Every year, you and I pour bits of our lives into our students. Every minute spent teaching, conferring, assessing, and All The Things, every minute is gone, poured out, beyond recovery.
Problematically, too many teachers in the USA poured too much of themselves out this year. For them, there was a sloppy abandon to the pouring, an unsustainable self-sacrifice. They’re experts on the Heroic Teachers of Hollywood and amateurs at reality. That much out of the glass that quickly means your cup won’t last as long as your calling needs it to.
Some of you worked too hard this year! Recognize it, own it, see it as the problem it is. Our students don’t need more workaholics in their lives; they need great teachers. Figure out how to pour your life out a bit more like a scientist; you need to get better at satisficing; you need to be more miserly because real, flesh-and-blood kids being born today are depending on you to stick to this work for a long time. Future You needs you to chill with the reckless pouring.
And all of us, this summer, need to keep contemplating this: how might we increase the quality of our lives, so that when they’re poured out into our next crop of students, the long-term flourishing results, results we’ll mostly not see, are better than they’ve ever been?
The greatest teachers are more than great teachers: they are faithful parents or community servants or pursuers of excellence and creators of beautiful things. They pursue the integrated life, the kind of life humans have spent most of world history pursuing, the life where you’re not constantly changing who you are based on whether you’re posting to Facebook or teaching a class or hanging out with your friends.
This summer, don’t just dedicate yourself to the reading of all the teacher books in your To Read pile, and do more than refuel with recreation. Experiment with improving the quality of your life, both the internal one and the external one. Make next year’s batch of You even better than this year’s.
Thank you to my students this year. Your pop-up toasts, letters, hugs, and kindness were more than I deserve. I love you guys very much and am glad a part of my life is now stored in each of you.