While this health pandemic forced us all to slow down a little bit from our normal pace of life, we teachers STILL spend hours and hours a week planning exciting, engaging, and educational plans for our students. It is just what we do!
Typically, we wake up at 5 am to make sure our families are cared for, so we can get to school to make sure our students are cared for the same...yup! Work from 7 am- 5 pm every day with one bathroom break and 20 minutes to eat lunch while making copies...me! Put in 50 hours a week in the school building teaching students, sponsoring clubs, attending meetings, and parent-conferencing then taking home plans to complete before bed and papers to grade on Saturday, ultimately putting in 60 hours a week only to start all over again the next Monday...sounds familiar!
You guys, I was running myself ragged and was very near the edge of burning out. Can you relate? For a while, I supplemented what I was doing in my classroom with lessons I bought online from other teachers. Language Arts lesson plans, units and activities were at my fingertips and for some time, I felt some relief from the strain of all the demands placed on teachers. This just wasn’t my solution though. I felt like my overall unit organization was pieced together and not a seamless, well-oiled machine I could put on auto-pilot for the year. I was still constantly playing catch-up. Not to mention that many of these lessons and units I was purchasing were seemingly incomplete and very surface-level in their educational value to my students. My “solution” still left me searching for more.
At this same time, I felt this tugging on my soul that I wanted to lead my students to something more. One area where I was unsatisfied in my curriculum were the projects I was creating and the level of work my students were submitting. It didn’t matter how great the prompt and rubric were, my high-achieving students knocked them out of the park (as they did everything) and my average to below achieving students turned in mediocre work at best. They weren’t making a connection to their reading and weren’t being asked to think critically about what they were reading when they had to produce a board game of a character’s journey (or the like…)
This led me to think about the idea of Passion Projects and how I could incorporate them in my reading and writing curriculum. I wanted to create intrinsic motivation in my students to read. I went on a quest to read all the books I could with thematic topics of social justice. That school year, if I didn’t have a middle school novel in my possession...well, that never happened because I ALWAYS had a middle school novel in my possession, and I was reading in-between classes, in the line at the stop light, while cooking dinner...everywhere! Seriously, everywhere.
This ultimately created a motivation in me to finally be my own solution. I created for myself that well-oiled machine of a curriculum that I could put on auto-pilot for the year, and the curriculum I was so desperately desiring for deeper, meaningful, and motivating units for my students. They needed it, and I needed it, and I’ve turned my burn-out around in response to teaching that makes me feel like I am motivating my students to make a difference in their world! (Not to mention it is ALL digital so this distance learning transition was far easier for me than it was for many of my colleagues.)
Check out this Passion Project resource! This is a yearly culminating project that I give after a year of exploring global issues, and the ways people in our world are already making a difference.
If you’ve ever felt this way, either in the need for an auto-pilot curriculum or the desire for deeper, meaningful lessons and projects...or if you’ve never thought of it but now you are...comment below and let’s talk! Let’s make our Teacher Tribe!!