Learning and Sustaining Energy
by Brenda Krupp
As I write this post I am celebrating a birthday, a birthday that pushes me closer to retirement, a birthday that makes me one of those teachers others approach and ask, “Was it always like this?’” That scares me, especially in light of this blog post topic: sustaining energy. I have to admit that it was not always like this. There were no SLOs, PARCC tests or PSSAs when I began my career. Teaching with “fidelity” meant something different. And, in the elementary school, children were children not cogs that needed to be prepped for the next, higher level. Teaching was tiring, but not energy zapping. So, how does one sustain energy in this era of teaching? On a recent evening, I got a glimpse of how.
On Thursday, February 12th, from 7:00 – 8:00, I participated in a twitter chat with colleagues near and far. We engaged in a conversation around Tom Newkirk’s book Minds Made for Stories. The tweets were fast, thoughtful, and inspiring. I found myself challenged to rethink what I believe about nonfiction reading and writing. I found myself moved to rewrite unit plans, to discuss with colleagues new ways to teach children writing strategies and skills, and to think more deeply about my instructional moves and beliefs. I wanted the conversation to continue; an hour wasn’t enough. I was ready to teach. I had learned something. I had learned. Learning sustains and creates energy. Learning.
Consider the buzz of energy in your classroom when students are learning. I watched Emma and Cam hunker down in front of a computer and read about bats, laughing, pointing, writing, and then excitedly telling me about their new learning. I watched Hudson stare down the numbers on the board, and then jump out of his seat when he noticed the pattern. Free Learn Fridays are days when my children decide what they want or need to learn. They come prepared with questions to pursue, ideas to discuss, and plans for learning. Time flies for all of us. Learning creates energy – for students and teachers.
Sustaining energy in teaching could look like:
- Inviting a colleague into your classroom to watch you teach something new or challenging, then discussing the lesson.
- Revamping a lesson you’ve done year after year.
- Reading a professional book with a colleague and deciding what to do with what you learn.
- Joining twitter. This is a great way learn with like-minded professionals.
- Attending PAWLP Day events, Teacher’s College Reading Writing Project reunion Saturdays, or your local Writing Projects professional development days. Do this with a colleague; the conversation afterwards will push your thinking and get you excited for Monday morning.
I’ve tried exercising, seeing each day as a new opportunity, laughing more, and letting go of the stuff I cannot change. While these strategies worked for a time, they didn’t sustain me over the long run. After more than 25 years in the classroom I am still energized when I am learning and engaged in the learning process. Learning is what keeps me going.
Brenda Krupp is currently a third grade teacher in the Souderton Area School District. She co-directs summer writing institutes for PAWLP. She blogs regularly at thirdandrosedale.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter @brenkrupp.
“Learning is what keeps me going,” is what resonated in your words. When I am engaged in learning, my enthusiasm shows through, and my students catch the bug with me, and we are propelled. It is when I am pushing “cogs” to be “prepped for the next, higher level,” that I feel my energy leaking out of my pores. It is reassuring to know that I am not the only one fighting that energy drain, and to see that you have experienced the boost that purposeful learning creates. Thanks for your thoughtful post!
Thanks for your insightful entry. I am also closing in on retirement, and as I discuss this life transition with friends my age they tell me they are counting the minutes, while I say, “I love my job!” Teaching sixth grade is energizing, fun, and yes exhausting but in a an electrifying way. You really helped me understand why. It is the learning. I would also add – it is the collaboration. I work with dynamic administrators, an incredible sixth grade team, and a Language Arts Department that is aupportive and growing. Our building buzzes with learning and enthusiasm. Ideal conditions for an inspired teacher.
This year we implemented Writng Based Curriculum. My sixth grade collegues and I designed and taught Memoir, Poetry, and Nonfiction Units we created from scratch.This DIY philosophy turns the tables in the classroom as the kids “become” journalists, poets, and memoirists after reading short excerpts of high quality text. Each day we start with a warm up to get the creative juices flowing. Each day,I am learning as well as the kids.For me that has made all the difference.
Collaboration has extended to monthly get-togethers with teachers from two nearby schools,twitter chats, and open sharing of ideas and materials. RIght now in the back of my car I have a carton of poetry chap books Sandy Run eighth graders wrote. On Monday, my Springfield sixth graders will read and comment on them and next I will return them to Sandy Run. Wow! The collaboration has extended to our students. What a model for learning!
Next, I am hoping to try Free Learn Fridays. Unitl the day I walk out the door, I hope to keep learning and collaborating.
Reading posts like this remind me of why I chose to go into the education field despite all of the intimidating warnings of how tiring the profession can be. I know that it won’t be easy to keep the energy alive and changing within the classroom day after day especially with today’s pressure of standardized testing and sticking with the curriculum. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your ideas to revamp the classroom dynamic. The Free Write Fridays sound like something I would like to incorporate into my own future classroom of writers. Inviting mentors and colleagues into your class as well as attending different events to increase professional development and collaboration can also be very beneficial. Thank you for your creative insights, I’d like to hear more about your latest findings as both a teacher and a learner!
I’m currently in my junior year at West Chester University studying Middle Grades Education (4th-8th grade). While I have some experience in the field, I have not had the pleasure of being in a classroom day in and day out, such as yourself. Everyone always warns future teachers of the time they’ll spend working and just how exhausting it can be, which is scary for a future teacher like me.
I find your post refreshing because after 25 years of doing something you love, you have managed to find a way to continue to have a strong passion for it. Engaging in learning, which seems obvious in a classroom, truly is a great way to maintain energy. Time flies when you’re having fun, and if you and your students can find a way, such as your Free Learn Fridays, to have the opportunity to learn something of interest to yourself, learning will provide a source of energy for the day. After teaching multiple lessons in a classroom, I always felt that there wasn’t enough time, maybe because I was having too much fun, but I think you have developed a great idea to help future teachers like myself stay engaged in our teaching and to help students stay engaged in the learning.
Thank you for your insight and helpful tips to keep us teachers energized for our long days’ work.
Your post is energizing! I appreciate your ideas, suggestions, and I am especially appreciative that I will have a chance to learn from you this spring, summer, and fall in the Institute. Your post reminds me of why I love hanging out with you 🙂
Great post! Teaching has always been challenging but not soul-draining. All of us need to lobby for what we know works in the classroom. It’s hard to imagine 25 years from now, especially when one is brand-new in this profession.