It's an interesting relationship that book lovers have with the Internet: most would rather read a physical book than something on an iPad or Kindle, and even though an Amazon purchase is just two ...
My birthday falls at the end of August. I used to joke about my annual present being the official letter from my district informing me that I was to "get off my butt and get back to work." I'd say it as though it was a bummer.
But, truthfully I was always excited by the prospect of at least a dozen or more great ideas I'd come up with that I couldn't wait to try out with my kids. I knonw, referring to my high school students as "my kids" is not the professional terminology. But, they were my kids.
It was my extension of the "in parentus locus" responsibilities associated with caring about them. I took those responsibilities seriously. So seriously that when I walked out the door for the last time after nearly 40 years, I actually still regretted the two times I had actually sent a kid to the office for behavior problems that I had failed to find a way to deal with that was effective and at the same time a win-win from the kid's point of view as well as from mine.
But, we all know the pressures involved in the job; essay correcting, unreasonable parents, teen angst and egos, policy police, budgetary tug-o-wars, and the natural complications of such a multi-layered hierarchy of decision making whose final word is influenced so much by lay persons with little actual knowledge of the best practices and pedagogies that may or may not be what is the best practice or pedagogy for indivdual students.
I have no doubt that these sorts of elements of any job exist. Like most important work, it can be very hard, exhausting, and often frustrating at times.
And, we've all seen a veteran or two who have been defeated by these challenges and who have had their original enthusiasm and optimism sucked out of them to the point where the mechanisms they employ to deal with these challenges have become thick fortresses of insulation leaving students and colleagues with little to see of that teacher's original vim, vigor, and caring about both the subject matter and the students.
I discovered somewhere along the line that it is important to refresh that caring; to find ways to remember why we became educators.
I came to think of the process as marinating in my love of literature or taking time to go to a literary spa of sorts whether I'd know I'd walk out of that "spa" feeling refreshed and invigorated. Sometimes that "spa" was a real location. A weekend at the Slyvia Beach Hotel (http://www.sylviabeachhotel.com) in Nye Beach, Oregon. Ah! An Oregon hotel on the ocean where every inch and moment is dedicated to book lovers.
In reality, it did not take many "spa" experiences to remind me of my love of reading great literature. But, if one or two a year left me so refreshed, why not 10 or 20 or heck, why not 187 or so as in why not refresh every morning?
So I began getting up in time to spend a leisurely 30 minutes or so exploring a story or two at one of the many virtual spas on the internet where book lovers gather to share their love of literature.
Sometimes I'd head off to TED TALKS (http://www.ted.com) and watch an inspiring talk about topics in all areas and remind myself that there was a time in my own youth when I too, like my own students hadn't yet discovered an interest in "this or that other curricular area." And, I'd remember some teacher who had found a way to make a previously "boring" subject fascinating. It might have been Mr. Tinling's geometry class, Ms Alexander's history class, Mr. Muńoz's Civics class. And, like these and other great teachers and like the great TED Talk speakers I would get a daily dose of love of teaching.
How could I get to school and not want to be that kind of a teacher for "my kids"?
It didn't eliminate the challenges. But it kept them in their proper perspective. And, remembering how much I'd come to love literature and how much I owe to those teachers who shared their love of literature in ways that even the reluctant might find unavoidably captivating proved to be just the daily dose I needed to remind me that caring about "my kids" was the key to keeping the challenges associated with being an educator to be remembered in perspective.
Take a quick look at these websites for literature lovers and think of them as virtual "daily spa treatments" where you just can't help but head off to another day with your kids as refreshed and enthusiastic as they hope all of their teachers will be that day.
"Google Lit Trips" is the fictitious business name for GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit.