Confession: After a break, I wonder, “Can I still do this?”


Today I came back from break with that niggling anxiety haunting me: can I still do this? What if I’ve forgotten how to be a teacher? What if that nightmare about fumbling in front of the class with no plan and no resources becomes my reality?

Any other teachers feel this way when you come back from a break?

The angel on my shoulder tries to tap in, pointing out, “Um, you just got certified by the National Board, of course you can teach. Plus, haven’t you dedicated the better part of your life over ten years to learning how to do this thing?!”

But my shoulder demon questions it mightily. She whispers that she is a bit fuzzy on which writing assignments have been graded or not, and there’s that whole unit that needs to be mapped out…

Good news. I can still teach students.

Also, I was genuinely glad to see them–to hear their stories, to tell them that I committed to a Couch-2-5K workout program in the next eight weeks. Glad to hear them say, “Miss, are you crazy?! These next eight weeks are the COLDEST!” I was even glad to hear that one student say, “This is all I’ve got” so that I could respond, “I don’t believe that, give me two more sentences.”

I realized that usually I spend nearly ALL my waking hours thinking about teaching and learning. As I scan my Twitter feed, I’m favoriting resources to bring back to my class for a unit in the spring. As I’m listening to NPR on my commute, I’m making mental notes to ask my students what they think about this latest media obsession.

Don’t get me started on the shower! I should buy stock in those black grease pencils SCUBA divers use to communicate under water. That way all those great ideas don’t swirl down the drain with my lavender-scented soap suds.

So when I took these past two weeks of break off, truly off, and focused on conversations with family, finding the perfect gifts, throwing an epic New Years Eve party, I disconnected from my classroom. Didn’t do grading until Sunday. Didn’t plan until 24 hours before I would be in front of 25 pairs of eyeballs who expect me to teach them something of value.

And when I come back from disconnecting, I feel a little lost.

It’s like a foreign land and I wonder how I did it three long weeks ago. It was a different year after all.

But as soon as I come back, I realize that my classroom is also my second home. Just like you always remember your childhood address, just like you never forget the smell of grandpa’s aftershave, when I get back in front of students, I realize that this teaching thing is in my blood, in my marrow, and it won’t be forgotten.

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