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Focus Your Passion

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by Dr. Renee Peterson
Teaching is a very difficult profession.I have heard some teachers warn their students away from teaching. “Don’t do it!” they say. When you are considering a major for college and a profession for your life, it can be discouraging for those in the profession to attempt to deflate the passion that you have for education. Why would current teachers discourage their own students from pursuing their profession? It’s a very difficult way to make a living. When I am approached by a student who has the desire to become a teacher, I give the expected “Are you really sure you want to do this?” speech, but then I couple it with a statement about passion: “You must have enough passion for kids, for learning, and for teaching that you can endure the CRAP.” By CRAP I mean, Criticism, Regulations, Accountability, and Problems (yes, sometimes the P stands for parents). Fellow veteran teachers, I just heard you chuckle…because you know exactly what I mean.There are many reasons that the school year still runs from August to May (or June with snow days), but I think the most important reason is to allow the teachers to find their passion again. I’ve seen many memes and videos on social media this summer describing the emotional roller coaster that is the school year; it can wear you out. Excellent teachers are expected to be passionate about their students and their role in the lives of those students every single day, but the CRAP can take its toll. Having a summer respite allows us the breathing space to find our creativity, our passion, and our desire to go back for another year.The summer, while allowing us that space for creativity, can be overwhelming. There are so many things that you want to accomplish: things you put off during the year because there was just no time, but what you need to do is rest. Rest allows our bodies, minds, and spirits to recharge. We need REST – Reignite an Educator’s Sustaining Passion – to return even better than before.Once you experience REST and your passion returns, so does the creativity. Attending workshops, participating in Webinars and on-line chats, reading books, and relaxing with other teachers just brainstorming ideas can allow those creative juices to get flowing again. The thoughts of fun lessons and educational experiences for your students come flooding back, and the passion that encouraged you to become a teacher in the first place returns like a tidal wave. You actually start to get excited about the new school year! Unfortunately for many, that grand excitement wanes during the preservice meeting, diminishes during the procedural necessities of September, and is squelched by external forces by October.

How can we keep it going? How can we take the passion that we reclaimed in the summer into the doldrums of winter? We need FOCUS: Fix (y)Our Commitment Upon Something specific. As your ideas multiply in the summer, choose ONE thing to add or change or create this school year. Trying to adjust too many of your procedures or pedagogy will set you up for failure. You are preparing yourself to be disappointed in your lack of commitment to all of those many things you were going to do better this year, and then you give up. Don’t do that to yourself! Choose one, maybe two, new strategies to try or lessons to add to your already excellent collection and FOCUS. Maintain that new strategy by practicing it often. Prepare that lesson unit well, make notes during delivery, then take the time to reflect when it is completed. How can it be better next time? You know you will be bombarded with fires to put out and external requirements to complete, so do not purposely add to the stress you cannot control. Control the things you can and handle the rest.

Fellow passionate educators, life-givers, future-preparers, I wish you a blessed school year full of promise with less CRAP and occasional periods of REST so that you may FOCUS on what’s important: the kids. May someone present you with a bouquet of beautifully sharpened #2 pencils for your first day back in the classroom.

WVCTE is wondering…
How do you maintain your passion throughout the school year? What do you do to recharge that passion in the summer?

 Dr. Renee Peterson is the theatre instructor, the International Thespian Society Troupe 8066 director, the Cardinal Players director, and the Drama Club advisor for Spring Mills HS in Martinsburg, WV. Renee spent 21 years as a teacher of English in public and private schools, for grades 7-12, with students of all levels in three states before changing her role to theatre director. She reared two wonderful children to adulthood while earning two master’s degrees and a doctorate. Second only to teaching her own students, Renee finds joy in encouraging young teachers because “They are the future of our profession, and our students need them to be awesome teachers!” she says. Renee and her husband Tom enjoy their empty nest that is perched on 50 acres on the top of a ridge in Southern Berkeley County, West Virginia. To read her musings and missives, follow her blog at www.thelearningdoctor.me and her Twitter posts @renpetwv. To keep posted on the shows and activities of The Cardinal Players, follow them on Facebook or Twitter @smhsplayers.

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Dear English Teachers of West Virginia,

We are a group of passionate teachers who are committed to providing our students with the highest quality instruction and most valuable learning experience we can offer. We believe English teachers throughout our state have a story to tell, expertise to share, and the ability to change and shape the lives of our students. 

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WVCTE Executive Committee