Things I Know 202 of 365: It’s time to re-collect

Today is tomorrow. It happened.

– Bill Murray, Groundhog Day

I had a chance today to interview a fellow teacher from Omaha for a new podcast episode. She’s been in the classroom 17 years and brings to the table all of the perspective of those years.

We talked a bit about teacher burnout and she brought up the movie Groundhog Day.

She said she certainly had her moments of burnout when she knew she wasn’t the best she could be, but that she knew those moments wouldn’t last.

“In the movie,” she said, “Bill Murray’s character goes through a phase where he tries to kill himself because he can’t find any way out of the day. Then, at some point he changes and starts making ice sculptures.”

As it was a perennial favorite in my household growing up, I remembered the scenes she was describing.

“It’s like that with the classroom – sometimes I want to die, but most of the time I’m making ice sculptures.”

I’ve been collecting teachers’ comments and thoughts as they gear up for the trip back to the classroom.

This is the first time in eight years I won’t be entering the classroom as a teacher, and I’m enjoying observing the rituals of return that I’ve been too tied up in myself for the past several years to truly appreciate.

My friend Henry posted tonight that many of his students are coming from other schools:

They have been rejected. I understand rejection because when I was in high school I didn’t fit in and it was very visible. Today, I am a better person and a better teacher.

Henry was one of the first African Americans to integrate his school district in the South. I’ve talked with him about the experience and read his recollections of the events.

And that is what he was doing when he wrote his post, he was re-collecting.

It’s what the teacher I interviewed does as she’s “making ice sculptures” – re-collecting all the moments of weariness and frustration from the darkest parts of teaching and connecting them to the moments that bring her the most joy.

When Henry enters the classroom tomorrow, he will not have simply collected whatever rest and renewal his summer break provided, he will have re-collected every memory of being other, different, afraid or strong that has made him who he is as well.

And to truly teach and connect to the children in our charge, we must re-collect all the pieces and experiences of who we are so that we can see the richness of experience each student brings to the classroom.

While the perspective of 17 years in the classroom is a powerful source of strength, it is nothing if we do not re-collect who we are as people and offer that to our students.

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