By Amanda Banik
Teaching is tough. Not only is the expectation that we are instructional experts, but also parents, social workers, counselors, nurses, and at times even referees. You name it and we can likely add it to the list. In a recent series of interviews, Amy Nystrand, Program Director of the Educators’ Cooperative asked members, “What keeps you going on tough days?” The answers are a good reminder of why we so willingly wear so many hats, and the reasons why we keep showing up.
Alyssa Niemiec, 7th grade math teacher at Meigs Middle School, tells a story of receiving a video created by a previous student describing an activity they had completed in class. “To me it was like a fun activity, hopefully this helps them learn slope, like whatever, but she responded about that, and how that was a time she found math to be a lot of fun and enjoyable,” Alyssa explains. “I’m just like, this is why I do my job.” She continues, “It is those small moments or times, where the letters or emails or stuff that they send you, and you just kind of get reminded of what impact you have on these kids’ lives, and you might not even realize.”
Chris Collins, 9th and 10th grade math teacher at Hume Fogg Academic Magnet also speaks to interactions with kids as what keeps him going. When struggling with adapting to teaching virtually, he had a colleague remind him, “He said that the two things that you really love about teaching are the stuff that you create and the way that you create it and adapt it for the kids and really try to incorporate a lot of different things for kids, and you love the non-classroom interactions with students in the hallways and in lunch, like anything outside of the classroom itself, you enjoy those interactions with students.” The connection keeps him going, and as a result, he’s bringing that creativity into the virtual setting and figuring out ways to connect with kids.
For Luke Johnson, 9th and 12th grade English teacher at Battleground Academy in Franklin, it’s “the fact that we get to do it again tomorrow.” Luke says, “That’s the best thing about tough days in a school that you don’t really have in Higher Ed, you get so many opportunities to get it right, that if there is one day where you get it wrong, or the wrong happens to you, it’s really easy to find a sunny horizon to run toward.” He also reminds us that “it’s good to remember that the kids are all having their own difficult days, so when they see you have difficult days, it’s the same kind of modeling we do with anything else, like how to stay level and how to process it into something you can build on instead of being beaten down by it.”
Lastly, a sentiment that many teachers connect with comes from Katie Donald, the assistant head of school and Pre-K teacher at the Episcopal School of Nashville. “On tough days, the bottom line is I just can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
The Educators’ Cooperative is a non-profit organization that provides a professional learning community for K-12 teachers. Created for teachers by teachers in 2016, EdCo provides professional development and support for educators to collaborate across sectors, disciplines, and career stages. EdCo aims to revolutionize teacher development and leadership by focusing on the essential agency, autonomy, and common ground all teachers share. EdCo is based in Nashville, Tennessee with a reach far beyond that physical location and potential for replication in communities throughout the nation. When educators collaborate, the future of education is greater than the sum of its parts. Please visit educatorscooperative.com for more information and to sign up for our newsletter.