Finding Motivation Before Winter Break

It is 11:30 (p.m.) on a Saturday night, and I’m thinking about teaching. I’m thinking about how last week was more downs than ups, but the ups helped me rationalize that maybe I can survive (the next two days). I’m thinking about how Monday and Tuesday are going to be long and probably reincarnations of last week (I’m not sure what our district was thinking when they decided to end the semester on a Tuesday). I’m thinking about how achieving National Board certification could be less than a year away from me, and then what? I’m thinking about a conversation I had with my friend today who is in law school and is working for a clinic as a public defender intern. She inspired me that people are still fighting the good fight and that it’s possible to change things, if only one case at a time. I’m thinking about what teaching strategies I’m starting to get better at, and just wrapping my head around what works. I’m thinking about the goals I have for myself and my students and reflecting on how I lose sight of them under the weight of the usual suspects: exhaustion, pressure, annoyance, and time.

Time, I think rules it all. It’s the hardest one to sweep to the side. What I did or didn’t accomplish this semester revolved around time—the time it takes to plan and how I’m becoming more stingy with my time these days, the lack of time I have with students who are truant (but I’m still expected to raise their achievement levels). That I will have time this coming break and will need to carve out at least 10 hours to grade and plan (but probably more, since I’m not so good at judging how long it takes to do anything). But time is manageable and I have to be realistic with what I have and what I can do in that time.

I tend to withdraw and enter into survival mode when things get hard. I didn’t used to be that way, but teaching kind of brings that out in me. That’s why I barely blogged this semester. It became easy and maybe even necessary to not think about the struggles I have or process them, and writing is the best way for me to process it all. After all, there were many days when I desperately wanted to throw in the towel.  Avoidance is not something I like about myself, and I’m trying to get better at finding the energy to turn exhaustion and burnout into productivity and new learning. And sometimes “taking care of yourself” is not enough.

On top of it all, the election kind of threw me into the funkiest funk I’ve ever funked. I believe immigrants are the heart of our country. I believe racism lives within many people who have the most power in our country. I believe using actual words is an important skill to be a leader of our country, among many others. So you can understand my level of deep disappointment and sadness I have for our country. I have to say that I’m still in the “mourning” phase of whatever this is, but am really moving into the “acceptance” part and am ready to fight. I haven’t really had to fight for anything except maybe my students, but now I feel as if I have to fight for the people who don’t have the power to. After all, the good things that we stand for in our country are there because of fighters. There are no quick fixes to the problems our country faces, and there will probably be more seeming setbacks than advances. My job is to educate those fighters and my main goal, if nothing else, is to help my students develop ethical sensitivities.

There is no standardized test for that.


(This post was inspired by reading Jennifer Gonzalez’s “After the Election–a To Do List.” Please take a look, even if you don’t work in education. I am always inspired in general when reading Cult of Pedagogy, and this was no exception).

May the visions of sugar plums (or whatever you like to consume) on the night before winter break be dancing in your heads,




  1. You should think about how fortunate your students are to have you as their teacher. You are changing lives for the better every single day.

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