Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher

This morning, I seriously considered exercising. I could go for a walk – maybe walk my parents’ dog – but I decided against it. This afternoon, the students will be coming for Back To School Night and I want to feel fresh and ready. But I knew I needed to do “something.” So then I considered meditating, which really amounted to trying to think about nothing… and then eating a cheese sandwich instead. I almost landed on the idea of going in to work early, and then I remembered that I could write.

Yesterday, we had a Being a Writer* refresher – a small group of teachers reflecting on our practice as teachers of writing but also as writers ourselves. We talked about the importance of authentic writing experiences, free of judgment and critique, to develop the young writer. We didn’t focus on creating writers as publishers of text, but as processors of feelings in a diversely complicated world. While I went to the training hoping for direction on teaching mechanics, I’m thankful that wasn’t our focus.

My dad, Tony Emma, hanging out with the late, great, king of gospel music, Andrae Crouch (circa 1983)..

Writing mechanics certainly wasn’t my dad’s focus when he wrote songs on whatever scrap of paper he could find. He used writing as a form of expression and his songs reflected the joys and struggles in his own life. He was talented enough to put his words to music using the piano, and brave enough to share them with those around him. As such, he inadvertently modeled the power of being a writer for his children.

I’m thankful he took these risks. Without him, I might not even consider that writing could help me during the yearly celebration we call the start of the school year. The emotional charge of this time of year for teachers is unique, and although this may sound absurd, I can liken it only to preparing for my own wedding. It is a time when excitement and hope and energy are as prevalent as the anxiety that often quietly plagues our teaching population. There are so many tabs about to be unceasingly opened in our brains. How do we quiet our minds without neglecting our duties?

I don’t think there’s a perfect answer. I think part of it is accepting that we won’t always be the person we hope to be. For me, my fear is that I will give all my kindness and love and energy to my school family and be short and irritable with my family at home. And really, it’s more than a fear. It’s a reality. It’s going to happen sometimes. And maybe that’s ok because it teaches my own children that you don’t have to be perfect to do great things – you just have to consciously care about your actions.

Teachers, what do you do to find balance at the start of the school year? Where do you draw energy from? Where do you find calm? I would love for you to share your thoughts below. I know I’m not alone in this and am grateful to be in a profession where the support of my colleagues is vital fuel.

*For more information on Being a Writer, click here