Getting Back the Teaching Mojo

It’s Friday, and I’m sitting here at the end of a slow day. The return from Spring Break has been a week full of frustration and anticipation of…Summer Break.

This whole week I really did not want to be a teacher. I didn’t want the responsibility of planning lessons, finding materials, getting out of bed, coralling makeup work for students (who miss school for weeks at a time, only to barge into my room and demand a quarter’s worth of English work. It takes a lot of self control to stay calm and not hurl dry erasers across the room.)

I half-expected this reaction, because it was similar to the feeling of returning from Winter Break, but not as bad. I guess I can learn that this is a normal reaction—I just need to learn how to bounce back with teacher mojo more quickly after a break. The weather didn’t help because it earlier this week it was 80 degrees and humid and today it feels like winter. Again, this should be expected.

If I don’t enjoy what I’m teaching, I feel horrible. Like, “why do I exist” horrible. Near the end of this week, we started a Greek Hero research project. Once we got the ball rolling on that, I began to perk up. I helped my students research the stories of Pandora, Achilles, Odysseus, etc. It’s funny, because I don’t think these kids have ever written a research paper. They think a citation is something you get when you jaywalk or park illegally. I am excited to see what their end products are.

Thursdays we have Prairie, a photography organization, work with my Creative Writing class. This year they are learning how to edit video—the subject is our school and our Urban Agriculture class. They’re making their own little documentaries. I believe a title of one of them is “Chicken Nuggets” (our class has a chicken coop on-site that they take care of, and this student filmed our beloved chickens.) Something interesting that the instructor, who has been working with us for the past few years, said was that he is surprised with what the students have videotaped, edited, and narrated. He said that he did not want to dictate what they shot, or said, or edited. This whole time it has been organized chaos, but it’s coming together—it’s the students’ work, not ours. This was an insight that I can take away with everything I teach. The product may not be just the way I think it should be, and for the student to really take ownership, I need to give them the scaffold and let them define their learning experiences. This is always something I heard in my educational philosophy classes, but I had no idea that it would be this difficult to let them learn.

With all of the hoops we require our kids to jump through (whether it be testing, receiving credits, and all in all playing the game of school), they very rarely have the chance to create something wonderful with the guidance of an adult. That’s teaching.

So it took a week, but I think the mojo is back so that I can work on lesson plans for next week, and hopefully the rest of the year (thank God).

Whether you’re teaching, stock brokering, or doing whatever it is you do every day, I hope you have the strength to get your mojo back when you somehow let it go.







  1. Ownership is an interesting concept and not exactly what we think it will be at first, which is personal ownership. When we buy a CD or a bicycle, we think at first we own it personally but actually the people who made the CD or bicycle also feel they have some ownership. You can experience this when you make pottery or weave a quilt and sell it to someone — you feel some ownership of what you made.

    So, ownership is social – it is shared. When we write, our ideas came from others and even the words came from others. We need to help our students understand this relationship of shared ownership — their research belongs to the students, to the teachers who guide them, to the authors of the books they read, and to the community that supports the schools.

    1. Absolutely, Dr. Frager. I think it is interesting to see how a long term project unfolds and how everyone contributes. It is a good feeling to have when my students are creating and revising together, with my guidance. I actually feel like an educator, not just an instructor.

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