, and gives us permission to rest a bit this summer. You can learn more and register below.
Second, a renewed commitment to rest. I've written a lot about the need to constrain our work into set hours each week if our goal is to maximize our growth, productivity, and whole-life flourishing. Rest is the complete setting down of one's work and picking up of one's avocational pursuits and life-critical relationships. It's going to bed on time. It's taking at least a full 24 hours off from teaching (and emails!) each weekend. Committing to rest coincides with acknowledging that I am finite and that my work is a marathon and not a sprint. It recognizes that there's only so much juice in an orange.
Needless to say, I am grateful for the coming pause in teaching, but I want to remind myself that the professionalism I'm after looks like internal stability, come what may. And this kind of professionalism is possible — especially when we practice the two disciplines above.