George Lucas Educational Foundation

Running Dry in the Classroom

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by: Mackenzie of Brownbag Academics

Relevant magazine published the article “Running Dry” written by John Ortberg in their most recent edition. In it, Ortberg discusses the signs that we are running dry spiritually, how to notice the signs, and how to remedy that in our lives.

It got me thinking, how do we know when we are running dry in the classroom? What are the tell-tale signs that our spirit needs replenishing and that our weariness is rubbing off in our in-class performance?

Ortberg calls these “indicators of soul-fatigue” but for our sake, I’ll call them indicators of teacher fatigue:

1. Students seems to annoy you. I mean really annoy you. You can’t imagine why anyone would not bring a piece of paper to English class or a calculator to match class, but it has happened… yet again… with the same student… for the third time this week.

2. You create activities that allow you to sit back in class… just for that purpose. You know that the activity will help them reach the learning outcome but more importantly, it will allow you to take a breather and not pull your hair out.

3. You’re more likely to either let things go or blow up at the tiniest thing. Opposite sides of the spectrum but they show the same fatigue.

4. You get easily flustered. You may not be as prepared as you would like to be, so when a student asks you a thought-provoking question, instead of taking it, your cheeks flush up and your heart races.

It’s clear from the indicators above that you may be experiencing teacher fatigue. Our teaching suffers when we are fatigued like this. Ultimately, our students suffer. Ortberg discusses how to prevent these sorts of situations. While this is important, we all know that no matter how much preventative measures we take, these sorts of situations will occur in our classrooms.

So what do we do in these situations as they arise?

There are a few things to remember:

1. Remember that each of your interactions with your students, colleagues, and employers are important. Even those times in the hallway when students are rushing by or the times when your quickly trying to scavenge papers together for the next class. Each of these are important to be aware of that. Be a blessing to your students, colleagues, and employers.

2. Your students aren’t trying to “get you”. More often than not, students are not trying to take you down, make you look like an idiot or embarrass you. They have genuine questions or they’re actually perplexed. Remember that teaching, and subsequently their questions, are not so much about you as they are about them.

3. It’s okay to take a breather. If you know that you’re on edge, allow yourself to create a group-centered activity. Just make sure that it reaches your learning outcomes. While they’re working, though, participate and interact with them. Don’t simply sit at your desk. Encourage them, question them, and help them.

Remember that teaching is a tough job. To be honest, I don't know how we get up and do it every day - only for the love of our students and our content area. Our demeanor should impart love, power and wisdom. This spirit can and will flow through us in our teaching and in our day-to-day interactions with our students. We just have to be aware of it.

For more from Mackenzie, check out

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